RailMapOnline is a free website that aims to provide an interactive map of all historic railways for the UK and US. The UK map is mostly finished, although there’s always room for improvement. The US map is a work in progress, and will take many years to complete.
The railway maps are produced by me (Matthew) as a hobby, as is the website, so please bear with me if there are errors on the map or issues with the site as I try to produce updates.
The Canal map is created by Chris Lowe who has kindly let me host his map.
The Modern Rly layer is based on OpenStreetMap data.
The map itself is powered by the Google Maps API, and Google renders the map images and serves them to your browser. This allows complex maps to be served quickly and efficiently to your device. But it does mean I am reliant on Google and when problems occur there might not be a quick fix.
Get in touch & follow us
Email us with feedback on the map content, or comments on the website.
Frequently Asked Questions
Can I provide map corrections? Yes, please let me know by Email with as much detail as you can provide and I’ll endeavour to change the map. Please provide references to source documents or maps if able, but local knowledge is also appreciated. If you want to sketch out the map, or even provide a KML that would be great. I normally try and respond within a couple of weeks, but if the workload is heavy or I'm on hols it may take me longer.
Can I email you? Yes to firstname.lastname@example.org. I try and respond to all questions and suggestions within a couple of weeks. Sometimes I can’t respond because mail servers and spam-filters result in a block. If you can’t get through by email then try Twitter.
Can I have a copy of the map and its source data? No, not at present. I’m currently restricting access via the website itself, so no source data is publicly available (I may make it available to buy in the future). However, if you have interest in data for a specific small area then I might be able to help. For those that only need modern railway data then Open Street Map data is freely available (Geofabrik) and you can download and display the data in GIS software such as Google Earth.
Can I use images of the map? Yes, but within normal copyright rules - i.e. only use a reasonable number of images, don’t copy the whole thing, don't resell (see UoY Guidance). If in doubt ping me an email for permission. Please include my copyright statement (as shown at the bottom of the page) in any image, and please provide a reference back to RailMapOnline. Also note that the background mapping imagery is also subject to copyright (e.g. from Google) so make sure to honour their terms as well.
Why doesn’t it work on my browser/phone? I try and test the website with different browsers, but I’m afraid that older browsers (e.g. Internet Explorer) aren’t supported. Please upgrade to a modern browser if you’re still using IE! I can’t test different phones and operating systems – if you find a problem please let me know with as much information as you can provide.
Why has it stopped working? I’m afraid being a free hobby site I can’t guarantee the service. In particular I’m reliant on my web hosting company (who are very reliable) and Google for rendering the maps (who occasionally have issues). Let me know if there’s a problem and I’ll try and look into it as soon as possible. There are also some security constraints imposed by Google that may stop access from far-eastern internet providers or known spam-servers.
Why are square tiles missing? Basically, Google renders the railway/canal maps and displays them in your browser as square tiles. Sometimes tiles don’t get provided. I’m afraid I can’t fix this as it’s a Google issue. Try reloading the page, or failing that emptying your browser cache.
Why is part of the map (a whole region) missing? Sometimes there is a delay between Google requesting the map and my webhost responding, and Google times out. When this happens, Google doesn’t try again and a large part of the map won’t be displayed. This should reset the next day, but if the problem persists then let me know.
What happened to the historic OS background maps? These backgrounds were provided by National Library of Scotland, who unfortunately now charge (a considerable sum) for these services. For the moment this means I have had to remove the backgrounds from the site.
Can I give you money to contribute to the running costs? Yes, you can buy me a coffee at Ko-fi which will help with the website running costs, keep the website advert free, and maybe buy some morale tokens. And words of support are always appreciated! Unfortunately I can't promise any additional services in return for a donation.
Can I link to the map? Yes, please do. You can create a link to a specific location by right-clicking on the map and selecting create link. If you want to create links from your own database or website then get in touch and I might be able to create a special marker and popup to go with your link.
Can I suggest a new idea for the website? Absolutely – I’m always interested in feedback. However, as it's just me then don’t be offended if I can’t incorporate your ideas.
Is there an App? No, only the website at present. You should be able to access the map through any browser on your phone, but I appreciate that some functionality can be difficult on a mobile. I have tried to reduce the data that the site uses to reduce your data charges, but the mapping imagery itself will always require and online connection.
What is your data source? I use out-of-copyright mapping and freely available online sources for all information on railways and routes. I also make use of information in Wikipedia, forums and other websites, and will try and link to them from the map. Also the information that you have provided over the years has been invaluable for those railways with scarce mapping or where only local knowledge can identify locations.
What railways are depicted? All railways, from all time periods. If it runs on rails and you can ride it then I want to include it. Not included are fairground rides (e.g. rollercoasters), temporary construction railways, model railways too small to ride, cable cars (no rails!) and underground mine railways (too difficult!) – unless I decide to include them.
What time period is depicted? All time periods, at once, on the same map. I realise that can result in a very busy map, but unfortunately I didn’t think of that when I started!
What do the colours mean? For the UK railway map, the colour identifies the owning company pre-grouping (circa 1923). For the US railroad map, the colour identifies the company that built the line. I have had trouble identifying US builders and some of the UK lines, so let me know if there are errors. There are some compromises with such a big map: Small private owner sidings are coloured for the track they join to. Many small industrial tramways are all coloured the same rather than being individually identified. In the UK, later (post 1923) tracks are coloured as if they were pre-grouping. In the UK, earlier (closed prior to 1923) tracks are coloured as if they still existed. In the UK, post BR (1948) tracks are identified as a separate dark-grey colour, but this is only for significant additions and every siding/junction isn’t picked out.
Why is a siding missing, or why isn’t a route shown as double track? I don’t include every sidings/spur, but rather try to represent the extent of stations/yards and the different routes available. Double/triple track isn’t differentiated from single track, unless the different tracks significantly diverge.
What stations are included? Currently only the UK railway map has stations. All stations are included, including where they’ve been re-sited. Station names change a lot, so I’ve tried to include text that represents all the variations. When searching for stations I suggest you use the * wildcard at the beginning of your search term to take account of different names.
What features are included? Currently only the UK railway and canal map have features, and more are being added all the time. Included are significant features including industries, junctions, bridges and tunnels. Names sometimes change, so alternatives are provided in brackets and I suggest you use the * wildcard at the beginning of your search term. Signal boxes and station features aren’t currently included.
Why is the legend incomplete? If you spot a missing legend entry on the maps then please let me know – it should be complete!
How accurate is the map? I try to depict tracks so that you can easily find their location on the ground or on satellite imagery, and I have an aim of placing tracks within the right of way. My original aim was to help identify tracks when out exploring the landscape. However, there will be errors in my maps, and when overlaying them on imagery and different map backgrounds then those maps may have errors as well. Some areas, particularly in the US remain approximate, but I do try and refresh areas periodically. Bottom line – do not use the map for navigation or planning – use it as a starting point for your own research.
Can I contribute? If you’d like to provide inputs and corrections then please get in touch.
Can I advertise on the site? No. I aim to always keep RailMapOnline advert-free. However, if you’re a historical society, heritage railway, miniature railway operator or museum who’d like to add a link to your track depicted on the map then get in touch.
Why does the background map not have a place name or show a particular feature? The background maps are outside of my control, and you will have to contact the map providers to report a problem.
Can you fix an error on the Modern Rly layer? The Modern Rly layer is a direct copy of freely available OpenStreetMap data, and I make a new copy about once per year. I don't edit the layer or check it, and I'm afraid I don't have the capacity to make edits (my focus is on the Historic layers). However, anyone can help out with OpenStreetMap and provide edits, so if you want to get involved and start making your own maps then check them out.
Is there a secure version of the website (HTTPS)? Yes. You should automatically be redirected to the secure HTTPS site.
Why isn't geolocation showing my position? You need to be using the secure site (HTTPS), have switched on your device's location, and your browser may also require you to provide permission for the webpage to know your location. The accuracy of the position depends on your device's capability and whether services like GPS are available.
The legend will display some companies not currently on the map, but whose extent includes the area you’re looking at.
Occasionally tiles (square areas) of the map disappear. This is an issue with Google’s serving of the map tiles. Unfortunately, you might have to clear your browser cache to force Google to provide the tiles again.
Occasionally a whole region of the map disappears. This is a due to a time-delay in the map being sent from my webhost to Google. This might not correct until the next day. If the problem persists please let me know.
Not to be used for navigation
Right Click on map to add marker
Right-click anywhere on map and select Create link
Right-click anywhere on map and select Measure
Modern Rlys layer based on OSM data; ©2020 Geofabrik GmbH and OpenStreetMap Contributors.
Only first 1000 places shown, and first 100 labels.