Proposing to deprecate railway=razed and railway=dismantled

Similarly in Ireland, I have walked hundreds of kilometres alongside canals and river navigations and always thought of the paths as “towpaths”, even though I never saw horses towing a boat, and as far as I can tell nobody has done that in Ireland in the last 70 years. An “abandoned towpath” to me would suggest a towpath that has not been maintained as a path, to the point that it is difficult to walk alongside the canal.

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That sounds about right. I’ve mapped at least two towpath trails in Ohio, the Canal Run and the Ohio & Erie Canal Towpath Trail. They follow the towpaths of former canals, partially preserved. (The latter trail also parallels a heritage railway line, great for biking one way and returning by train. I highly recommend it.) People sometimes refer to them as former towpaths but not as abandoned towpaths.

It doesn’t look like we have an established disused/abandoned tagging scheme specifically for canals like we do for railroad tracks. If we did, then I would probably be inclined to indicate the canal’s disuse on the waterway but tag the towpath as just a towpath, without distinguishing its lifecycle. Sometimes converting an old towpath into a horse or bike trail can just be a matter of changing a few access signs. By contrast, the rail trail conversions in this area have required regrading at a minimum, since rail ballast isn’t much fun to bike on. One of the more recent conversions even required a helicopter to clear overgrowth since the track had been abandoned for so long.

I’m not saying it is true or it happened, but I imagine it is totally possible that the helicopter-aerial-blades company looked at using OSM data (possibly tagged railway=abandoned) and fed that into their pilot’s on-board guidance. This company talks about affording utilities “turnkey solutions” (whether dealing with a contractor or the utility / railroad / holding company).

OSM often does too, frequently. It’s part of “why OSM works.” We may not be 100% in all places, but we are 99% in some of them. Things like railway=* data, I’m saying “yes” at least in my country (USA) as we imported a lot of this rail from our government census bureau as a rough skeleton between 2007-8. OSM has found these data useful for 16+ years, or we would have deleted them as incorrect. They represent a real thing, even if sometimes you cannot see anything. These rights-of-way and sometimes-infrastructure are real corridors across our country that are part of how it was knit together. They are worthy of being mapped in OSM. We quibble about how to do that.

On occasion (to wit) we have disagreements about how exactly we tag these, or what we mean by how we do tag them. That’s what’s going on, we are splitting hairs to some degree and we argue different perspectives from many points of view.

“Convincing other people…” of things isn’t an easy thing to do. OSM will always have disagreements with such semantic fuzzy edges. We are global, this is difficult, we are up to the task right up to and including 100%.

Can we see how many differing perspectives there are here, buoyed by the sometimes-sturdy, sometimes at-fault structure of language, culture, and personal points of view? Good dialog is wonderful. We don’t benefit by getting derogatory because others views differs from ours. Rail is a thing with a centuries-long history and has quirks as part of our technological revolution that cartographers are careful to measure. I’m actually impressed with how OSM tags our rail, it’s a crazy quilt but it does make a kind of sense as a whole. We can tag better, sure. We can be more specific about what we mean, sure.

Let’s discuss and be civil, as it juuuust seems to be here and agree that humanity has a global-level, somewhat deeply (centuries-old) actual thing (rail), which we do a fair job of describing, but which we could describe better. And we have some (minor, I’d say) differences among us.

After 20 years to describe 200 as well as we do (OSM does), I’m nodding my head, if not beginning to applaud. Our rail isn’t terrible. Some rough edges, maybe many, all of them solvable.

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I misremembered: a decade ago, the Simon Kenton Trail was built within the right of way of an active rail line. Other than the occasional freight train trundling by, the same characteristics associated with a rails-to-trails conversion would also apply to rails with trails. Ohio has lots of those too; “rail trails” can refer to either.

The group building the trail contracted the helicopter to clear vegetation along the right of way. This would’ve been too critical of an operation to rely on OSM data. I remember it because the pilot suffered severe injuries after the helicopter malfunctioned. It was the first I had ever heard of this kind of operation, though apparently it isn’t all that uncommon.

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Wow, thanks for that real slice of life and OSM!

I have not read the full discussion as it is very long, but I just want to add as a point of view that railways that have been razed and repurposed as a cycle path for example are still significant to render as abandoned/razed railways on OpenRailwayMap. I do understand that these routes are unnecessary and creates confusion if rendered on regular OpenStreetMap, and therefore they should not be rendered there. However, it is still important (at least to me) to map these to be rendered on rail focused maps. I also see a significant difference between abandoned and razed, but maybe that’s just me.

Sure, but that does not mean OpenRailwayMap should be using OSM as a data source for these historical railways. They can easily use OHM or other open databases to populate the map with razed/former railways.


Absolutely, I see your point. This could be a good solution when it comes to railways that have no traces left whatsoever. However, if it was a railway that was repurposed as a bike path for example, I don’t see the harm in having it marked as a path but with a tag such as “railway=abandoned” or “was:railway=rail” for example. That way it can be rendered on OpenRailwayMap as an abandoned railway, but on other maps as just a path.


Think railway=razed is in itself incorrect since it no longer tells what it was before, my use would be razed:railway=rail (e.g.) in conformity with lifecycle tagging. Fresh out of wiki reading following mapping of long cycle routes which had both highway=cycleway + railway=disused on many elements. Given the tag conflict changed those dozens of railway sections to disused:railway=rail (Though I’m sure there’s no beam left there… try cycling along that way :O)))

Following the documentation on the lifecycle prefixes, this would only make sense if a railway has been recently converted, because mappers using older sources might otherwise be missing the latest changes on the ground.

Purely historical railways are outside the scope of OSM. As documented on many guidelines pages on the OSM Wiki, OSM is a map of what is, not a map of what was, no matter the tags used or on what maps the data (doesn’t) render.

I’d also like to point you to this representation of OSM tagging: message #292 in this thread

Outside of a few specific users (such as infamously hoserab in this thread), it’s generally accepted to map rail trails as this (preserved trackbeds) and we only have problems of railways no traces left and whether they should exist in the data (which, for that matter, actually came up in discussion recently [discussion in German]).


I see your point. However, if there is a long section of track that has been repurposed as a path, following the exact route on the same embankment and using the old bridges and tunnels, perhaps even going through old disused stations, I think that it is significant and worth mapping that it used to be a railway. It provides relevant context to the path’s route. If that context is through tags such as “was=railway” or “railway=abandoned” doesn’t really matter, but I do believe that it is something worth doing, even though the railway is long gone.

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The issue would then arise at sections like Way: ‪Trambaan‬ (‪453132995‬) | OpenStreetMap, where the new path doesn’t line up with the former railway, but mappers still want to map the historical tramway.

Some railway mappers like to add the routes too, but sections where paths have moved would then be absent from historic railways, and mappers end up getting creative by either adding railway tags to new curvy paths that don’t follow the old railway, or they map former railways where nothing remains for the sake of having an unbroken route. Neither method would be a good solution.

OHM is simply way more suitable than OSM, for doing this sort of mapping and for being a data source for OpenRailwayMap.


Yes, I have to agree. In those cases the old route probably should not be mapped on OSM, if it is it should only be where the path is and not be a continuous route.

Following up in a separate thread so the local community can get some closure on this supposed abandoned railway after all these years:

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