Sleeper – mapping European night trains

It’s now been 10 months and 10 demo parties since I last saw the inside of an airport (with plenty more to come over the next couple of months… parties that is, not airports), and for any eco-conscious European traveller like me, knowing which sleeper trains to catch is the key to happy travels. So, it’s a bit of a shame that there’s no single website you can go to to find out the best sleeper train to get to European Destination X. Sure, Seat 61 is a fantastic resource for finding out how to get to your country of choice, but you can never be sure whether you’d get better results by heading just across the border, or tweaking your journey times slightly…

So, in a classic case of building a website to scratch a personal itch, and not wanting to let niggly licencing issues get in the way of a cool idea… Sleeper is my new website aimed at searching and mapping the European sleeper train network in its entirety. It’s been put together with Ruby, Rails (gosh, that’s rather apt isn’t it…), Geokit, Google Maps, Hpricot and my own freshly open-sourced Bahn library for snarfing data from Deutsche Bahn‘s website, and hopefully it can give you a fuller picture than ever before of what actually exists in the wonderful world of sleeper trains. Right now it stops short of providing one overall definitive map of the network (it would probably crash your browser if I tried plotting it on Google Maps), but that’s on the todo list.

9 Responses to “Sleeper – mapping European night trains”

  1. Eq says:

    Thank you for not calling it “Sleepr”.

  2. Carl says:

    And thanks from the environment that it’s not “FlightPath”! I can see this being the start of a glorious series of “intended use” pieces of software — Guitar management in Django, anyone? Also a boon for those of us that love terrible puns; “stops short” is good, other suggestions include “the right track” or maybe a comparison of how it _fares_ on your next journey? … *tumbleweed*

  3. Simon says:

    Jamie will be pleased!

  4. mike says:

    really handy tool.

    whilst you may not be able to render a google map of the whole european network – couldn’t you just make a jpeg programatically once, then keep it as a static image on your site? seems like an obvious thing for someone to have made – but I can’t find it anywhere.

    http://sleeper.demozoo.org/stations/752
    this station goes to barcelona (according the data on the right) yet its not drawn on the map ? why!

    and then it would be fantastic if you could do some routing – like i want to go from barcelona to moscow via a series of trains. what are my options?

    all that aside; its still very useful – thanks

  5. matt says:

    Hi Mike – glad you’ve found it useful! (I’ve just got back from a trip to Krakow in fact, and for the first time I took a sleeper train that I wouldn’t have known about otherwise, so it feels worth the effort now :-) )

    I guess you’ve noticed a lot of the limitations of the site – it was never really intended to be a complete route-planning tool to compete with the big sites like Deutsche Bahn, just a little visual aid to help with your own manual research – and so there are inevitably corners being cut here and there. In particular, the station view only shows links to neighbouring stations (so at least you know it’s possible to take a train in roughly the right direction!)

    However, shortly after I built the site, I did manage to come up with a full map view, which you can see at http://sleeper.demozoo.org/map – I never linked to it, because I wasn’t fully happy with the way it looked (especially all the straight lines across France – to fix those, I think I’d have to start spidering local train routes, and guessing which tracks the non-stop night trains are most likely to follow). I can’t see myself improving it any time soon though, so I guess I’ll add that link now…

  6. Istria says:

    wow, great tool thank you!

  7. Hibai Unzueta says:

    Thank you very much for the tool and developing this idea. I have been thinking about this for a long time but never had the time nor the ability to build it. I was amazed that you did, and specially thankful for building an api for the excellent Deutsche Bahn travel planner.

    Well, thank you! And keep up the good work!

  8. Matthieu says:

    Hi,

    I just came accross your website, sleeper. It’s really smartly done and incredibly useful ! thanks for that.

    Matthieu

  9. Aaron says:

    The website appears to have stopped working. It was one of the better European travel tools I’d found. Anything you can do to get it up and running would be appreciated.

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