Take back control of your maps

Using a Docker container

If you just want to try things out or you’re using an OS other than Ubuntu, and you’re using Docker for containerisation, you can try this (thanks to all the contributors there). It’s based on the instructions here, but is a pre-built container you can install.


If you don’t already have Docker installed, there are lots of “how-tos” around - see for example here and the links from there.

OpenStreetmap Data

In this example run-through I’ll download data for Zambia and import it, but any OSM .pbf file should work. For testing, try a small .pbf first. When logged in as the non-root user that you run Docker from, download the data for Zambia:

wget https://download.geofabrik.de/africa/zambia-latest.osm.pbf

Create a docker volume for the data:

docker volume create openstreetmap-data

And install it and import the data:

time docker run -v /home/renderaccount/zambia-latest.osm.pbf:/data.osm.pbf -v openstreetmap-data:/var/lib/postgresql/12/main overv/openstreetmap-tile-server:1.3.10 import

The path to the data file needs to be the absolute path to the data file - it can’t be a relative path. In this example it’s in the root directory of the “renderaccount” user.

How long this takes depends very much on the local network speed and the size of the area that you are loading. Zambia, used in this example, is relatively small.

Note that if something goes wrong the error messages may be somewhat cryptic - you might get “… is a directory” if the data file isn’t found. The “time” at the start of the command isn’t necessary for the installation and import; it just tells you how long it took for future reference. Also, the postgres version used by this container changed between versions 1.3.5 and 1.3.6 (see here). This means that an “openstreetmap-data” created with an earlier version won’t work - you will need to remove it with “docker volume rm openstreetmap-data” and recreate.

For more details about what it’s actually doing, have a look at this file. You’ll see that it closely matches the “manually building a tile server” instructions here, with some minor changes such as the tile URL and the internal account used. Internally you can see that it’s using Ubuntu 18.04. You don’t need to interact with that directly, but you can (via “docker exec -it mycontainernumber bash”) if you want to).

When the import is complete you should see something like this:

Osm2pgsql took 568s overall

real    9m34.378s
user    0m0.030s
sys     0m0.060s

That tells you how long things took in total (in this case 9.5 minutes).

To start the tile server running:

docker run -p 80:80 -v openstreetmap-data:/var/lib/postgresql/12/main -d overv/openstreetmap-tile-server:1.3.10 run

and to check that it’s working, browse to:


You should see a map of the world in your browser.

More Information

This docker container actually supports a lot more than the simple example here - see the readme for more details about updates, performance tweaks, etc.

Viewing tiles

For a simple “slippy map” we can use an html file “sample_leaflet.html” which is here in mod_tile’s “extra” folder. Edit “hot” in the URL in that file to read “tile”, and then just open that file in a web browser on the machine where you installed the docker container. If that isn’t possible because you’re installing on a server without a local web browser, you’ll also need to edit it to replace “” with the IP address of the server and copy it to below “/var/www/html” on that server.

If you want to load a different area, just repeat the process from “wget” above. It’ll be quicker the next time because the static data needed by the map style won’t be needed.