Creating a Tile Server in Go and Consuming in Leaflet

16 Nov

I have used TileMill to create tiles and use them as a custom basemap in Fulcrum app and I loved it. I wanted to be able to do this in my web maps with Leaflet. After a short search, I found the answer.

What I Wanted

There are tile servers already made for you, such as TileStache, but I wanted to run a small, simple server on windows and I couldn’t modify IIS, or install Apache. How can I do this simply, without infrastructure?

What I Knew and Didn’t

I know a tile server splits data up in to images and serves them based on zoom level and row and column.

I know TileMill is awesome and will export MBTiles for me.

I have no idea what an MBTiles file looks inside.

Github to the Resuce

I found a PHP tile server by Bryan McBride on Github. It was the perfect example. From the code, it was clear that MBTiles are just SQLite DBs. What?!?! That is brilliant and makes using them simple. You just need to query for zoom level, row and column – as Bryan did n his code.

I installed WAMP because it is the easiest way to get Apache and PHP on my machine to test the PHP Server with my own tiles. It worked with no problems. So I know I can generate tiles and server them. Now I need to create a solution that did not require Apache, PHP, or changes to IIS.

My Solution

I chose to work with Go. It would create a simple .exe I could run on any machine.

I needed a SQLite library. I chose go-sqlite3. I grabbed my go to webserver code and started trying to connect to the MBTiles I created. From Bryan’s code, I know there is a table called tiles with columns for zoom_level, tile_column, tile_row and tile_data. Is that all? Are there other tables? And what are the data types in these columns, because Go will make me specify them (there are ways around this).

I googled MBTiles Spec and there it was, on Github posted by Mapbox.  Now I know there is a metadata table as well and all the columns in each table and their types. I started by querying the metadata table just to verify my database connection worked.

Connection to metadata table

Connection to metadata table

Once I got a response, I went to work on the tiles table. I need to connect, query and return a PNG with the data.

func Tiles(w http.ResponseWriter, r *http.Request) {
w.Header().Set(“Access-Control-Allow-Origin”, “*”)
w.Header().Set(“Content-Type”, “image/png”)
vars := mux.Vars(r)
z := vars[“z”]
x := vars[“x”]
y := vars[“y”]
db, _ := sql.Open(“sqlite3”, “./tiles.mbtiles”)
rows, _ := db.Query(“SELECT * FROM tiles WHERE zoom_level = ? AND tile_column = ? AND tile_row = ?”, z, x, y)

for rows.Next() {

var zoom_level int32
var tile_column int32
var tile_row int32
var tile_data []byte
rows.Scan(&zoom_level, &tile_column, &tile_row, &tile_data) //tile_data blob)



The above code is the handler function for the route:

Route{ “Tiles”, “GET”, “/{db}/{z}/{x}/{y}”, Tiles,}

I set two headers, one that allows cross origin and another that specifies I am returning an image.

I then grab the variables from the route. I only grab z,x and y. I have {db} in the route, but I am hard coding this in the map for now. In the future, by passing it, I can use one route to grab different tiles.

The query passes parameters using ? and then specifying a variable for each ?.

Lastly, I loop, scan and write out the results. the great part is I read bytes in tile_data and w.Write wants bytes. No conversion of types needed.

I now have a tile server. The complete code is on Github.

Connecting to server and getting back an image (tile)

Connecting to server and getting back an image (tile)

Connect to the Server from Leaflet

Connecting from leaflet is as easy as creating your standard map, then adding an L.tilelayer:

var mbTiles = new L.tileLayer(‘http://localhost:8080/tiles/{z}/{x}/{y}’, {
tms: true,
opacity: 0.7

The URL to the server is our Route: /{db}/{z}/{x}/{y}. I hard coded the {db} so you will see in the URL it already has tiles and starts at {z}.

You can now watch the network traffic in the developer tools of your browser and see the requests for tiles at the different zoom levels. Using tiles loads my data seconds faster then when I bring it in as layers.

Download the code, run go build and then drop the server in a folder with an mbtiles file named tiles and you are ready to go.

If you want a PHP Tile server option, Bryan pointed me to this one.


One Response to “Creating a Tile Server in Go and Consuming in Leaflet”


  1. Creating a Tile Server in Go and Consuming in Leaflet | Architecture and Planning | BIM Bytes - September 19, 2016

    […] Read More […]

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