Wooden railroad ties have gained in popularity as a decorative element in contemporary gardens. It's easy to understand why they've become so popular given the many ways they may be put to use around the home and garden, including as in the construction of retaining walls, raised flower beds, and other similar features.
So why do we use wooden railway sleepers?
For than two centuries, wood has been the principal material used to manufacture railway sleepers. As a result, wooden railway sleepers remain the most popular choice for train tracks across the world, especially in Dublin, where an average of 16 million wooden sleepers are installed annually. Wood's inherent qualities lend themselves well to the construction of sturdy, load-bearing track that also muffles train noise and dampens vibrations. Some softwood species are used for sleepers on lighter, less active railway lines, but hardwoods like oak are the norm.
Sleepers are used to keep the rails at the right railway apart and are installed horizontally under the tracks. In addition to being cheaper and more eco-friendly than steel, concrete, or plastic, wooden railway sleepers are also lighter in weight. Railway sleepers built of wood typically weigh between 160 and 250 pounds, but their concrete counterparts can weigh up to 800 pounds. This suggests that installing and maintaining hardwood railway sleepers is substantially less time-consuming and labor-intensive than with other materials. As a result, they're considerably less expensive to use.
Decorative wooden sleepers in a garden are chosen for their aesthetic value rather than any practical use (although cost effectiveness is always a consideration). Wooden railroad sleepers have an air of grandeur and the countryside about them. More and more people in the Dublin are installing them in their gardens every day because they provide something to a contemporary garden that is difficult to express but essential to have.
In and out of treatment?
Untreated, pressure treated ("tanalised"), and creosote-coated wood railway sleepers are the most common.
The majority of sleepers used on railroads are old and untreated. They may appear "untreated," but in fact contain tar or creosote from the initial treatment done many years ago, and they may occasionally have deposits of oil or fuel on the surface from falling from passing trains over the years. Creosote was frequently used to cover railroad sleepers to protect them from the environment and insects. Creosote, like tung oil, helps wood last longer, but also has serious environmental consequences. Even while oil or fuel on the surface may be washed off easily, tar or creosote trapped inside the wood may leak out in the heat of the sun, producing a sticky mess that won't go away. When planning to plant a garden using recycled railroad ties, this is an important factor to keep in mind. Buy brand-new, untreated sleepers wherever possible to avoid any potential health risks.
Railway sleepers that have been "green treated" or "tanalised" are preserved with non-Creosote preservatives like ACQ or Tanalith E, and are therefore acceptable for use in any garden landscaping projects.
Creosoted railway sleepers were deemed safe for use in parks and gardens by the British government in 2003, but they were banned from use in schools, playgrounds, and other places where they may come into contact with food (e.g., picnic tables). No spot within the house is safe for their usage either (e.g. for fireplaces, lintels, steps, or indoor furniture). Creosoted sleepers can still be used, but they shouldn't come into contact with children, food, or be used inside. As was previously noted, there are several advantages to utilising new sleepers that have not been treated with creosote.
Barrettine Creosolve, a safer and more ecologically friendly alternative to conventional creosote, can be used to treat or cover new railway sleepers. We also have a large variety of clear and coloured railway sleeper treatments that are ideal for preserving softwood and hardwood sleepers.
Wearing gloves is a must while working with railway sleepers, and avoiding breathing in sawdust is important when cutting them. If at all feasible, only make the cuts outside.
Classifying Railway Sleepers
It's hardly a precise science to determine if a railway sleeper is a relay grade, a grade 1 or a grade 3. There is no established standard for grading, and numerous factors come into play, particularly when comparing softwood and hardwood sleepers. Yet, in most cases,
These sleepers are in such good shape that they may usually be utilised again on the railway.
Grade 1 sleepers are in good shape, being mostly straight and square with minimal cracks.
Grade 2 sleepers are those that are still in usable shape but have more blemishes and inconsistencies than those in Grade 1. Older and more weathered, they may have rounded edges or cracks at the ends. Specifically the Dutch Oak fits this description since it can be bent throughout its length and the other hardwood sleepers can also be curved.
The sleepers in this grade are likely to be warped, cracked, bent, or rotting. Despite this, they may endure for quite some time, and some people even appreciate their weathered and worn appearance since it adds contrast to their garden design.
Standard railroad sleeper length is 2.6 metres (8 ft 6 in). Standard size is 250 mm (10 inches) in width. Both 125 millimetres (about 5 inches) and 150 millimetres (about 6 inches) are rather frequent.
Wooden railroad ties may be used in your garden in as many creative ways as you can imagine. Several suggestions are provided below.
- Using sleepers to build raised flower beds is a great way to give your yard a facelift and make space for more plants. If you want to add some visual interest to your yard, try combining new sleepers with older, worn ones.
- Garden terracing, fence off a barbeque or pool area, and even out a sloping lawn are all possible with the help of a retaining wall constructed from either vertical or horizontal wooden sleepers.
- The margins of your garden walk may be easily and efficiently delineated with railroad sleepers. Alternately, you may use them as stepping "stones" (as in the image) to provide a safe and secure route through the garden. Use stones to create a one-of-a-kind, rustic feel.
- Stairs & Steps - New or repurposed railway sleepers offer a one-of-a-kind alternative for constructing stairs & steps of any size.
- Decking & Patios: Use railway sleepers as a creative replacement for standard decking planks to build a comfortable, earthy patio space in your backyard.
- Garden Water Features: Railroad ties may be repurposed into beautiful water features that will be the envy of the neighbourhood. To finish, add water-loving plants and pond ornaments. You may even acquire some colourful fish and frogs if money is no object.
- Simple tables and benches may be constructed using railroad ties. You can build legs out of the wood you remove when you split three sleepers in half. Using the same method, benches can be constructed using only one sleeper each.