Railroad Tie Installation

Old 09-02-02, 09:38 PM
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Question Railroad Tie Installation

I'm just beginning to redo a garden/law area. All I want to do is put down some railroad ties next to the sidewalk. There's a gentle slope in the area. After one purchases the railroad ties, how does one go about doing this?
Old 09-03-02, 09:33 AM
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Location: Acton, Ontario, Canada - Zone 6b
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Hello Jeff and Welcome to DoItYourself.com

Others might have easier, better or preferred ways to install 6x6 (railroad) ties, but this is what I've found works best for me...

While just digging a trench and butting the timbers together and keeping the tops flush with the ground surface will work temporarily, I've found that if you want an installation that will last without shifting, you should put sleepers or short (2' - 3') pieces below grade to at least support where the timbers butt together - you can spike them together (using 10" or 12" spikes - galvanized and/or spiral optional) by nailing thru the top coarse into the sleeper. This does mean that you will have to trench deeper, but the timbers will stay flush and where you want them to.

Also, depending on the look you are after, you can either follow the lay of the land if the slope isn't too great or set your timbers level and step them as the land rises or drops. Be sure to have at least 4' of timber buried (or to where the bottom timber is fully buried) under the top run to insure stability.

I've also found that it usually pays off to put a shallow layer of gravel (crusher run) into the bottom of the trench to help keep the timbers stable.

Highly recomend using a treated or rot-resistant wood - cedar and redwood are very expensive and there has been a lot of discussion about CCA (chromated copper arsenate) treated woods leaching the arsenic lately - the industry is gradually phasing this type of treatment out, but general consensus is that unless you eat the wood or grow veggies within about a foot of it, you shouldn't suffer any ill effects from it. Creosote from real railroad ties is a different story - it will often come off on clothes, shoes and skin if contact is made - nasty stuff to remove from clothes (it's like tar to remove), so that's just another thing to be aware of... Whatever preservative treatment you use (assuming you aren't using cedar), be sure to paint any cuts or ends with the appropriate preservative to protect them from insects and rot.

Hope this helps a bit

Old 09-03-02, 10:22 AM
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I appreciate the response. We do want the ties to stick above the ground surface a little, for decorative and erosion control effect.

Any other replies would be great, too, but this is a great start! As I get into it, I may have to post a little more...even your "simple" explanation is a little beyond my experience, but you've gotta start somewhere!


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