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Using treated railway sleepers as a garden wall...

Hi everybody, I have a rather big dilemma.

We have a large garden, that is also in a valley of it's own, thus everybody else(road and etc) is at least 1.5-2m above ground from us. We need to build a secure garden wall, and it is not only going to be quite high(to provide soundproofing from the road and privacy) but also very long...  My question is that, since we don't want to concrete anything we were going to use gabions, but where we are they are really very expensive. Last night I had a brainwave thought to use railway sleepers and there are a lot of old, creosote treated, ones available. If we used these, are there any plants that will willingly grow over them and over the decades keeps a check on the tar and absorb the toxins?? I won't use them to grow food for eating.... please, any suggestions or comments would be very much appreciated! Thank you!


  • LoganLogan Posts: 2,532
    Hi Jag I don't think any plant would soak up toxins from creasote
  • hogweedhogweed Posts: 4,053
    If the wall is going to be high then I think you are better off with gabions or brick/concrete blocks. Old sleepers apart from the tar and smell, are just not very attractive.
    'Optimism is the faith that leads to achievement' - Helen Keller
  • Pete.8Pete.8 Posts: 10,933

    I have a few old sleepers that I've used to edge one of my flower beds.
    Plants don't seem to mind and grow well right up to the sleepers.
    On hot days, I still see tar seeping out of them which transfers to my trousers when I kneel on them image

    Creosote is toxic to plants, so I guess it depends on how much is left in the sleepers.

    Billericay - Essex

    Knowledge is knowing that a tomato is a fruit.
    Wisdom is not putting it in a fruit salad.
  • pansyfacepansyface Posts: 22,312

    A high wall made out of railway sleepers sounds like a death trap to me.image How were you planning on stabilising it?


    Apophthegm -  a big word for a small thought.
    If you live in Derbyshire, as I do.
  • JAGJAG Posts: 9

    I was thinking of doing it a bit like this:

    or like the garden wall in this one:

    I can't go for gabions unfortunately, they are just too expensive and we cannot concrete here either which is why sleepers are so far the best compromise. Unless someone can suggest something else? I don't want to redo the wall in 5years time... so all Ineed to know is what plants will grow and cover the sleepers? Ivy, moss, alpine plants?

  • pansyfacepansyface Posts: 22,312

    That's really pretty Tetley. It looks like a real drystone wall. I love the effect. image

    I imagine it will be very stable for many years. But like all drystone walls it will eventually succumb to some movement. Frost in the soil and worms' activities will all produce a bit of heave. And roots will get in there too. As you say, it isn't terribly tall. And I think that stones are rougher and less likely to move against each other than sleepers.

    I like the photo that JAG provided but I don't see any means of preventing it from toppling over and burying someone.

    Apophthegm -  a big word for a small thought.
    If you live in Derbyshire, as I do.
  • We have a small retaining wall built from new sleepers - they have steel reinforcing rods drilled through them and two feet into the ground below them to hold them in place, but they're only two sleepers high.

    I'm not sure that I understand - are you talking about holding back the 1.5 - 2m bank, or building a wall of sleepers on top of the bank?  That sounds really precarious and dangerous.  What's wrong with a fence - if you need something to muffle sound a laurel or holly hedge grown against the fence would do that.

    I'm not sure that sleepers would muffle traffic noise anyway. 

    Gardening in Central Norfolk on improved gritty moraine over chalk ... free-draining.

  • Some great ideas on that railway sleepers .com site JAG, thanks for the heads up. image

  • Hostafan1Hostafan1 Posts: 34,562

    I've got retaining "walls" made from railway sleepers. either 2 or 3 high( it's dark so I'm not going out to check ). and the plants behind have been absolutely fine. 

    They were old sleepers, but as Pete say, you get a wee bit of tar every now and then.

    I'd avoid anything which smelt too badly of tar or creosote, but there are lots of very weathered sleepers available.

  • If you look at old railway lines, plenty of plants grow around old sleepers - but I agree that plants would not be happy near recently creosoted ones. 

    Nowadays you can buy 'sleepers' that have never been near a railway line or a can of creosote - those are what we've used.

    Gardening in Central Norfolk on improved gritty moraine over chalk ... free-draining.

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