Railway Sleepers

Hi all,

im planning on making some bedding retainers using railway sleepers. I’ve seen them available on various sites but can anyone tell me if there’s a specific specification I should be looking for and would they need painting/sealing with anything before use Or should they be pretty weather proof as they come?

price wise, they seem to be around £15 each for 2.4m x 100x200mm, does that sound about right? 

Many thanks!

Posts

  • RedwingRedwing Posts: 875

    New sleepers will last much longer if treated and oak longer than pine. Recycled old sleepers do not need treating as they already have been treated. They look good in a rustic way. Some people will point out they are full of toxins which is true.

    Check google images for pictures and ideas,

  • stuart.dotstuart.dot Bromley, KentPosts: 127

    IME they're far from waterproof, those in my son's garden had rotted through in around 5 years. They're something of a makeover product. I'd get some old bricks and build a proper wall

  • Ladybird4Ladybird4 Third rock from the sunPosts: 24,641

    If you use railway sleepers, to extend their life, line the soil side of the sleepers with something like old compost bags stapled to them.

    Cacoethes: An irresistible urge to do something inadvisable
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  • ObelixxObelixx Vendée, Western FrancePosts: 16,788

    We used real, old railway sleepers complete with occasional bits of iron still attached in our Belgian garden.   We had them stacked 2 or 3 deep to make raised beds in what had once been the farmhouse tractor park - sand, granite setts and tarmac removed first; as horizontal layers to make a retaining wall for our own new parking area and hold up the land behind to make our fruit beds so knee to waist high as it was on a slope; as edgers for 3 long, curved sides of our grassed area and also as retaining wall for what became the potager.  This wall was chest high and held up by strategic vertical sleepers and the path up the slop was made by using vertically planted sleepers which were then sawn level.

    In order to protect the wood from the wet and the soil from the bitumen we lined the insides with black plastic - huge area so bought on rolls form a farm suppliers but cut up bin bags and compost bags will do for smaller areas.   We did nothing to the outsides and they were eventually bleached by sun and rain and grew there own algae and lichens and moss.

    That was 20 years ago in central Belgium so they've survived hot, humid summers and blisteringly cold and very wet winters.

    If you're using new sleepers I advise you to brush them with cheap light olive oil or rapeseed cooking oil (not extra virgin) and let that soak in for a few days before building.  You can re-apply as needed to the exposed sides.  It isn't sticky but will resist water penetration and make the wood last longer as well as highlighting any grain or knots.

    "We don't stop playing because we grow old; we grow old because we stop playing." - George Bernard Shaw
  • stuart.dotstuart.dot Bromley, KentPosts: 127

    I think genuine ex-railway sleepers are probably very durable due to the quality of the wood and the toxic preservatives used. What they now sell is fast grown, low quality softwood, superficially treated with something eco friendly.

    I'm not a fan of the plastic lining idea. This prevents the wood drying out after it gets wet. The best surface treatment IMO is vaseline or grease as they are totally hydrophobic. They don't half get tacky in hot weather though image

  • RedwingRedwing Posts: 875
    Stuartdot says:

    I think genuine ex-railway sleepers are probably very durable due to the quality of the wood and the toxic preservatives used. What they now sell is fast grown, low quality softwood, superficially treated with something eco friendly.

    I'm not a fan of the plastic lining idea. This prevents the wood drying out after it gets wet. The best surface treatment IMO is vaseline or grease as they are totally hydrophobic. They don't half get tacky in hot weather though image

    See original post

     I agree with your point about the plastic lining.

    I’ve used old sleepers in a garden and they are very good, look really good as steps or border boundaries. But I have not had a problem with plants not growing due to toxic treatment. Maybe you wouldn’t want to use them for vegetables though.

    The softwood ones: I also agree without your statement that they are not much good but it is also possible to buy oak sleepers which are  good.  Try a builders merchan, not too expensive . They do need treating with a preservative as mentioned above. They have a nice contemporary look as compared to old railway sleepers which to me have a more timeless look. It depends on what the OP is trying to achieve.

  • I had two old railway sleeper beds in my garden when I moved in and they looked awful, I eventually replaced them a few years ago with woodblocx, they're more expensive but well worth it. They look lovely and aren't showing any signs of wear, plus I think I'm right in saying there's no nasty stuff in the wood. I get loads of compliments about them too which is always a good thing! 

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