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Old 11-11-2011, 10:46 PM   #1
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rotting railroad ties


I live on a hill. the only part of my property that's relatively level is the front. the back is like a 45 deg. slope all around, therefore,the original builder (30+ years ago) used lots and lots of "railroad ties" for retaining walls. (the state of Co. is just teeming with those things)
now,I'm considering putting in (no DIY,my back won't take it!) one big continuous retaining wall from one side to the other made out of some sort of blocks.
my question is whether I should have all those ties dug out before I have a bunch of dirt put in or maybe just leave 'em in there to rot.

pix can be posted if anyone wants this

tnx,

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Old 11-12-2011, 10:31 AM   #2
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One issue you have is getting rid of them if they are authentic railway ties. They are on EPA watch lists because of all the nasty preservatives in them---creosote just to start. You may need a permit to dispose of them or to wait for a toxic waste recycling event. If when you say railway ties you just mean timbers of that size? You can do what you want with them I guess.

I guess my inclination would be to at least dig them out and stack them so not in your way when framing and pouring your retaining wall. On the other hand, if they are not hurting anything it may be safest to leave them where they are if they do not look disgusting as they rot.

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Old 11-12-2011, 12:45 PM   #3
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what I was getting at was if they are under the dirt and rot completely,will this leave a low spot on the surface?

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Old 11-12-2011, 05:26 PM   #4
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rotting railroad ties


The ground will definitely settle as they rot if you leave them in place. It will happen slowly so it really may not be a problem as you could always add some dirt as it settles if it's lawn if there will be plantings it may be a different story. If they are really railroad ties then disposing of them could be a major problem.
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Old 11-12-2011, 11:27 PM   #5
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The ground will definitely settle as they rot if you leave them in place. It will happen slowly so it really may not be a problem as you could always add some dirt as it settles if it's lawn if there will be plantings it may be a different story. If they are really railroad ties then disposing of them could be a major problem.
yes,that's what I'm thinking. my property is just loaded with "real railroad ties" soaked in creosote. my guess is that once they're under ground,they won't be a danger to anyone. as far as the ground "settling",I'll probably leave the space "natural" so a little "waviness" of the ground won't be very noticeable.

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Old 11-13-2011, 10:16 AM   #6
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The railroad ties will continuously leach creosote over the lifespan it takes to rot. If you are on well water, you may be drinking the leached creosote. As for removing them, it sounds like you may need to build a reasonably high retaining wall, I could not tell from your post. If so, you almost certainly need to put granular fill behind the wall, especially if you go with segmental block. In that case, you may need to remove the railroad ties to allow you to build the block wall and backfill correctly.
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Old 11-13-2011, 10:32 AM   #7
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I think the answer depends on the site specifics. There is much we don't know. How tall is the wall? What are the grades above and below the wall? What is the soil type? What type wall will be constructed? How much separation will there be between the new and old walls?

While a slow collapse of the ground as the ties rot may not cause a problem, there is another consideration. Manny soils will not immediately fill in the space created by the tie disintegration. This leaves open voids which can transport water at a much faster rate than through consolidated soil. There is the potential for silt carried by this water to interfere with the wall drainage and cause saturation of the soil behind the wall.

Sometimes it's safe to leave the ties, sometimes you better take them out.
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Old 11-13-2011, 10:51 AM   #8
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If they are really railroad ties then disposing of them could be a major problem.
I hope I did not suggest it will be a major problem; just a PITA! Most landfills may take them but probably under permit only. There are companies around the country that recycle them into fuel and so forth. If one is close to you, you may be in luck. But if permits work like they do for most other things these days you will will probably have to retain a disposal or waste management firm to haul them away and certify the proper disposal. I don't know, but this could cost you a few schillings?
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Old 11-13-2011, 03:32 PM   #9
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I hope I did not suggest it will be a major problem; just a PITA! Most landfills may take them but probably under permit only. There are companies around the country that recycle them into fuel and so forth. If one is close to you, you may be in luck. But if permits work like they do for most other things these days you will will probably have to retain a disposal or waste management firm to haul them away and certify the proper disposal. I don't know, but this could cost you a few schillings?
sounds like I ought to remove those ties from reading these posts to be on the "safe side". funny, but I just removed all the rotting ties the original builder put around my window wells, in preparation for some "window well covers". I just threw them in the dumpster the "stucco" guys were using (just had the house "stuccoed") and nobody said anything. well anyway, when it comes time for the wall, I'll just have whoever I hire just throw them all down my hill and let them rot naturally.

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Old 11-13-2011, 07:16 PM   #10
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If you are just going to throw them down the hill and let them rot naturally, then I would just leave them in the ground and let them rot naturally. If they are like most rr ties they will take a long time to rot and probably not cause you any trouble at all.

I would just leave them and cover over them with soil and forget it.
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Old 11-15-2011, 02:22 PM   #11
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rotting railroad ties


ok, here's some pix. figured you guys need to see the situation.
you can see all the ties the original builder put down. (at least most of them...actually only SOME of them )
I was thinking since this wall will be pretty high in places,I may have to go with a cement block wall.

tnx,
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rotting railroad ties-yard-004.jpg   rotting railroad ties-yard-005.jpg  
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Old 11-15-2011, 03:23 PM   #12
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Looks like the builder had a pretty good idea. The only thing is that they do not hold up forever and thus begins to look bad. If he had used some type of paver block it would still be looking good. That would have cost him more money, I guess espedially if he got the old RR ties free. If they were free because the railroad and removed them due to their deteriating condition, he should not have expected them to last forever anyway.

This being said, I would not have used them in the first place because I do not like the look they present.

Tom
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Old 11-15-2011, 06:29 PM   #13
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Looks like a gorgeous piece of land. In looking at it, you have a fair amount of retaining wall to put in. Before you jump at cinder block? Have you had a concrete company out to give you estimate on forming and pouring everything? Might be cheaper, stronger and offer some added flexibility. You could color the concrete if you didn't want the stark gray look. You won't be able to do that with block.

I guess I am now somewhat confused. Are you replacing all the ties or just that uppermost linear retaining wall?

I see you started in with some path lights? Solar I presume? You might want to run some low voltage line to extend that lighting scheme before you build the new retaining system. That is if you are replacing everything I see that now has RR ties.

Hope you post pics of the finished results.

Last edited by user1007; 11-15-2011 at 06:35 PM.
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Old 11-15-2011, 09:59 PM   #14
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to tell the truth,I got "inspired" by my neighbor's yard. he has a really nice wall and it makes the back of his property stunning with the view and all. trouble is, my wall is going to be "mucho" bigger. (and lots more expensive ) oh well,I'd better get that done and make the back relatively level before I'm confined to a wheelchair full time. (I'll want to be able to get around my own property with relatively easy access)
"sdster", you really think a poured wall might be cheaper than "cinder block"?

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Old 11-15-2011, 10:15 PM   #15
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Enjoy it, you can't take it with you (the wall or the money).
Tom

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