Railway Sleepers

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Introducing railway sleepers into your garden is a fantastic way to bring unique aesthetic elements and texture - from the weathered look of reclaimed timber to the crisp, new cuts of freshly cut sleepers. For decades, timber sleepers have been a staple of landscape gardeners' designs due to their hardiness and versatility. From retaining walls and flower beds to paths and steps, these natural-looking materials can add rustic charm to any landscape project. 

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What Are Railway Sleepers? 

What once was the backbone of railway lines is now a popular solution in landscaping. Railway sleepers (otherwise known as railroad ties) offer great versatility for gardeners and landscapers. 

These large rectangular sawn timber pieces, which were formerly used to lay railway tracks, can be utilised in a variety of garden and leisure applications. 

Railway sleepers can be laid flat or stacked to construct steps in a garden, particularly useful in sloped areas. 

They can also be used to create attractive, durable pathways, either laid end to end or spaced apart with gravel or grass in between.

Where Are Railway Sleepers Used? 

  • Raised Bed Applications
  • Raised Pond
  • Drive, Lawn & Garden Edging
  • Retaining Walls
  • Paths
  • Borders
  • Garden Steps
  • Garden Furniture
  • General Landscaping
  • Garden Projects

Wooden Railway Sleeper Benefits

  • Provides a natural look in any outdoor living space - natural composition subject to colour variations
  • Tanalised to withstand weather conditions, rot and insect attack 
  • Cost-effective alternative to traditional hardwood oak railway sleepers
  • Ideal for creating raised beds and a wide range of landscaping projects
  • Good elasticity and light weight composition
  • Green treated to prolong service life 
  • Can be stained with a wood protective treatment to match your desired aesthetic

Types of Railway Sleepers

There is a vast range of wooden railway sleepers available on the market: from hardwood railway sleepers (oak sleepers) and softwood railway sleepers to reclaimed railway sleepers for those who prefer a rustic, vintage look.

Aside from wooden sleepers, there are three other primary types of railway sleepers: 

  • Steel railway sleeper
  • Concrete sleeper
  • Composite sleeper

Reclaimed Railway Sleepers

If you're a fan of sustainability and upcycling, reclaimed sleepers offer limitless potential in the realm of landscape gardening. 

From raised garden beds to patio furniture or even creating a fragrant herb garden, these versatile materials will enable you to craft truly impressive pieces with minimal effort. 

In an age where so much is disposable and fleeting, reclaiming wooden sleepers is one way that we can both reduce our environmental impact and beautify our outdoor spaces at the same time!

How To Cut A Railway Sleeper

Although a simple hand saw can be used to cut softwood sleepers, the best method for cutting railway sleepers is with a circular saw.

However, keep in mind that you may need to make more than one pass with the blade to completely cut through the sleeper - first cut through one side, then turn the sleeper over and recut.

It's also important to remember when cutting treated softwood sleepers that cut ends should be treated with an appropriate wood preservative to ensure the timber stays weatherproofed. Time should be given to the drying process before installing the sleepers. 

Frequently Asked Timber Sleepers Questions

Can You Lay Railway Sleepers On Soil?

Yes, you can lay railway sleepers on soil. It's important to level the soil and consider drainage, but generally, sleepers can be placed directly on the ground for landscaping projects.

Will Railway Sleepers Rot In The Ground?

Yes, railway sleepers can rot when in contact with the ground, particularly if they are exposed to constant moisture and poor drainage conditions. 

The rate and extent of rotting depend on the type of wood and whether the sleepers are treated. Treated sleepers, like those impregnated with creosote, are more resistant to rot and pests and will last longer in the ground compared to untreated wood. 

To prolong their lifespan, proper drainage and possibly a barrier between the soil and the sleeper can be beneficial.

What Are Concrete Sleepers? 

Concrete railway sleepers are the ideal symmetrical material for building in and around farms, gardens, or other outdoor spaces. 

Their hardwearing construction makes them suitable for any number of heavy-duty applications from creating a retaining wall to creating a path or drive that withstands heavy traffic. 

What Is The Difference Between Green & Brown Railway Sleeper Treatments?

Brown timber receives the exact same preservation treatment as green timber, the only difference is that a brown dye is added to give it a darker hue. 

However, this colouring agent does not possess any additional protective properties beyond its aesthetic appeal.

Related Articles

How To Make A Raised Garden Bed

How to Level a Garden

How to Lay Sleepers for Garden Edging

How to Cut Railway Sleepers

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