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Old 11-06-2007, 12:57 PM   #1 (permalink)
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railroad ties question...

A friend of mine has a bunch of railroad ties as the floor in his shed. He is willing to give them to me but they are soaked in oil (he owns a transmission shop). Will the oil help preserve them, or will it make them soft and rot the wood?

I just want to use them for landscaping.

Does PBB have a hardcore home remodeling forum yet?
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Old 11-06-2007, 01:02 PM   #2 (permalink)
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probably be ok...most older ties used to be soaked in creasote or some other preservative...they last for YEARS...the added oil probably isnt enough to damage them..

Oh...be ready...there fawkin HEAVY...bring your HD leg..
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Old 11-06-2007, 01:06 PM   #3 (permalink)
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What he said ^
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Old 11-06-2007, 01:06 PM   #4 (permalink)
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I just want to use them for landscaping.
Do you want something to actually grow? Sounds questionable if you do.
Definately don't plant a garden in that soil.
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Old 11-06-2007, 01:08 PM   #5 (permalink)
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My parents put some in for landscaping in the late 70's, there are still there and look fine. They edge the lawn to the flower bed, set into the ground. A few have rotted a bit on the edge, and few have always seeped a tarry substance on the surface of the wood, but we know which those are so we avoid stepping on them when gardening. They look nice, I don't know how they would look or hold up if you stacked them up above ground though.

Can't help ya with the oil part, unless it would leak and kill the flowers/lawn
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Old 11-06-2007, 01:14 PM   #6 (permalink)
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If you live in a place that gets hot a lot remember they do put out an odor. Something to keep in mind when placing them.
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Old 11-06-2007, 01:28 PM   #7 (permalink)
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You don't have a water well nearby, do you? The creosote plant here in town was torn down and they did a Hazmat clean up on it about 10 years ago. The only thing that will grow on that site now is milk weed.
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Old 11-06-2007, 02:09 PM   #8 (permalink)
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Actually, I don't want ANYTHING to grow wherever I put these! I live in Apple Valley, CA (high desert) and all that really grows is weeds.


My HD leg...good call! My wife would kill me if I used the one for the bedroom.
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Old 11-06-2007, 05:28 PM   #9 (permalink)
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My wife would kill me if I used the one for the bedroom.
The leg or the RR tie?

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Old 11-06-2007, 07:34 PM   #10 (permalink)
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My parents put some in for landscaping in the late 70's, there are still there and look fine. They edge the lawn to the flower bed, set into the ground. A few have rotted a bit on the edge, and few have always seeped a tarry substance on the surface of the wood, but we know which those are so we avoid stepping on them when gardening. They look nice, I don't know how they would look or hold up if you stacked them up above ground though.

Can't help ya with the oil part, unless it would leak and kill the flowers/lawn
My neighbor across the street built a small retaining type of wall, with RR ties laid horizontally, stacked 3 to 4 high. They are held in place by 1/2" galvanized pipe, through holes drilled through the RR ties. They've held up surprizingly well for the past 10 years....
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Old 11-06-2007, 07:37 PM   #11 (permalink)
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If you live in a place that gets hot a lot remember they do put out an odor. Something to keep in mind when placing them.
That's the best part! Put them by a window in the kitchen so you can waft that awesome aroma whilst eating! Creosote is right up there with diesel and fresh asphalt as far as awesome scents go.

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Old 11-08-2007, 12:58 PM   #12 (permalink)
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Actually, I don't want ANYTHING to grow wherever I put these! I live in Apple Valley, CA (high desert) and all that really grows is weeds.


My HD leg...good call! My wife would kill me if I used the one for the bedroom.
hehe...HD regular leg..not the middle one..

nothing will grow under them...stuff will grow between/around them..


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The leg or the RR tie?

thats WRONG WRONG WRONG!!..
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Old 11-08-2007, 01:02 PM   #13 (permalink)
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i used my chainsaw to cut the ones i used in the old yard..

watch for hidden "iron" in the cut area, and go ahead and buy a fresh chain, youll need it afterwards.
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Old 11-08-2007, 01:33 PM   #14 (permalink)
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Thanks for all the advice!
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Old 11-08-2007, 01:35 PM   #15 (permalink)
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I have a few. If you use them, I suggest using a liner stapled around where the dirt will meet up with them. Otherwise, say if it rains and the bed fills up with water, you can see a little oil slick. It killed everything, lesson learned and I did it like that and it's fine.
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Old 11-08-2007, 01:35 PM   #16 (permalink)
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If you live in a place that gets hot a lot remember they do put out an odor. Something to keep in mind when placing them.

Man I miss that smell....when I was a kid in the summer time telephone poles would seep creosote out and we squished it in our fingers....I am sure its gonna give me inoperable butt cancer.
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Old 11-08-2007, 01:40 PM   #17 (permalink)
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i used my chainsaw to cut the ones i used in the old yard..

watch for hidden "iron" in the cut area, and go ahead and buy a fresh chain, youll need it afterwards.
I just put up a tie wall 7 high. Wear a long sleaved shirt and pants if you have to cut them. Creosote just loves to stick to the sweat on any part of you and make nice burns.
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Old 11-08-2007, 01:42 PM   #18 (permalink)
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I just put up a tie wall 7 high. Wear a long sleaved shirt and pants if you have to cut them. Creosote just loves to stick to the sweat on any part of you and make nice burns.
if yer a greasy mexican like me - nothing sticks to you.
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Old 11-08-2007, 03:20 PM   #19 (permalink)
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i used my chainsaw to cut the ones i used in the old yard..
One tip about cutting: Try and do it early in the day or when its not hot. The oil gets fuming and will irritate your skin
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Old 11-09-2007, 12:05 AM   #20 (permalink)
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I put old creosote ones the the railroad removed in the 1980s in my yard. I looked at that yard two years ago and they look exactly the same to me.

Only thing is with the oil in them, I know it's not a LOT of contamination and you don't care about growing things, but creosote is a little different than varied petrochemicals and whatnot from years in a tranny shop. Personally I wouldn't put them outside or take responsibility for them, and I hate Al Gore. Sounds like hazmat to me :shrug: Most PBBrs are pretty careful about leaking oil AFAIK. This is the same thing IMO.

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Old 11-09-2007, 12:09 AM   #21 (permalink)
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Man I miss that smell....when I was a kid in the summer time telephone poles would seep creosote out and we squished it in our fingers....I am sure its gonna give me inoperable butt cancer.
Suuure the railroad ties are the "cause" of it...










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Old 11-09-2007, 03:39 AM   #22 (permalink)
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I put old creosote ones the the railroad removed in the 1980s in my yard. I looked at that yard two years ago and they look exactly the same to me.

Only thing is with the oil in them, I know it's not a LOT of contamination and you don't care about growing things, but creosote is a little different than varied petrochemicals and whatnot from years in a tranny shop. Personally I wouldn't put them outside or take responsibility for them, and I hate Al Gore. Sounds like hazmat to me :shrug: Most PBBrs are pretty careful about leaking oil AFAIK. This is the same thing IMO.
That's a good point. I do my best to minimize my impact on the environment when it comes to used oil and such. I use a lot more oil than most so my responsibility is important.

Do you think the oil would seep out or remain in the ties? I might have to re-think this as I plan on driving from the ties to my concrete driveway. I don't want tire tracks everywhere.
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Old 11-09-2007, 07:39 AM   #23 (permalink)
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Don't put them anywhere that you might flick a cigarette or weld or grind, they can and will light on fire in the summer.
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Old 11-09-2007, 08:08 AM   #24 (permalink)
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I don't think they will work ad well as you first thought they would. As mentioned earlier, they have an odor to them, particularly in the summertime. They will continue emitting creosote until they finally rot (umpteen years into the future) they are harboring transmission fluid and other crap...huge potential liability. Unless you're on a farm and don't care if you get that stuff on the ground in some spot then I'd politely pass on the opportunity.
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Old 11-09-2007, 09:47 AM   #25 (permalink)
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That's a good point. I do my best to minimize my impact on the environment when it comes to used oil and such. I use a lot more oil than most so my responsibility is important.

Do you think the oil would seep out or remain in the ties? I might have to re-think this as I plan on driving from the ties to my concrete driveway. I don't want tire tracks everywhere.
Like was said, the creosote just leaks out of them forever. The oil WILL come out of them with the creosote. They're already going to be saturated at least in spots, you put them in a place where they're NOT going to have oil added to them continually, and the oil will reverse direction and come out.
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