How to Move Railroad Ties

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It is not a good idea to have railroad ties on your property since they can contain toxic chemicals. The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency warns that they may have been made with creosote, a wood preservative. Creosote is made from coal tar and is used in pesticides, and it is not authorized for residential use in garden borders and landscaping. If you have any on your property, you should plan to move them off your property or hire a professional to remove them for you.


A Few Safety Precautions

Before doing anything, contact your state or local waste management program for instructions on disposing of your railroad ties. Do not burn them, as they could release hazardous chemicals into the air. Contact with your skin could cause peeling or blistering, and long-term contact is linked to certain cancers.


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Older railroad ties may not be this toxic, but safety precautions are warranted. Be sure to wear long pants, a long-sleeved shirt and work gloves while handling the railroad ties. Once you have disposed of the railroad ties, be sure to wash the clothing that was worn separately from your other laundry.

Removing Retaining Walls

If the railroad ties are used as retaining walls, you will need to find the entry points for the steel rebar that holds the ties in place. Then, mark the tie approximately 6 inches away from each side of the points (you can use a tape measure). For taller retaining walls, start at the top.


Divide each rebar point into 12-inch sections. Take a reciprocating saw and cut through the tie, following the lines. You may have to change the blade position several times.

Cutting the tie into smaller pieces makes it easier to transport. You can use a pry bar to loosen any stuck pieces as you work. It is especially important to wear safety goggles and gloves to protect yourself from broken pieces of wood that could pop out.


Rope-and-Truck Method

For this method of removal, you will need to be experienced in tying different kinds of knots. You will also need a truck that can carry and pull a lot of weight. You'll be tying the railroad tie to a rope and then using the power of the truck to remove it.


Using a shovel, dig around the railroad tie until you can see the bottom. Take your pry bar and wedge its flat end under one end of the railroad tie. Apply pressure until the tie is loosened from the ground and then go to the opposite end and repeat the process. Keep doing this until the railroad tie is loosened all the way around.

Loop one part of a rope around one end of the tie and another at its middle, making sure that it is very secure and will not slip. Tie the other end of the rope to the back of the truck. Use several pieces of rope to secure the railroad tie to the back of the truck.


Then, you can drive the truck and drag the railroad tie until it is completely out of the trench. Place it on a hand truck and have someone help you load it. Then, drive it to the proper disposal area.



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