New Railway Sleepers Vs Reclaimed Railway Sleepers

2013-11-04 12:09:59

When people ask or enquire about Railway Sleepers the first question I ask is “which type of Sleeper are you looking for? “. In a nutshell there are two routes to go down, the first being Reclaimed Railway Sleepers aka traditional “old” Railway Sleepers, or New Railway Sleepers.

Starting with Reclaimed Railway Sleepers, Reclaimed Railway Sleepers have usually been on the track for decades and are more likely to have been creosoted before installation although this is not always the case. I could write a whole article on creosoted sleepers and will do so watch this space, definitely a topic all by itself. To cut a long story short though, they are fine to use as long as they are not being used for children’s play areas, vegetable plots or anywhere where there would be a risk of frequent skin contact. Anyway back on track, a common misconception is that reclaimed sleepers are cheaper than using new and that they are the cheapest route to go down, if only this were true. Reclaimed sleepers are very heavy and no matter what type you get they will cost more due to delivery and manhandling costs. They usually come in two flavours either hardwood or softwood and are more often used in traditional garden projects where a natural organic look is needed. Their weight colour and appearance allow them to seamlessly fit into your project and look like they have been a part of your garden for years. One of the major issues with reclaimed sleepers other than their weight is being able to cut them. If you plan on using a handsaw then I am afraid you might be visiting the hospital with repetitive strain, as these railway sleepers will show no mercy on your newly bought handsaw. My advice would be to hire a chainsaw and save yourself hours of pain.  If using a chainsaw always look out for any obvious signs of metal and stone that may have embedded itself within the sleeper, as this would ruin your blade but more importantly be quite dangerous.  Also always wear the appropriate PPE (personal protective equipment) your local hire centre will advise what should be worn as well as usually being able to supply it.

Moving on to New Sleepers I would firstly like to clarify that these Sleepers will in no way ever see a railway track and are not produced for use on the railway. The name “sleepers” is only a reference to similarities in size and appearance. New Sleepers come in a variety of sizes, timber and treatments. The most popular being New Treated Softwood, benefits are they are a similar size to Reclaimed Railway Sleepers and are easy to cut, crisp in appearance and easy to man handle .They are treated with either Tanalith or Tanatone which is either green or brown in appearance, the treatment is the same and is environmentally friendly. New Treated Sleepers suit both traditional and contemporary garden projects and lend themselves perfectly for uses on vegetable planter, raised beds, retainers and ponds.

The other type of New Sleeper that is available is the New Untreated Oak Sleeper. New oak sleepers are strong and durable, the oak is classed as industrial grade and can have split ends which some people like and some people don’t however this a natural characteristic of oak and is what you would expect, Shakes and blemished are also characteristics of oak sleepers and give the sleeper the character closely matching reclaimed sleepers. The oak is fresh sawn and the colour is golden once cut, but after several months external seasoning the colour matures to a silver grey over time. These Sleepers are fantastic for use on either traditional or contemporary gardens.

So to summarise, your choice really does depend on the appearance budget and application. All of the sleepers mentioned are strong enough and perfect for almost any garden application and are easy to work with.

Check out our range of both new and reclaimed sleepers and make that choice.


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