Perhaps not exactly what you're looking for, but in North America with most large carriers, contractors are hired to remove the old ties (sleepers) from the right of way for a low price, one or two dollars per tie. Sounds good but we are usually talking about many thousands of them at a whack. It is not...
Best answer: Perhaps not exactly what you're looking for, but in North America with most large carriers, contractors are hired to remove the old ties (sleepers) from the right of way for a low price, one or two dollars per tie. Sounds good but we are usually talking about many thousands of them at a whack. It is not uncommon for ten miles or more of ties to be replaced by tie gangs at many differing locations each day.
That is their sole function and they are away for many weeks at a time. No one ever talks or asks about them. But without 'em, no train is going anywhere. Ditto for the steel gangs that replace rail and the surfacing gangs that follow behind that spreads new ballast and levels it with laser beams and tamps it all up.
How many tie gangs? Dozens or dozens of dozens, I have no idea. But it isn't a cottage industry. It's big business and we're talking many, many millions of dollars overall.
The house I own was built in 1972 and the ties are still doing their job as retaining walls and fence posts. When I was raising sheep here not even the rams could hurt them, but the old phone polls for cross fencing the pasture didn't hold up for crap. At one time, both were treated with creosote. When I got out of the business the last ram wound up as mutton and true shish-ka-bob at a big party that was our wedding reception. A three day event... Still not sure who I married... But she seems nice...
Then they sell the ties to hardware stores large and small for a few dollars more. Then someone buys from them and builds retaining walls, primarily, but there are dozens of uses for them as mentioned here. Then those customers pay anywhere between eight and twelve dollars or more each, depending on condition with the best ties commanding the highest price.
As for new ties, which are usually oak treated with creosote, when I retired in 2000 were fetching $40 each to the railroads. They must be much more expensive today.
Preservatives, like creosote, have leached out long before, which is why the railroad replaced them in the first place. But there can be residual traces left in cases, mostly benign and deep inside if present at all and not very toxic. If only they killed gophers too... I've been locked in mortal combat with the gopher from hell, and now his progeny, for 31 years. I tried one of those things resembling a fusee that you light on fire and stuff it into the gopher hole and cover with dirt. Not only did it not kill him, it pissed him off and the half burnt remains of the device was outside the gopher hole the next morning.
Older now, presumably more wise, this summer, the unavoidable gauntlet having been thrown down, I'll spend spare time sipping tropical drinks, sitting in a favorite lawn chair under an umbrella, shotgun in hand, and when I see earth being turned up, right in front of me, as in the past, I'll blow 'em to smithereens...
As for concrete ties, they last indefinitely. A boon to the carriers, but they have one major drawback. When wooden ties are in place, a single derailed wheel or an entire truck can cut wooden ties for many miles before derailing completely, causing a major pile-up. There are detectors that scan for a derailed wheel / truck every so many miles, with no standards set that I am aware of, but they're probably there. But ALL employees, regardless of craft are required to make a visual inspection of a train passing by. It is called a "roll by." Many times derailments didn't happen because they got noticed as a derailment that was in the making, before the train scattered all over hell and back.
On the other hand, when a wheel hits a concrete tie, it basically explodes. Period. There is no mileage taken into account. The pile-up happens right then and there. No margin for detection beforehand whatsoever. You're in the ditch. Hopefully you brought a big lunch.
And if anyone is thinking about taking some of those used wooden ties laying along the right of way, don't. With tracks nearby a pick-up truck with ties in it usually doesn't make it past the first police officer that sees them, and you better have a receipt.
3 weeks ago