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A railroad tie/railway tie/crosstie (North America), or railway sleeper (Europe, Australia & Asia) is a rectangular support for the rails in railroad tracks. Generally laid perpendicular to the rails, ties transfer loads to the track ballast and subgrade, hold the rails upright, and keep them spaced to the correct gauge.

See also Tie plates.

Plastic Ties

Bruce Mowbray wrote:

I have recycled plastic ties on my 7 1/4" gauge railroad. The 2x2 ties are predrilled and slotted to accept the foot of the rails and spotfaced to allow tightening of the #10 washer head sheet metal screws I use without biting into the foot. This allows full expansion/contraction movement of the aluminum rail. My ties have been down for more than 10 yeas without any physical change in their structure other than a slight lightening of the brown color.
See Why Plastic

Concrete Ties

Dennis Cranston wrote:

When the restrictions on wood treatments came out the Houston Area Live Steamers choose to go with concrete ties rather than alternatives. The main motivation was cost saving. The ties are cast in molds that hold ten ties. In the bottom of the mold are nails located where eventually screws will go. Prior to casting, a plastic insert is placed on the nail. After the concrete is poured, a short length of rebar is buried in concrete. Repeat process over and over.
The ties, roughly 2” by 4” are heavy. The first attempt to use them involved placing individual ties on a prepared roadbed, laying the rail on the ties and screwing it down. Extremely labor intensive! A different method had to be developed.
HALS has built a track panel building jig for concrete ties. The ties are placed in the slots, the rail placed and screwed. In the building where the track panels are made, we have an overhead beam and trolley with a chain fall. After the panel is finished, the whole panel is picked up and moved via the overhead to a stacking area. Once several panels are complete, a tractor with a front loaded is equipped with a chain and special fittings that attach to the rail. Panels are picked up and taken out the track where they are stacked in a staging area.
Concrete ties are not just a different material, but require a thought out system for manufacturing and moving them.

New Unionville and Western Railroad, Southern Indiana Live Steamers, use concrete ties (Archive.org).


Mark C. Gregor wrote:

I started my railroad in 1987 using treated lumber for my cross ties. I followed the methods that some of the larger 1/8 scale clubs have implemented, which was ripping a treated 2 x 4 in half and then years later, ripping a treated 2 x 6 in half. My ties are sixteen inches long and are four inches on center. I built my ten and twelve foot track panels with one rail screwed to the ties in my shop, and installed the second rail in the field to keep the radius smooth and constant which also helps to avoid kinks. These panels are then transported on flatcars or with my skid-steer loader to the construction site.
I had purchased a large quantity of the older treated type of lumber, (CCA) which has been working well for me. I was also able to purchase two bunks of the older treated lumber prior to the introduction of the ACY type of treatment. There are many ties on my railroad that were installed in 1987 that are still in service. When I do a rehabilitation , I turn the ties over which gives additional service to the life of the tie. I have also been able to obtain a large quantity of the older treated (CCA) lumber for “FREE” This material was generated from construction sites where the homeowners have opted to replace their old wood decks with vinyl lumber.
If I were young and starting my first railroad, I would probably use plastic ties for all of the good reasons. Obviously, the plastic ties were not available twenty-seven years ago!

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