Talk:Railroad tie

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Added link for ballast - it was an unlinked term previously.
Kether83 07:33, 25 December 2005 (UTC)

Can somebody mention (and reference of course) the fact that the railroad ties are really toxic and leach toxins into the soil. It is common to find these ties in peoples yards and sometimes vegetable gardens after their railroad use. Discusting. —Preceding unsigned comment added by (talk) 02:38, 25 March 2009 (UTC)

Disgusting = offensive to the physical, moral, or aesthetic taste. [1] (talk) 00:13, 7 November 2012 (UTC)


Which is the more common name?

  • Railroad tie
  • Sleeper

Simply south 00:47, 19 December 2006 (UTC)

I'd go for sleeper, as it is used throughout the Commonwealth I think, whereas Railroad tie would be largely limited to America (the U.S. of). Philip J. Rayment 01:45, 19 December 2006 (UTC)
Naturally, you're British. There are more railroads in North America than in the UK, Australia, and wherever put together. Besides, the term crosstie is far more descriptive and less confusing. A "sleeper" is a Pullman sleeping car.Scott Adler 08:23, 10 June 2007 (UTC)
  • Considering the term 'Sleeper' is used by the inventors of the modern railway, it is the English word used by the English, and it is the term used in many different countries (rather than just 'railroad tie' in North America), does there need to be much more deliberation on this? -- (talk) 15:18, 27 May 2009 (UTC)
How can you think because of the fact there is more railways in North American than in the commenwealth (may or may not be true) is actually releated, In the UK train is used far more daily than in north america because of the short journeys e.g. train to london in a max of 2 hours, and if you think because of the fact there may be more railway lines in the North America than Commonwealth (which is unreleated) id like to point out whose language it actually is ENGLISH spoken by those in england and the rest of the UK not American (who you all think the english speaking world follows) (talk) 08:10, 29 March 2009 (UTC)
Are you really certain that there are more railroads (in terms of track length, I suspect) in the U.S. than in the Commonwealth? Besides, I would rather try to determine which term more people use, not which country has longer rail tracks. But no matter if tie or sleeper, it would improve the article a great length if one term was consistently used through all of it (except the synonyms portion of course). --Funkysapien 01:19, 24 September 2007 (UTC)
Regardless of what continent/country has more miles of track, more trains running on them, or more sleepers, ties, what have you, the article should at least be consistent with itself, for the benefit of the reader. It should also be consistent with its title, which at present is "Railroad tie". Unless anyone has real objections, I'll change the article to use "tie" consistently - if folks want a different term to be used then the article's title should be changed. --Badger151 (talk) 22:10, 9 March 2008 (UTC)
What happened to this? Why are all the headers back to "Sleeper" instead of tie? -- (talk) 04:11, 16 September 2010 (UTC)
The headers are not back to sleeper instead of tie because they were never tie - the headers you refer to are new content about special types - the reason they are titled "sleeper" is that none of the literature used to refer to them uses the term "railroad tie".Sf5xeplus (talk) 12:31, 16 September 2010 (UTC)
Given that there is a British Standard Specification for Railway Sleepers (BS500:1956) the title should be changed to Railway Sleeper. — Preceding unsigned comment added by (talk) 18:19, 26 April 2014 (UTC)

Steel Sleepers[edit]

To complete this article we should perhaps have a description of steel sleepers and their use

Done. Biscuittin 20:19, 16 July 2007 (UTC)

Ties per mile[edit]

There are 5,280 feet in a mile.

This article states that railroad ties are laid at "intervals of about two feet".

This works out to roughly 2600 ties/mile.

The article states that "a typical mile of rail contains approximately 3,000 ties."

That's a big difference. Which fact is wrong?

~~ clintp

Strictly speaking, neither. 2600 ~= 3000, when rounded to the nearest thousand. Its a matter of significant digits.
Now, as for the answer that isn't from the science teacher side of me, I'd say the rounder number's acceptable, because the variation can be pretty great. Factors like the type of tie used, the level of use of the line, and the presence of curves or bridges can easily increase the number. So using the less specific number is probably a good idea. oknazevad 02:46, 4 March 2007 (UTC)
Heres foot note from
A footnote: Why are ties spaced as they are? W.M. Camp's 1903 book, "Notes on Track," says there should be enough space between the ties to allow a shovel to be used to advantage - at least 11 inches. This works out to about 20 inches on centers, about 10 inches less than the average person's step.
So as 20" centers it would be 3168 ties/mile(Larek 18:22, 10 July 2007 (UTC))

When presenting technical material, significance is important. If you are rounding to thousands, it should not read "3,000" but rather "3 thousand". In technical writting, "3.0" is not the same as "3" -- the decimals reference the precision.

Either way, a citation would be nice. (talk) 21:49, 27 November 2009 (UTC)


What are their dimensions? Scott Adler 08:48, 10 June 2007 (UTC)

That depends on the Gage in use, and changes around cirtan structures such as switches and bridges. (Larek 18:22, 10 July 2007 (UTC))
Spannbetonschwellen Typ B 70
I don't know about the US, but to give you an aproximate value (I don't think they will differ too much around the world), here in Germany wood sleepers are 6"x10", and concrete sleepers are 12" x 8" on their outer edges. Both types are 8,5 feet long. --Funkysapien 01:28, 24 September 2007 (UTC)
All my life, I have heard of railroad ties referred to by the term 7 X 9. Whether those two terms refer to the inch size of the railroad tie or something to do with the length of the railroad tie or the cross face measurements of the end of railroad tie is a mystery to me. — Preceding unsigned comment added by (talk) 13:34, 18 October 2012 (UTC)

Factory Made Plastic Sleeper[edit]

  • Width = 7"
  • Height = 7"
  • Length = 9'
  • Gauge = 56.5
  • Weight = 250lb

Concrete Sleeper being "more common"[edit]

The article refers or infers twice to the use of Concrete sleepers as the replacement for wood and most common type. Instead of 'an alternative mostly seen in Europe'

"but concrete is now widely used" "Concrete sleepers have become more common"

Firs I contend that this is not properly sourced, as the 1 and only source listed is for Wooden ties.

I believe this idea Concrete tie prevalence to be untrue, at least in my geographical area [Michigan USA]. I assume that the original creator is from Europe where concrete has seen more use. The 150 foot section of test track at Pandrol_Jackson/Jackson_Jordan's Ludington MI faculty being the largest installation of concrete sleepers I have yet seen.

Wood sleeper are shown only in a Historical/negative light with none of the positive benefits. Also none of the negative aspects of concrete sleepers have been shown. (Larek 18:22, 10 July 2007 (UTC))

Their prevalence obviously does differ heavily with location. I live in Germany and have been around german railways for 25 years now, and I can't remember seeing a single portion of newly laid track (and that includes track replacenment) here during the last 15 or 20 years where wood sleepers were used. Of course this is only my personal observation, and I have no reference for it. But, what ARE the 'positive benefits' (is there such a thing as 'negative benefits'?) of wood sleepers as opposed to concrete sleepers? And what are the negative aspects of concrete sleepers? Seriously, because I don't know any. (More expensive maybe? but thats as far as my imagination goes.) Cheers --Funkysapien 01:43, 24 September 2007 (UTC)
The disadvantage is, that a concrete tie weights 300 kg compared to about 70 kg weight of a wooden tie, so it's very difficult to get one into your car ... —Preceding unsigned comment added by (talk) 14:24, 8 December 2007 (UTC)
The only advantage that I can think of for wooden sleepers is possibly quieter track, as they'll absorb better. These days they're probably not even cheaper. The only time I ever see wooden sleepers in the UK is on older track that hasn't yet been relaid (oddly enough, some of the relaying on the Settle-Carlisle line in recent years has used steel sleepers), or occasionally former worn main-line track going into sidings. An exception I've noticed sometimes are wooden sleepers around points - am I imagining I've seen that, or is it real and is there a reason for it? : Riedquat (talk) 22:19, 19 December 2007 (UTC)
I believe wooden sleepers are still used in sets of points because they can be cut easily to any length. If you are using concrete sleepers you need a few dozen moulds to cast the few dozen different length sleepers to fit. Wongm (talk) 23:51, 19 December 2007 (UTC)
Concrete ties provide less kinetic energy absorption ("dampening") of the vibrations of the train's rolling stock than do wood or plastic composite ties. This may result in higher rail wear and higher wear on a train's rolling stock. Also, concrete ties are susceptible to electrical corrosion whereas plastic composite ties and wood ties are not. —Preceding unsigned comment added by (talk) 05:57, 6 February 2008 (UTC)
Would there be a difference in brittleness (and would it matter)? --Badger151 (talk) 22:03, 9 March 2008 (UTC)

Errors in section "Fastening rails to ties"[edit]

(I'm not correcting these error myself, because I'm not a native English speaker, so I'll just point out the errors in the section, and hope that someone with better writing skills will include them)
Orignally no tie plates were used, but its hard to find examples nowadays. I've seen directly spiked rails on a siding of the Cumbres & Toltec and also (but a special spike type) on some siding in Bavaria, Germany (don't remember the exact location)
Virtually all rail uses tie plates nowadays and for a very long time.
European-style railroads DO NOT use screws which are driven through the tie plates to hold the rails, unlike American-style railroads:
Wood ties, America: some nails only attach the tie plate to the tie, other nails clamp the rail and extend through the tie plate into the wood
Wood ties, Europe: 4 screws attach the tie plate to the tie, a clamp with a screw hold the rail, but this later screws don't extend into the tie, it's quite sophisticated compared to American style, a picture can be found here
Steel ties, Europe: tie plate is integrated
Conrcete Ties, Europe: tie plate is similiar to that on wood ties, sometime attached with 2, sometimes with 4 screws, on newer rails the more modern clamps are used which I think are also used for American style concrete ties —Preceding unsigned comment added by (talk) 13:07, 8 December 2007 (UTC)

Updated link[edit]

Found the link to to be incorrect. the company is out of business. I did a Google search for polywood and found the current supplier for polywood lumber. The current correct url is I have contacted them and they still in business. —Preceding unsigned comment added by Tpletcher (talkcontribs) 18:41, 27 October 2009 (UTC) (Tpletcher (talk) 18:43, 27 October 2009 (UTC))

Noticed that there is another polywood site that might be helpful: —Preceding unsigned comment added by (talk) 13:26, 23 July 2010 (UTC)


Stahl- Holz- und Betonschwelle

This is a handy image, steel, wood and concrete sleepers all in one photo, how did they manage that? Probably not encyclopedic to add it to the article though, I suppose..Sf5xeplus (talk) 19:38, 25 September 2010 (UTC)

Concrete and wooden tie issues[edit]

This edit [1] which I reverted. Some of the claims are erroneous.

However some of what was changed regarding concrete ties, has partial truth in it. However there is no point changing the text to suit what is believed without references. If it can be reliably referenced then the truthiness of the claim can be checked. Otherwise, don't bother.Sf5xeplus (talk) 15:50, 27 September 2010 (UTC)



Excess focus on Long Island Railroad, list of manufacturers, and additional unreferenced statements.

Multiple issues[edit]

I've added a "multiple issue" template to this article - the key problems are:

  • Lack of historical information
  • Lack of a suitably detailed sections on wood and concrete sleepers (the sections should be much longer than those on unusual sleeper types)
  • Potential issues with the differences between US and practice in other parts of the world.
  • Lack of references, specifically on the wood and concrete sleeper types - eg concerning the harmfulness of creosote, use with track detection circuits etc
  • A section on "ballastless track" which should be in an article of its own - slab track in particular is not a railroad tie.

Sf5xeplus (talk) 16:05, 27 December 2010 (UTC)

Do plastic sleepers burn ?[edit]

Do plastic sleepers burn, in say a bushfire?

So long as plastic sleepers do not crack, glowing embers will have difficulty in lodging in a sleeper and causing it to ignite ! Tabletop (talk) 03:22, 25 October 2012 (UTC)
Plastic sleepers may have large dimples on the sides and bottoms; so long as the sleeper remains smooth, embers would have difficuly lodging and causing the sleeper to catch file ! Tabletop (talk) 13:02, 6 May 2013 (UTC)

Brunel's Baulk Road[edit]

(proposed section)

Brunel liked to be different, and adopted the baulk road with longitudinal rather than transverse sleepers, In this way the rails were fully supported and could be lighter and less costly than the the equivalent track with transverse sleepers where the rails have to bridge the gap between the sleepers and have to be heavier. In the 1830s, iron if not yet steel was expensive compared to wood.

Gauge of the baulk road was maintained by a combination of occasional transverse sleepers, vertical piles adjacent to the baulks, and the ballast. The pipes were also intended to hold the track down, but as the earth especially of embankments, settled, the pile annoyingly start to hold the track up, and had to be disconnected.

It is interesting to compare the baulk road with Barlow rails which rested solely on the ballast, and which were unsuccessful as gauge was hard to maintain. Many early American railroads reduced the cost of the rails by having wooden rails covered by an iron strip; these where also not so successful as the strip would sometime come loose, and spear into the bottom of carriages, causing passengers frights or even injuries.

Pairs of stone sleepers connected by iron roads also illustrate the point that more strength is needed longitudinally than transversely.

On the Great Western Railway the baulk road lasted until the end of the broad gauge.

"Sleeper" v. "tie"[edit]

The previous discussion, Talk:Railroad_tie#Common, ended in 2010. Recently, a low intensity WP:Edit war has begun.[3] Pyrotec has cited WP:ENGVAR, but it isn't obvious to me what provision applies. Please refrain from reverting one another and discuss this matter here. Thank you, Walter Siegmund (talk) 15:15, 17 August 2013 (UTC)

That ("it isn't obvious to me what provision applies") is complete nonsense. The article is one of three written in UK-English that is being changed, but I grant that the title uses US-English terminology, and that was the case of all three articles up to 25th July of this year when an IP user (it varies from week to week but all of them are Sky IP addressess) changed the content of all three articles to US-English spelling without discussion. ENGVAR gives no prefer to either variant, but since these articles were written in UK-English going back in some cases to 2004 and/or 2007 and the historial content discusses the pionering railways in England, there is no justification for changing the languague to US-English. Pyrotec (talk) 14:33, 20 August 2013 (UTC)
Also, if you check the contributions for the various IP user's, they tend to fall into the vandalism-only category. Pyrotec (talk)
ENGVAR says:
  • "While Wikipedia does not favor any national variety of English, within a given article the conventions of one particular variety should be followed consistently."
  • "When an English variety's consistent usage has been established in an article, it is maintained in the absence of consensus to the contrary." (talk · contribs · WHOIS) cites the first and you cite the second. A requested move may be submitted to retitle the article "Railroad sleeper" and "tie" may be changed to "sleeper" throughout. That would satisfy the criterion that "one particular variety should be followed consistently". As likely as not, I would support such a request. But, I am disappointed that you chose to revert the IP, rather than discussing the matter here. Also, what is your evidence for describing the IP contributions as vandalism? How is that relevant to which term should be chosen? Please refrain from making unsubstantiated accusations. Best wishes, Walter Siegmund (talk) 21:13, 20 August 2013 (UTC)
You are very good with your "please refrain" requests, but I do think that you are taking a very selective viewpoint. This set of changes / edit warring is not only happening on this article, it is being applied "consistently" across a range of articles on this topic. ENGVAR also quotes "Strong national ties to a topic" and within this set of articles, descriptions in sections on early historical English railways in the Permanent way (history) article, for instance, are being changed to make use of "alien foreign" terminology. It's not just the two points (consistency within one article versus conventions) that you give above. I'm happy to substitute "troll" for "vandalism", but this set of changes has to be considered in the context of the actions of all the IP users made within a very short period of time across a range of interlinked articles. (talk · contribs · WHOIS), as stated above (and you are quite capable of checking yourself) made two changes to this article, the first of which has the explanation that you provided above and one change to Track (rail transport), these later two edits have no comment. (talk · contribs · WHOIS) has only made three edits, all of which are to revert my reverts to Railroad tie, Permanent way (history) and Rail fastening system. (talk · contribs · WHOIS) appears to be the same editor and has made one set of reversions to these latter three articles and also one edit to a car-related topic. (talk · contribs · WHOIS) made identical changes to Permanent way (history) and Rail fastening system with the same justification given above and it editwaring, but has a much longer contribution list on wikipedia. The ip 2.... users' edits appear to copycat edits using the same explanation given by (talk · contribs · WHOIS), they (the IP 2... editors) appear to me to be trolling. However, to return to your comments above, making a change-request to the article's title would, as stated above, address consistency, but it can't be taken for granted that it would be acceptable to all. I had not thought of that approach. Thanks for that extremely helpful contribution. Pyrotec (talk) 08:50, 21 August 2013 (UTC)
Sorry, but I have to return to this point. In a tolerant world, it would be perfectly possible to have this article Railroad tie completely in US terminology and it could be directly referenced in US railroad articles, whereas in (say) British railway articles it would be called up indirectly by "pipeling" Railroad tie to sleeper (as per [[Railroad tie|sleeper]]); and this was indeed the case until this vandalism started. IP 2.... is now removing the pipelining and changing all instances of "sleeper" to "Railroad tie" and similar US-isationing, this clearly goes way beyond any requirement of ENGVAR, its trolling. Changing, with agreement this article, to entirely UK-English terminology will not solve the problem of intollerant IP users removing pipelining as a means of working with English variants consitently within articles. Pyrotec (talk) 09:21, 21 August 2013 (UTC)

Sorry for the mess Pyrotec. You are right, I have change the articles to make the self-consistent. I did this in the interest of increased understanding, not out of vandalism. The article as it stands is "railroad tie". It was a bit confusing to me, at first, as a non expert, with the changing of terms halfway through the article. So, I changed it, so that people in the future wouldn't get the same confusing look upon their face as I did. It may be that people are able to figure it out, I did, but if the aim of wikipedia is to increase the knowledge and understanding of everyone, why are we trying to confuse people by arbitrarily changing the name of the subject of the article, midway through the article. To me, it's a bit like declaring a variable in the beginning of the program. Once it's done, we don't need to change around the declaration halfway through. That is why I also changed the Permanent way article. On that note though, it's not an article about a British subject, it's an international subject. The wikipedia page for the LA Galaxy doesn't change to the word football whilst discussing Beckham, nor does the American Ambassador have the second biggest "yard" in London. (talk) 00:02, 22 August 2013 (UTC)The IP user

Thanks for the clarification and the confirmation that it was not vandalism. The Railroad tie is a mess, in so far as it has an American English title, but mostly uses the most British-English terminology "sleeper". Whilst, I can understand the reasons for changing that article I find it much less acceptable to then change another three articles to US-English and to attempt rewrite history to claim that railways in England and elsewhere used American terminology when they clearly did not. Yes railways (or railroads, where appropriate) is an International topic and most of the world does not use American terminology. Railroad tie, clearly states "A railroad tie/railway tie/crosstie (North America), or railway sleeper (Europe, Australia & Asia) is ....". Sorry, I don't follow the "LA Galaxy doesn't change to the word football whilst discussing Beckham" argument. Following your logic and practice to date, "football" is not mentioned in LA Galaxy, therefore "football" has to be removed from the Beckham article and replaced with the American term? That does not make sense. Football can be used in articles where that is the relevant term and the American term can be used in articles where that is the relevant term. There is no need to "remove" football from every wikipedia article and replace it with the American term, citing ENGVAR. Sorry, but to continue your argument, the "variable" in Railroad tie was declared back in 2004 / 2005 as "tie" and the article has been expanded and internationalised, resulting in a mixture of terms (which could be confusing). The opposite happened with Permanent way (history) the variable was declared as "sleeper" back in 2004 and that remained the case up to July of this year. It is perfectly possible to have a clear / consistent article on Permanent way (history) that in its entirely uses the term "sleeper". There is an "article" Railway sleeper, which is a redirect to Railroad tie, so a reader wanting to know more details about "sleeper" can do so. Using the piped link [[Railroad tie|sleeper]] is perfectly acceptable, and that was being used. I don't have any strong objections to your improvements to Railroad tie and would have left it alone had you not started change other articles, citing consistency with Railroad tie. One of the problems is that you (and I assume without any proof that you are also using other addresses) together with IP, by looking at the edit histories, appear to have a single agenda of Americanising articles and reverting. Pyrotec (talk) 07:33, 22 August 2013 (UTC)