Hope these photographs and notes may be of interest. You are welcome to use them on your web site, which provided the inspiration for us to use railway sleepers in our garden landscape project. The first stage of this project was the decking which I completed last year. This year we moved on to stage two. Faced with the choice of so many different new and reclaimed timbers, it was helpful to see them 'in the flesh' at your depot in Cotgrave. It remained a big leap in imagination to see them in our garden but we eventually chose grade 1 reclaimed Australian Jarrah. Fortunately we have access that enabled 24 railway sleepers and two oak posts to be delivered and off-loaded exactly where we wanted them, so they didn't have to be moved again until they were cut. Although I was there to help, I struggled to lift just one end and your driver went beyond the call of duty, stacking them single handed, at the same time giving a practical demonstration of the safe handling of these heavy railway sleepers.
Cutting the railway sleepers then proved to be relatively straightforward, using a circular saw, starting at the top of the pile and working down. The full length sleepers didn't need to be lifted, just 'rolled over' to cut through from both sides. The cut pieces were then much more manageable. Doing this myself meant that the cutting list could be 'tweaked' according to the slightly varying lengths of railway sleepers and allowing the overall design to develop as I went along. A premium quality tungsten carbide blade was a good investment and is still serviceable after well over 100 cuts. An electric planer worked well enough on the tight end grain to remove any slight ridges where the saw cuts met in the middle as well as chamfering the edges before finishing with a belt sander.
Imagining generations of engine drivers emptying their teapots along the permanent way, I didn't expect these used railway sleepers to be particularly clean so I used a pressure washer to remove any remaining tea leaves, accumulated filth and the occasional rotten bit of wood, leaving magnificently grained, weathered hardwood. This is probably the only downside of using reclaimed, rather than new timber and, while the result was well worth the effort, it was useful to have space for pressure washing where it didn't matter about the mess.
Within a week of placing our order (and we did go away for the weekend!), the railway sleepers were delivered, cut, pressure washed, laid out and labelled ready for the builders to install them. That took a little longer but we are now in the process of planting borders etc.
Three complete railway sleepers have been used flat to provide a straight edge to a gravel driveway leading to a garage at the bottom of the garden and the two ten-inch-square oak beams have been rounded at one end and installed as sturdy gate posts.
Encouraged by our experience with the first consignment, we took a second delivery of reclaimed grade 2 treated pine railway sleepers which we used flat, uncut (and unwashed!), to edge the tarmac in the lane which leads to our house. These are fine for this application where they weep tar in sympathy with a "GPO" telegraph pole.
We are delighted with the results.
Martin and Audrey
A wonderful description of your garden project. Thank you so much for sharing your great collection of photos and imparting invaluable, detailed information describing your successful transformation. A fantastic piece of landscaping.