OT-Burning Railroad Ties
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  1. #1
    Scott R is offline Hot Rolled
    Join Date
    Jul 2005
    NE Ohio

    Default OT-Burning Railroad Ties

    Does anyone here have an outside woodburning boiler? I'm wondering if I could burn used ties in it? I know the ties have coal tar creosote used for a preserver. Seem to me that they would burn hot as hell. I have about 50 I need to get rid of and it seems like a shame to just bury them in a landfill if I can get some heat value outta them. I go through about 10 cords of wood a season and any wood I can burn helps.


  2. #2
    Bill's Machine Shop is offline Hot Rolled
    Join Date
    Jul 2006
    Webster, MN


    Check with your local EPA rep. It's very likely that it's illegal. It is in my county. My neighbor has been burning them in his outdoor furnace for the last couple of years. I didn't know it was illegal. It sure stunk to high heaven. If you want to antagonize your neighbors, it's a good way to do it. They stink for a couple of miles downstream. Creosote is a carcinogen and the vapors go into the wind. I think they also used arsenic in the dip mix when they were new. That would also go up the stack. WWQ

  3. #3
    alg4884 is offline Cast Iron
    Join Date
    Aug 2006
    Southwest, Alabama, USA


    If you burn old (creosote preserved) railroad ties, you will probably have a build up in your boiler's flues/tubes of creosote residue and will have to clean them more frequently. You might wind up worse than burning sappy pine wood.

    I don't think the EPA would take too kindly to the idea of burning them in a non controlled furnace ether.


  4. #4
    JoeE. is online now Titanium
    Join Date
    Aug 2006


    Why yes, I do have an outside wood fired boiler. I've burned ties in it before, but I had to cut them in half, a full length one was too long. I can only get four foot pieces of wood in mine, and four foot of tie weighs too much.......

    I tried to use old bridge timbers, which were far and few between, because of less chance of ballast (rock) being ground into the wood and damaging the saw. Just cutting them with a chainsaw is a job. I figured the best way to cut them was with one of them gas powered demo saws with a carbide tipped blade, but that was too money intensive and I didn't ever try it.

    My boiler modulates the fire. I have it set to make 170 degree water, and at that temp the dampers close and the fire goes down to a smolder- which is bad when burning ties. It really doesn't make any difference on creosote buildup while burning these things, as far as my boiler goes. All wood creates the buildup while smoldering. The smoke from the ties is a little acrid compared to the normal hardwood I burn.

    I really only used ties for one season, and during the colder parts they really did good, cause the house was always calling for heat and they didn't get much chance to smolder. Actually, I've got cast iron grates in this thing and used to burn coal, and the smoke from that really was bad while it was smoldering. Coal got hard to find around here, so I just burn wood now.

  5. #5
    JST's Avatar
    JST is online now Diamond
    Join Date
    Jun 2001
    St Louis


    If they are old enough for real creosote, there may not be much left of them now.

    More recent ones may be "penta" oil, which I think is illegal to burn and expensive to dispose of. Or there was a specially heavy treatment that the workers used to call "zinked ties". Dunno if that is a hazmat.

    Possibly they are more recent and are some form of 'treated lumber", which earns you a big fine to burn, as Menard's found out a few years ago.

    Pretty much none of them are good to burn, the ash of treated lumber is hazmat, some of the materials are hazmat, and the smoke is not good for you.

    Ain't much good to say about it, actually. Pretty much anything that stops rotting is poisonous..............

    "Real" creosote may be the best -case scenario, although probably no agency would say "yes" to burning them.

  6. #6
    Ox's Avatar
    Ox is online now Diamond
    Join Date
    Aug 2002
    West Unity, Ohio


    Cleaned up around the old farm and lit off aboot two ton of them this spring. A small cool fire smoked a lot, but as I wood add to the fire it smoked less and less - and added heat that wood make a plume that wood go up more than blow along at ground level.

    Closest neighbors were 2/3 mile away.

    I picked up the steel residuals and they "fit" the rest in. I don't see the beaners lacking over there by eny stretch!

    If you aint got close neighbors - like said before - if you introduced a bit of it at a time during the coldest months when you have a good fire - it may not be too bad.

    Local junk yard usta heat with tirewood untill 20 yrs ago or less.

    I Shirely woodn't go lookin fer more ties to burn tho! Git'n rid of some that you have around makes sence tho. ??? Is burying them better? Really?


    You've got to stand fer somethin - or you'll fall for enything!


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