Railway Preservation News

Composite ties
Page 1 of 2

Author:  Cory Bennett [ Mon Nov 13, 2017 8:08 pm ]
Post subject:  Composite ties

Are composite ties worth using. Anybody know their down side.

Author:  Rob Gardner [ Tue Nov 14, 2017 4:56 pm ]
Post subject:  Re: Composite ties

One requirement of composite ties is that you MUST predrill them for spikes or screw spikes. I have walked the track at Ft. Drum near Watertown, NY and they have been using them for a few years now. I saw quite a few in track. I can get you a variety of vendor's contact information if you are seriously considering them. They should insert like a normal wood tie if you are using a tie inserter or backhoe.


Rob Gardner

Author:  atsfm177 [ Tue Nov 14, 2017 6:11 pm ]
Post subject:  Re: Composite ties

The Army and the Navy have introduced them in a number of bases. Personally, I love them and have been advocating for the greater use of them, but like all things railroad, the resistance to change is huge.

As Rob said above, you will get best results if you pre drill them. If you don't, the composite material has a tendency to mushroom up and lift tie plates from full bearing on the ties. But drilling is easy. I use my Dewalt cordless drill and a 3/8" drill bit and it goes fast. You can freely mix them with wood with no issues.

We had an Eagle Scout replace the ties under a turnout at the Travel Town museum and they look great. One word of advice, wear gloves and long sleeve shirts. The Axiom ties at least have fiberglass missed into the plastic and your arms will itch for days if you don't.

Only issue I have for the Museum is the gray color. They stick out from all the creosoted ties. But if you have young ones playing on them, they don't have the oil bubbling out or splinters to stab you.


Author:  Alex Huff [ Tue Nov 14, 2017 6:18 pm ]
Post subject:  Re: Composite ties

I can't speak for current production, but twenty +/- years ago, a Class I supported composite tie manufacturer went bankrupt when it was belatedly discovered that the adhesive reacted to the steel in spikes and tieplates in contact with the tie. There were also manufacturing control issues, wood chips not dry enough in some production runs. I bought some at the bankruptcy sale. Not very good as ties, but stronger than white oak ties when you needed support for jacks during rerailing, swapping out trucks, etc.
Alex Huff

Author:  Finderskeepers [ Tue Nov 14, 2017 8:31 pm ]
Post subject:  Re: Composite ties

We had a bunch of them installed where I work, and they just plain were a failure. Most broke in half in the middle. I'm not sure if cold Canadian winters caused them to become brittle, or if constant heavy switching was the cause, but 5 years later not a single one remained. What is interesting is that they were replaced by pressure treated ties, which I thought would never work or hold up, yet surprisingly they are holding up quite well.

Author:  Ddatrainman [ Tue Nov 14, 2017 10:35 pm ]
Post subject:  Re: Composite ties

Staten Island Railway has been using approximately 7,500 sustainable composite ties in St. George terminal for a while now. They seem to be "corrosion resistant" and have been holding up pretty well


Author:  Bobharbison [ Tue Nov 14, 2017 11:31 pm ]
Post subject:  Re: Composite ties

As others have mentioned, at least some of the suppliers have gone out of business for various reasons. I'm not even sure where to buy them now, the last time I tried, the only supplier was on the East Coast someplace.

While not very useful for a railroad museum, concrete ties have won this battle. In fact, they're so common now that you can easily get used ones. There are several problems in a museum setting though. They're usually designed for big rail, 115# or bigger. I don't know if anyone makes them for smaller rail. Also, if you don't like the grey color of composite ties, you'll really hate concrete ties as they look like nothing else. But if you have a place where you have to bury track under pavement etc, they can be a wonderful option.

Author:  Les Beckman [ Sat Dec 02, 2017 10:41 pm ]
Post subject:  Re: Composite ties

Load received at Hoosier Valley this past week.

December warm temps at HVRM 12-2-17 006.JPG
December warm temps at HVRM 12-2-17 006.JPG [ 348.11 KiB | Viewed 3969 times ]

Author:  weekendrailroader [ Sun Dec 03, 2017 12:05 am ]
Post subject:  Re: Composite ties

I've noticed that there are a number of heritage railways in the U.K. that are laying new track on old grades that were torn up and "abandoned" during the 1960's. If you follow these projects on the various groups' Facebook pages, you'll see that many of them are using second hand concrete ties. Perhaps this a benefit of having a somewhat nationalized railway system (maybe spares and leftovers have to be offered to charities?). In any case, as long as the roadbed is in good condition, I imagine that these ties may last for a very, very long time.

Author:  k5ahudson [ Mon Dec 04, 2017 2:04 am ]
Post subject:  Re: Composite ties

What is the cost compared to a wood tie?

Author:  Bobharbison [ Mon Dec 04, 2017 1:41 pm ]
Post subject:  Re: Composite ties

weekendrailroader wrote:
In any case, as long as the roadbed is in good condition, I imagine that these ties may last for a very, very long time.

Concrete ties will last a very long time. On the mainline, they require larger rock than wood ties for best performance. I'm not sure this is much of an issue on the typical tourist railroad though, as the loads and traffic would be so much smaller.

Used concrete ties are becoming more common, though typically you'll need to supply 5-1/2" base (112/115) or 6" base (133/136) rails to go with them as there is no means to adjust the insert spacing for smaller rail. However, if you were to build track from concrete ties and 115 pound rail, your long term maintenance needs would be pretty small, mostly just the occasional surfacing of the track.

One issue to keep in mind with concrete ties is that they're pre-stressed concrete and under tension. They don't like being dropped or banged around and they don't like derailments. Damaging them can cause them to fail and become unusable.

Author:  Bobharbison [ Mon Dec 04, 2017 1:43 pm ]
Post subject:  Re: Composite ties

k5ahudson wrote:
What is the cost compared to a wood tie?

The last time I priced them (been a few years) they were about 25% higher. However, the real deal breaker was the freight. Instead having to ship them 150 miles, I was shipping them all the way across the country, and they're not light! That made them about double by the time it was done.

If there are any composite tie suppliers on the west coast, I'm not aware of them. I think the one I found was in New Jersey?

Author:  mvitale [ Wed Dec 06, 2017 5:55 pm ]
Post subject:  Re: Composite ties

Les could you provide some information on the ties? New or used? (They look new.)Supplier? Approximate cost?

Author:  Les Beckman [ Wed Dec 06, 2017 9:47 pm ]
Post subject:  Re: Composite ties

mvitale -

I don't have the exact details. From what I have heard, they are new ties. The cost per tie is less than new wood ties, but more than relays. They came from Danville, Illinois. I can't furnish any information beyond that.


Author:  Larry Lovejoy [ Wed Dec 06, 2017 10:48 pm ]
Post subject:  Re: Composite ties

LES: Please find out as much detail as you can and report it here. Inquiring minds want to know.....

Danville is not the location of any tie manufacturer of which I know. Plus "cheaper than wood" doesn't pass a sniff test. I'm wondering whether these are leftovers from some project and the contractor was willing to sell them at a discount just so he could get back some of his money.

While AREMA has "recommended practices" for composite ties, those are largely structural tests that the tie needs to pass. There's no common design for how the ties are made or what you would see inside if you cut one in half. Some are solid plastic. Some are plastic-encapsulated wood. Some are plastic with either metallic or non-metallic reinforcement embedded inside. Some are smooth sided while others have embossed patterns to grip the ballast better. Some are not even rectangular. Some can be used with ordinary cut spikes while others require a special clip. Performance has varied and there likely are more defunct manufacturers of plastic ties than ones who are still in business.

In my half-century in railway track maintenance, I've seen hundreds of new products come on the market and the inventors of each was absolutely certain his idea was the greatest thing since indoor plumbing. At least 3/4th of them disappeared from the marketplace within a year or two or three, often because the inventor simply didn't understand how trackwork is done in the real world or by whom it is done. Many composite tie designs might perform well once you've installed them in track, but they can't survive the abuse they get from the tie handler and the tie handler's operator.

/s/ Larry
Lawrence G. Lovejoy, P.E.

Page 1 of 2 All times are UTC - 5 hours [ DST ]
Powered by phpBB © 2000, 2002, 2005, 2007 phpBB Group