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9 Best Ways to Get Free Railroad Ties

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Railroad ties because of their rustic look and durability have become popular for various outdoor projects. There are about 450,000,000 railroad ties in the US, among which approximately 21 million wood railroad ties are removed from service each year. 

A typical price for railroad ties ranges from approximately $19 to $32. So if you need at least 10 railroad ties by getting them for free you might end up saving up to $300.

Prices of the railroad ties you can buy:

CompanyMenardsHomeDepotRuralKingLowes
Price$17.79$32.68$19.99‎$22.48
Where?How to?Number of offersProbability
CraigslistBrowse free listingsMultiple, depends on locationHigh
Facebook MarketplaceBrowse free listingsMultiple, depends on locationHigh
NextdoorBrowse free offers, add postsMultiple, depends on locationHigh
OfferUpBrowse free offersDepends on locationAverage
Facebook GroupsAdd posts, look out for offersLimited, depends on group and locationAverage
ShopPokBrowse free offersLimited, depends on locationAverage
Local Railway CompaniesContact to see if availableDepends on locationLow
SawmillContact to see if availableDepends on locationLow
National Salvage & Service CorporationContact to see if availableLimited, depends on locationLow

Ways to Get Free Railroad Ties:

Craigslist


Craigslist is among the world’s most visited online marketplaces when it comes to selling, buying, or giving away items, including free railroad ties.

The platform uses your location to show listings in nearby areas, though you can set a wanted distance in the filters tab or choose a specific area, your search results will be limited to the nearby locations.

Even though there are high chances you’ll be successful in finding free railroad ties on Craigslist.

We found a few examples, such as:

LocationQuantityConditionDelivery
Wylie, TX20GoodNeed to pick up
Austin, TX4GoodNeed to pick up
Newton, NH8VaryNeed to pick up
Kathern, LA9VaryNeed to pick up
Tuscon, AZ10GoodNeed to pick up
Albuquerque, NM20PoorNeed to pick up

To find the best offers of free railroad ties make sure to check Craigslist a couple of times a week, and contact the owner as soon as you find what you need as free items are usually taken within hours.

Facebook Marketplace 


By 2021, over a billion monthly visitors used Facebook Marketplace to buy, sell or give away items for free.  Among the variety of available items, railroad ties can be easily found in just a few minutes, making this option the best way to get free railroad ties.

Facebook Marketplace also filters search results according to your location, but you can set a distance you are willing to drive to up to 500 miles, or just choose a custom location in the filters map.

Here are a few examples of what you can find on Facebook Marketplace:

LocationRadius milesFree railroad ties listingsOther listings prices
Norman, OK5006$1 – $20
Salt Lake City, UT5006$1 – $25
Seattle, WA5007$5 – $30
Minneapolis, MN5005$1 – $15
Austin, TX5005$1 – $25
Phoenix, AZ5007$1 – $25

As you can see there are a lot of offers to choose from, but follow these tips to ensure your success in finding free railroad ties:

  • Always read the description to make sure will be able to use railroad ties for your project
  • If there are not many details just send a message and ask for the condition of the ties
  • Keep in mind that you probably will need to load free railroad ties yourself, so consider bringing a friend or family member to help you
  • Make sure your vehicle is suitable for transporting railroad ties as they normally are 8” long and weights between 100 and 200 pounds
  • Consider bringing tools to cut ties before loading

Also, it is worth checking sold ties as well, as the price for them starts at just $1 to $15 on average and you may get very good to almost new railroad ties very cheap. Also, you can try to negotiate the price as in most cases people want to dispose of unwanted items as soon as possible.

Nextdoor


Nextdoor is a mobile app designed for neighborhoods where you can get local tips, buy and sell items, and more. This app is designed as a social media platform to make communication in neighborhood areas easier. 

To get free railroad ties on Nextdoor:

  1. Join Nextdoor: if you are not already a member, sign up for Nextdoor and join your local community group.
  2. Search for railroad ties: use the search function on Nextdoor to look for posts about free railroad ties. You can also create a post requesting free railroad ties from your neighbors.
  3. Contact the poster: after you find a post offering free railroad ties, contact the person who posted it to ask if the ties are still available and to arrange a pickup time.

On the day of the pickup, bring a vehicle large enough to transport the railroad ties safely. 

Railroad ties can be heavy and bulky, so be sure to follow proper lifting techniques to avoid injury. Wear gloves and protective clothing to protect your skin. It is advised to bring a friend or family member to help you load and transport the ties.

OfferUp 


As of September 2021, OfferUp had 20 million monthly active users and is one of the largest mobile marketplaces for local buyers and sellers in the U.S. making it a worth-considering option when in search of free railroad ties.

To find the best offers all you need to do is to filter the distance that is much more suitable for you, type “free railroad ties” in the search bar, and filter the results by “Price: Low to High.” You will immediately see all the listings available. On OfferUp, there are vintage railroad ties, ties in bunches, second-hand ties, etc. 

You should never forget to check the description of the item, in case it is not mentioned, contact the seller and check everything with them, and then go after the ties.

Facebook Groups


Facebook groups can be a great resource for finding and obtaining free railroad ties. 

These local groups allow members to post about stuff they want to get rid of or ask for items they’d like to receive or borrow. The fundamental rule is that each item must be freely given with no expectation of repayment, which means no buying, selling, trading, or bartering.

To find such groups just type “free railroad ties” in the search bar on your Facebook and scroll through the search results. You will see posts related to the keyword, and which group it’s been posted to, so you can join those communities.

Also, you add a comment on public posts or drop a message to the post owner asking if free railroad ties are still available.

Another option is to search for “Buy Nothing” and you’ll see a list of local groups. Find one that suits your area and submit a request to join. That way you can find posts about “free railroad ties” that someone gives, contact him, and ask if it is available. Or just add a post saying that you are looking for free railroad ties and wait until someone reacts to your post. 

ShopPok


The ShopPok website is something like Craigslist, where people can leave classifieds for free to bring some attention to their offers. ShopPok is free to use and has positive reviews from both sellers and buyers.

To use ShopPok efficiently, and reach the results you want, you can either choose the given categories or write “free railroad ties” in the search tab, after typing your location and clicking “Search”. The website will show you the best results.

Also, as in most of the classified ads platforms, you can set wanted location to only see free railroad ties offers near you.

Local Railway Companies 


Railroad ties, even abandoned, are still legally owned by railway companies or the government, so, taking them without permission is against the law. The best option is to get in touch with the local railway company to ask for permission to take abandoned ties or check if they have any you can take from their warehouses.

Here are the most popular railroad companies in the US, you may consider contacting:

  • BNSF Railway – operates in 23 states and can be contacted via the email form
  • Union Pacific – operates in 23 states and can be contacted via email or phone depending on the department
  • CSX Transportation – operates in 23 states but does not sell or give away scrap ties
  • Norfolk Southern Railway – operates in 22 states and can be contacted by phone
  • Kansas City Southern Railway – operates in 10 states and can be contacted by phone or email
  • Amtrack – write that operates in 46 states and can be contacted via email or phone

Sawmill


Another free-of-any-charge option can be contacting the nearest sawmill company and asking if they give any free railroad ties for takeaway. 

Getting free railroad ties from a local sawmill is possible, but it may require some effort and networking. Here are some steps you can take:

  1. Research local sawmills: use online directories or search engines to find sawmills in your area. You can also check with local agricultural or forestry extension offices, as they may have information on sawmills in your region.
  1. Contact the sawmill: contact them to inquire about free railroad ties. Explain that you are interested in obtaining used ties for landscaping or other projects and ask if they have any available.
  1. Build a relationship: if the sawmill does not currently have any railroad ties available, ask if they can contact you when they do. You may also consider building a relationship with the sawmill by offering to purchase other products they produce or by volunteering to help with maintenance or other tasks.
  1. Be flexible: Sawmills may have specific rules or regulations regarding the distribution of used railroad ties. Be willing to work with the sawmill to meet their requirements, such as picking up the ties at a specific time or location.

National Salvage & Service Corporation


National Salvage & Service Corporation is a company that specializes in the sale and distribution of used railroad ties. 

While they do not typically offer free railroad ties, you can contact them by filling out an online form or calling their customer service line. Explain that you are interested in obtaining free railroad ties for reuse or recycling and ask if they have any available.

During their more than 30 years in the business, they have grown to become the country’s largest recycler of railroad ties and have an annual supply of more than 7 million ties. While it’s a long shot it is worth trying anyways.

Can Railroad Ties be Used in Gardening?


Most of the used railroad ties are treated with creosote, which is considered carcinogenic to humans. According to Agency for Toxic Substances and Disease Registry, exposure to large amounts of coal tar creosote may result in a rash or severe irritation of the skin, chemical burns of the surfaces of the eye, convulsions, and mental confusion, kidney or liver problems, unconsciousness, or even death.

Using such ties for gardening can be dangerous, because creosote may leach into the soil, and contaminate raised vegetable garden beds or soil near children’s play areas.

Ways to Use Railway Ties Safely


Railroad ties can be repurposed for a variety of landscaping projects, including use as fence posts, steps, and retaining walls. Some recommendations include:

  • Avoid using them near water supplies and avoid using them where humans and animals will be touching them with their bare skin.
  • When working around creosote railroad ties or removing creosote ties, wear long sleeves, protective gloves, and a heavy-duty dust mask. Avoid inhaling dust from the ties and don’t burn them.
  • To remove the creosote from the tie, you can cut all the faces of the railway, to a pair of inches, or as much as it is necessary to remove wood impregnated with creosote. At the same time, you will get a thinner, smaller railway tie.
  • While railroad ties have a rustic look, you may also want to consider alternatives to creosote-treated railroad ties such as using naturally pest-resistant wood, wood alternatives, composites, or timber treated with other preservatives.
  • If using treated wood for raised garden beds, many gardeners line the beds with plastic so there is no contact between the wood and the soil.
  • If removing railroad ties from your property, check your local ordinances about how to dispose of creosote railroad ties. Because of their bulk and the need for protective clothing, you may want to consider hiring professionals to remove them.

Places to Buy Cheap Railroad Ties


Sometimes you may need to save your time and find a cheaper way, which can be better than spending a lot of time searching for free ones. Here are sources you can use to find some:

What are alternatives to railway ties?


In case you are concerned about the safety measures, it will be better to avoid harmful chemicals such as creosote. You can also consider:

  • Timber
  • Bricks
  • Rocks
  • Logs

What tools should be needed to cut ties?


Once you’ve acquired your railroad ties, you should remember that ties are very sturdy materials that are not so easy to cut. Cutting takes time, skill, and the right cutting tool. A chainsaw or a circular saw is one of the best tools you will ever use for these types of projects. To safely cut the ties follow these steps:

  • Place rail ties on two pieces of wood – For elevation, place a piece of railroad tie on top of two pieces of wood to cut smoothly with a chainsaw. Pieces of wood must be at least 3 feet apart. Also, make sure you are cutting on a flat surface.
  • Wear protective gear – Make sure you wear safety gear like long pants, goggles, long sleeves to cover your arms, and ear protection. Wearing this gear will protect your body from chemicals and dust while cutting.
  • Cut the ties – When cutting railroad ties, keep a steady hand by properly holding the chainsaw. If it’s a thick rail tie, it’s best to cut halfway on one side and then flip it over on the other side and finish the cut on the other side.


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Kate Starr

Dollarbreak

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