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BUSTED Railway Sleeper Myths.

Railway sleepers, those versatile wooden blocks, hold incredible potential when it comes to enhancing the charm of your garden.

They can be fashioned into outdoor furniture, serve as solid foundations for patios and decking areas, and even find a place indoors as a unique design element.

However, navigating the complexities of the different wood types used in railway sleepers, the treatment protocols, and their safe and effective applications can be a challenging task.

Railway Sleepers in action

At Hillsborough Fencing, we are committed to not only offering top-quality garden materials and accessories but also providing expert guidance on utilizing, preserving, and maximizing the utility of your purchases. After all, buying a car without filling up the tank wouldn't be a wise choice, would it?

In this comprehensive guide, we aim to dispel any myths and alleviate concerns surrounding the use and maintenance of railway sleepers for your outdoor space.

Railway Sleepers 

First and foremost, it's essential to understand that railway sleepers make an excellent foundation material for a wide array of outdoor projects. Whether you opt for reclaimed sleepers from actual railway tracks or new sleepers, both varieties are naturally robust, durable, and capable of withstanding diverse and challenging weather conditions.

This versatility makes them a sound investment for both indoor and outdoor applications.


However, there are lingering concerns and misconceptions regarding the toxicity of old railway sleepers.

Many of these sleepers have been soaked in creosote, a wood preservative containing potentially harmful chemical compounds, raising fears about their impact on human health. While this may sound alarming, the highest risk associated with old railway sleepers occurs when they are disposed of improperly or burnt as ordinary waste. Such practices can release carcinogenic compounds.

Therefore, if you choose to use old railway sleepers, make sure to dispose of them correctly as hazardous waste. We recommend their use for outdoor projects like fencing or decking and advise against applications where they may come into direct contact with the skin or be used for vegetable patches.

Raised sleeper bed myth

Since a significant portion of railway sleepers are exposed to outdoor elements, the need for frequent cleaning and treatment is relatively low. They are designed to withstand natural wear and tear, moisture damage, and wood rot. Just think about the enormous weight of trains they've supported over the years!

If your sleepers are primarily afflicted by standard 'railway muck' such as dirt and dust, routine cleaning with soapy water, detergent, or a power jet wash should suffice. However, it's worth noting that older railway sleepers treated with creosote may not be suitable for use in direct sunlight, as high temperatures can cause creosote and tar to seep to the surface, potentially creating a sticky residue.

Due to the internal effects of creosote, this issue is difficult to prevent.

Grades of Sleepers 

Selecting the appropriate 'grade' of railway sleepers for your intended purpose is crucial. Railway sleepers are typically graded as first-grade (the best quality), second-grade, and third-grade (worn).

This grading system ensures that you get the right quality for your specific project. Depending on the aesthetic you're aiming for, worn and weathered sleepers can contribute to a rustic garden ambience, while first-grade sleepers are ideal for achieving a clean and polished look for your patio, decking, or indoor spaces.

The primary use of railway sleepers in garden projects is as a foundational material for patios, decking, and paved areas. When using them, it's essential to fasten the railway sleepers together as you build each layer. Timberfast sleeper screws are perfect for this purpose and will ensure the stability of your structure.

Railway sleeper next to fence myth

For more expert advice on how to use and maintain railway sleepers or to explore our wide selection of garden products, we invite you to visit us online. Better yet, pay a visit to our physical store and experience our products firsthand. Our friendly customer assistants are always on hand and eager to assist you.

Embrace the joys of gardening with the enduring charm and versatility of railway sleepers from Hillsborough Fencing. Your outdoor oasis awaits! Contact us today.

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