A railroad tie, or crosstie, is a rectangular support that is used for the rails in railroad tracks.
In recent years, wooden railroad ties have become popular for use in gardening and landscaping. For example, people use them to create retaining walls and raised-bed gardens, and others use them for building steps.
If you have just bought a new place and want to create a beautiful outdoor area or are planning to upgrade your garden, then you may want to know where to get free railroad ties.
Railroad ties have a great rustic look, and they are sturdy too, which is why they have become popular for gardens, flower beds, and other outdoor projects.
Sadly, landscaping materials can cost a lot of money. There are a few ways to get railroad ties for free though. Below, I’ll cover 5 places where you can get railroad ties at no cost, and also cover why you might want to consider using safer alternatives.
Where to Get Free Railroad Ties
So, where can you get free rail ties?
InboxDollars: Paid over $57 Million to members to watch videos, take surveys, shop and more. Get $5 Instantly!
Branded Surveys: Get $1 instantly just for joining for free. Plus get paid within 48 hours by PayPal! Join Branded Surveys
Daily Goodie Box: Want free stuff? DGB will send you a box of free goodies (Free Shipping - No Credit Card). Get your box now!
RewardFish: Earn FREE gift cards for things you already do, shop, quizzes, surveys, etc. Join RewardFish
First Opinion: Wanna get paid for every single survey with cash or direct deposit? This is for you! Learn More!
Swagbucks: Get paid to watch videos, shop online, take surveys and more. Join Swagbucks Now & Get a $5 Instantly!
Here are some options to consider.
1. Ask local railway companies
You might pass by a railroad that has a bunch of old railroad ties that look as though they’ve just been abandoned. You might think to yourself, can I just have these railroad ties? Sadly, it’s not that simple.
When railway companies lay new ties, they may leave the old ones in place. It’s important to note that this doesn’t mean that the old ones have been forfeited by the owners and they’re just available for members of the public to take.
Railroad ties are still legally owned by the railway company or government until they hire someone to remove them, even if the ties look abandoned.
So, taking railroad ties without permission could get you in legal trouble. So do not take railroad ties even if they appear to be abandoned.
One option is to get in touch with your local railway company to ask if they have any need for the ties. If they don’t, ask if you could have them. You may be able to have them for free, or for a low price.
Sure, there’s no guarantee that they will give them to you for free, but it’s worth asking.
Another option you have is checking on Craigslist. People give all sorts of things away for free on Craigslist, even things like furniture. So, have a look to see if there’s anyone on there giving away free railroad ties.
To find free stuff on Craigslist, go to the “Free” section. This can be found under the “For Sale” section of your city’s Craigslist.
Then, you’ll be taken to the “Free” section. There, you’ll find people giving away lots of different items. You can filter the results by searching for the item you want.
So, in this case, do a search for the term, “railroad ties.” Then, you’ll be able to see if anyone is giving them away near you.
Another option you can try is Facebook Marketplace.
If you don’t already know, Facebook Marketplace is an online marketplace where people can buy and sell stuff. The site also has a section for free stuff as well where you will find people giving away items for free.
You may be able to find someone listing free railroad ties on there. You can search the free stuff section. You can use the search bar on there to find railroad ties specifically. Simply enter the term, “free railroad ties” into the search bar.
OfferUp is another online marketplace where people can buy and sell stuff locally. It also has a section just for free stuff. You may be able to find people giving away railroad ties on there.
The only issue with OfferUp is that all of the free items on there are just grouped together, which can make it a little difficult to find specific items.
So, a good way to find the item you’re looking for is to go to the site and enter the term, “railroad ties” into the search bar and hit search. This will give you a list of results. Now, this will include ties that you have to pay for. To make sure you get listings for free ties, if there are any available, filter the results by “Price: Low to High.”
If anyone is giving away free railroad ties on there, you will be able to see those listings from your search.
Even if there aren’t any free ties on there that appear from your search, you’ll still be able to view the cheapest ones on OfferUp, and maybe get yourself a great deal on railroad ties.
5. Place an ad online or in your local paper
You can either post an ad online on a site like Craigslist or in your local newspaper, asking for free railroad ties. You may be able to get some free ties.
This may not always result in free railroad ties, but it’s worth trying.
Online classified websites can be a good option because many of them allow you to list an ad for free, but local papers are still worth it as well.
Railroad Ties Safety Issues
While wooden railroad ties have become popular for gardening and landscaping, there are concerns over their safety.
Why wooden railroad ties may not be safe for residential use
Wooden railroad ties are soaked in creosote. Now, creosote is good for preserving the wood. In fact, chemically pressure-treated wood can last up to 40 years. So, many people think of railroad ties as a durable material to use in their outdoor areas.
However, creosote can also be harmful to humans and plants. It can leak into the soil and pollute it. There’s concern that creosote is cancerous.
The EPA is currently reviewing its use as a pesticide. Depending on what you read, some people say to avoid using railroad ties at all costs because of this chemical issue and others say they are okay to use.
Back in 2017, the EPA said:
- “Creosote is not approved to treat wood for residential use, including landscaping timbers or garden borders.”
I just had a look at the page about creosote on the official EPA website, which was updated in 2022, and it says:
- “Creosote poses cancer and non-cancer health risks of concern to workers in wood treatment facilities. EPA did not find health risks of concern for the general public, nor for workers who handle creosote-treated wood after application.”
So, take from that what you will.
According to Better Homes & Gardens, creosote does leach out of the ties and into the soil. However, worn-out ties are not typically a problem since most of their creosote has already leached away.
It also states that whether plants take up the creosote hasn’t been settled. But, because creosote is toxic, new ties can cause growth problems for plants that are sensitive to it.
BHG recommends not using ties if the wood is oozing black creosote or has an odor. And, you should never use railroad ties in an enclosed space like a greenhouse, because the gasses from creosote are harmful.
Alternatives to Railroad Ties
If you are concerned about safety, it’s best to avoid chemicals like creosote entirely.
One option is to choose from woods that are naturally rot-resistant, like:
- Heartwood-grade redwood
- Knotty red cedar
- Osage orange
Other good options include recycled plastic and plastic mixed with sawdust, as they look and handle in a similar way to wood, they’re durable, and they don’t release chemicals.
One of your best options is using pavers or rocks to build retaining walls instead. Rocks are the safest option since they are from the earth, and aren’t toxic. Often, you can find people giving away rocks and pavers on the sites I mentioned above, like Craigslist or Facebook Marketplace, so these are affordable safe options.
You can get free railroad ties on websites like Craigslist, Facebook Marketplace, or OfferUp, by asking local railway companies, and by posting an ad online or in your local paper. However, railroad ties are treated with chemicals like creosote, which can be harmful to you, your pets, your plants, and the soil in your garden. So, you may want to try rocks or woods that are naturally rot-resistant instead.