Jim McKie's classic oak building from railway sleepers

I have bought around a hundred Canadian oak (green) railways sleepers from you in the past. I have found them a joy to work with. Well behaved and good wood even where there are issues with grain and knots they have always been very useful and excellent value. Attached is a photograph from last year when we were making the bents. We are about to put a copper roof on the building over the next month or two.


We have built an office/art studio of very substantial nature for less than £4000 of oak with the hope of increasing the value of our property and as an aid to selling it.

We have learned a lot more through the sequence of the build and are writing it all up now as a step-by-step guide using around a hundred railway sleepers. We will start the finish anytime now. We have just purchased the copper for the roof, so we can begin that shortly. Have included a few more pictures you may be able to use as you see fit. Oddly I know, we used the building as a Chapel over Christmas, but its purpose is as an Office/Studio

What is important is that viable and significant buildings can be made in your oak railway sleepers by amateurs (like me). The key is using the medieval hammer beam frame. The building could be significantly wider than its nine and a half foot width if longer timbers are employed at the rafters. All the joints and nearly all the timbers would remain unchanged.
To meet with planning regulations I removed the apex of the build to meet the four metre permitted development requisite.The flat top is to be glazed. The structure even without the apex is very significantly ovebuilt.
Our intention is to provide a detailed plan to show how a small house can be built with nearly all the timbers required within the 8'x5''x8' of the railway sleeper'. By using a structural engineer's certification building regulations can be met even with non-structural grade timber. The frames are very much over engineered and so should meet structural regulations.
The use of railway sleepers for serious oak frame buildings continues to interest us, and I imagine will be of interest to you. Our step-by step guide to this build and variations of it will be around a month or so to finish and will be highly detailed and of good quality. It is likely it will be self-published, spiral-bound, but it does occur to us that it might justify trying to find a proper publisher.

I have been very impressed by the oak, it has been very well behaved, easy to cut while green, although now it is drying it is becoming much more hard and impractical to work.

Kind Regards Jim (McKie) 


RailwaySleepers.com Says..

An amazing, stunning project. Your patience and craftsmanship is so impressive, as is your thorough down to earth approach. Many will be amazed at your transformation of oak railway sleepers, from functional lumps of timber that are more commonly used for walls and steps, to a beautiful living dwelling. I wish you all the best and look forward to receiving more photos of your future creations.