Grade: Grade 1 (medium grade) African tropical hardwood railway sleepers, known as Azobe or Ekki. Approx 50-60 years old. Heavy & long lasting untreated railway sleepers for a wide range of landscaping projects and general purposes. Generally fairly square and straight, with some having notches or indents on one side where the rails were attached to the railway sleepers. See pictures above.
Colour: Various shades of brown to dark grey. You can jet wash them if you want a lighter colour. Various shades of red and brown on the inside, when cut or planed.
Weight: Can be heavy to lift. A 2.6m x 240mm x 140mm (approx) size Azobe railway sleepers can weigh as much as 90 - 100 kilos. Bear this in mind when you are ordering your particular type of railway sleeper. How do I plan to carry the railway sleepers into position? (e.g. the back of a garden). You'll need at least two willing and strong people, and the serious possibility of bribery: (Bottles of wine), deception: ("They are really light") or emotional blackmail: "Think of all the things I've done for you". Of course this last option may lead to your offspring grumpily replying with "I never asked to be born!", which tends to lead to a collapse in communication, rather than an enthusiastic helper.
Treatment: Untreated. These railway sleepers were originally used on the railways without any form of treatment, with an intended lifespan of up to 100 years. Very durable.
Description: When new these were probably seen as the ultimate railway sleepers. They were constructed from a very durable, tight-grained tropical hardwood with excellent longevity, and made from one of the hardest wood in the world. These reclaimed African Azobe (Ekki) railway sleepers are probably between 50-60 years old, depending on which section of railway line they came from in Europe. Some have been machine notched on one side to accept the attachment plate of the railway line. Having spent up to 60 years on a railway track, they may also have the rustic signs of cracks, loose bits, and 'character' with occasional areas of crumbly softness.
Cutting: Very hard. You'll need a circular saw / chainsaw / powered saw to cut these railway sleepers. Start off with a new or sharpened blade, and be prepared to re-sharpen. Occasionally optimistic people try by handsaw, but you'd have to be very determined or fit. As with any project, it makes sense to try and limit the amount of cuts you need to do. Try and plan a design that fits with the size of our railway sleepers!
Attaching / Fixing: Timberlok Screws will not screw through these Azobe railway sleepers without a pilot hole, even if the drill is powerful, so we recommend first pre-drilling these hardwood railway sleepers with a 6mm pilot hole, otherwise the screws may get stuck or snap. Drill into the railway sleeper about a cm at a time, and then withdraw the wood drill, so as to clear the wood shavings from the hole, and then drill a bit further. If you don't do this, the drill may overheat, smoke, and eventually bend, snap or go blunt.
Sizes: IMPORTANT. All sizes are approximate. That means that although a railway sleeper may be described as approximately 2600mm in length, or 240mm in depth, or 140mm in width it may in fact be several centimetres (or inches) longer or shorter. Click to see Ben's experience of Azobe railway sleepers in his wall and step project. As it happens, most landscaping projects have an element of flexibility or tolerance in them and can cope with this. If your project needs exact accuracy in length, width or depth, then you may need to cut the railway sleeper to your precise specifications yourself, or think of using a different size or type of railway sleeper.
The king of railway sleeper timbers! Even though they are 60 years old, and medium to high grade, these incredible reclaimed African tropical hardwood railway sleepers are still suitable for a welcome second life as outside landscaping, steps, raised beds, construction, decking, aquatics etc.. as well as internal furniture, lintels, woodturning etc.. Indeed, any project where you want untreated and durable railway sleepers without any creosote complications, and with the character of its railway history all apparent on one side. Having spent up to 60 years on a railway track, they will inevitably have the rustic signs of weathering, with cracks, loose bits, and 'character' with occasional areas of crumbly softness or decay. These long lasting timbers are sometimes even used underwater. Very serious weight, so plan for strong help ! There can be some variations in width and depth, so allow for this in your project. Click to see Ben's experience of Azobe railway sleepers in his wall and step project.
You may know exactly what you are going to build with your railway sleepers. The great wall of China. The Taj Mahal. A perfect plan written in stone after hours of sleepless nights and youtube visits. However you may be more uncertain and in need of moral and practical support, especially if your nearest and dearest is sowing seeds of doubt, as they question your undeniable abilities to landscape the garden. In this case you need inspiration. A boost to your self esteem that will replace uncertainty with optimism. A visit to our projects section! Thousands of projects and photos that will fill you with confidence and excitement, and cement the guaranteed adoration of your once doubting loved one as you triumphantly complete your railway sleeper masterpiece. VISIT NOW!!
Important information about your used railway sleepers
Reclaimed railway sleepers have been practically used for many decades out in the open to support train tracks. Naturally, they have been weathered by the wind, rain, sun and snow, and also can have residues of grime, dirt, or oil from the trains that have passed or stopped over them. This is simply the obvious consequence of using authentic and historical railway sleepers. Having spent 30 - 60 years on a railway track, they may also have the rustic signs of cracks, loose bits, and 'character' with occasional areas of crumbly softness or decay. Most landscapers install them in the garden, and simply allow the rain and snow to clean them up. Others may choose to jet wash them, especially if they want to sit on them. If you visit our projects pages, you will see thousands of landscaping projects that have used reclaimed railway sleepers, recently taken from the railways.
Historically, railway sleepers never had to be exact in length or width for their purpose on the railway track, and so the sawmills were fairly ‘give or take’ in the timbers they produced. Hence all sizes were approximate. That means that although a railway sleeper may be described as approximately 2600mm in length, or 240mm in width, or 140mm in depth it may in fact be several centimetres (or inches) longer or shorter, thicker or thinner. As it happens, most landscaping projects have an element of flexibility or tolerance in them and can cope with this. However if a specific project needs exact accuracy in length, width or depth then a landscaper may need to either cut the railway sleeper to their precise specifications, or think of using a different size or type of railway sleeper that is more accurate, e.g. the new pine ones.
What are the different grades of railway sleepers?
GRADING RAILWAY SLEEPERS IS NOT AN EXACT SCIENCE !
Deciding with certainty what is a Top grade, Grade 1, Grade 2 or even Grade 3 is inevitably subjective, and there is no universally accepted system of grading, throughout the UK, Europe, or the rest of the Galaxy. There are so many variables to consider in grading old reclaimed railway sleepers, especially between different types of hardwood and softwood, that it is hard to generalise or make universal statements about the different grades of railway sleepers. For example, a Grade 2 used British Pine railway sleeper is still generally straight, whereas a Grade 2 used Dutch oak railway sleeper is often slightly bent! If you were being cynical, you'd probably suspect that railway sleeper companies classify a railway sleeper with as high a grade as they can get away with! But of course, that would be slanderous! Always look at our railway sleeper photos, if you are unsure of what to expect, or simply give us a ring. It is best to be clear about what you may be getting, rather than choosing something that doesn't fit into your grand design.
Top grade or 'Relay' railway sleepers
These are our best condition railway sleepers. Occasionally they are even good enough to be re-used or re-laid on a railway track. But still remember that they are old weathered timbers that are 30 - 40 year old and unrecognisable from the new piece of timber they started life as. They will last for years, but they are certainly not pristine!
Grade 1 railway sleepers
Reasonable condition middle grade railway sleepers. Generally pretty straight with some cracks and defects, but despite being weathered and 40 - 60 years old, they are in a fairly solid state. Suitable for most landscaping purposes, despite them being retired from their hectic life on a railway track.
Grade 2 railway sleepers
Lower condition railway sleepers, with many more imperfections and irregularities. They are often older and more weathered rustic versions of Grade 1. They may have more rounded waney edges, cracks in the ends, slight decay, occasional damage and in the case of some hardwoods, can be bowed along the length, especially in the case of the Grade 2-3 Dutch oak railway sleepers.
Grade 3 railway sleepers
Lowest grade railway sleepers, that may not be suitable for all landscaping purposes. They are most likely to be more irregular, weathered, battered, cracked, damaged, bowed and with some decay etc.... but not necessarily all at the same time! Despite all this, they may still last for ages, with some people particularly liking their battered and world weary appearance.
WHAT DELIVERY OPTIONS DO I HAVE?
You have two options, depending on which delivery option you choose at the checkout stage online, or when you telephone the office.
1) STANDARD DELIVERY - CUSTOMER TO OFFLOAD RAILWAY SLEEPERS
This is normally a quicker & cheaper means of delivery that generally covers 100% of the UK, providing you have a forklift or sufficient strong people to offload your railway sleepers.
* DELIVERY TIMESCALE: You can choose any delivery day you want in advance within 2- 4 working days, Monday - Friday. Delivery will be between 9am & 5pm. You can choose, for a surcharge, a Saturday delivery.
* YOU are responsible for offloading the railway sleepers from the vehicle. The vehicle does NOT have a crane offload. If you do not have a forklift, you MUST have at least 2 or more strong people to manually offload. These timbers are too heavy for one person. The driver is NOT able to help you offload or carry materials into your house or garden. One exception! If the railway sleepers are 1.2m or less in length, the lorry driver CAN place the railway sleepers onto the pavement or road using the lorry tail lift and hand pallet truck.
* ACCESS: You must ensure that there is sufficient space for the lorry to access your road and property, and that there is sufficient area for you to safely offload. The vehicle is normally a rigid lorry which is about 10 metres long and about 2.6m wide (Imagine a full size bin lorry) It is crucial to tell us, when we contact you to arrange delivery, whether there are any delivery problems - e.g. a narrow road, cul de sac, cars parked in front of the property etc... An unsuccessful delivery will incur a further charge, often equal to the original haulage cost.
2) PREMIUM DELIVERY - THE RAILWAY SLEEPERS WILL BE OFFLOADED FOR YOU
This delivery charge is normally more expensive than the Standard delivery, but is essential if you order some heavy railway sleepers, and you haven't got a forklift, or sufficient strong people to help you offload. Having your railway sleepers placed on your drive is a perfect way of protecting your back and keeping your friends happy!
* DELIVERY TIMESCALE is generally within 1- 2 weeks, Monday - Friday, and between 8am & 6pm. Unfortunately you can't normally choose your own delivery day in advance, as the haulier will need to efficiently piece together a set of deliveries, according to which part of the UK they are driving to. Please let us know in advance if there are any delivery days you can't make. We will normally confirm the exact date a few days before.
* ACCESS: You must ensure that there is sufficient space for the lorry to access your road and property, and that there is enough area for the lorry to be safely offloaded. The vehicle is normally a rigid lorry which is about 10 metres long and about 2.6m wide (Imagine a full size bin lorry) It is crucial to tell us, when we contact you to arrange delivery, whether there are any access problems - e.g. a narrow road, cul de sac, cars parked in front of the property etc... An unsuccessful delivery will incur a further charge, often equal to the original haulage cost.
IS THERE A MINIMUM ORDER OF RAILWAY SLEEPERS?
No. It makes no difference. The cost to you is the same whether we deliver 1 railway sleeper or 10 railway sleepers... e.g. if the delivery cost to somewhere in the UK for 20 railway sleepers was for example £99 + Vat, then the delivery for 1 railway sleeper would cost the same. That's because our hauliers charge us according to how much lorry space the order takes up, so whether there is 1 railway sleeper on a pallet, or 20 railway sleepers on it, it makes no difference!
HOW DO WE WORK OUT THE DELIVERY COST?
The delivery charge depends on what type of railway sleeper you choose and where you live. If you go online and place the number of railway sleepers you are interested in into the shopping basket, and input your postcode, the website will calculate the delivery cost according to the number and length of the railway sleepers. If you play around with different lengths of railway sleepers, you will discover that 1.2m ones are the cheapest to have delivered, followed then by any sleeper up to 2.4m in length, and then finally the longer 2.6m, 3m and 3.6m ones. It's all about what space the railway sleepers take up on a lorry, and what the haulage companies then charge us. Lots of different variables! If you order online, the delivery cost will be worked out automatically by a computer brain. If you order by telephone, the delivery cost will be calculated by a mere human being, who will chat with you whilst working it all out!
CLICK HERE for more answers to DELIVERY QUESTIONS
WHY ARE TROPICAL HARDWOOD RAILWAY SLEEPERS UNTREATED?
Dense, tight grained, hardwood railway sleepers, especially tropical timbers, are completely different to light, softwood railway sleepers which have to be treated with either creosote or pressure treatment to prevent them rotting and collapsing. Hardwood railway sleepers are much more durable and naturally longer lasting.
African Azobe railway sleepers, for example, are often used untreated by British Waterways under water, due to their natural preservative qualities. Jarrah, Karri, Mora, and Greenheart are likewise placed untreated on the railway track by Network Rail, and are expected to last for up to 100 years.
People often ask: 'Do I need to treat my tropical hardwood railway sleepers?'. Of course, you CAN apply a coat or two of wood preservative to them, and no doubt that would probably be beneficial, however it isn't essential, and most landscapers don't. Untreated tropical hardwood railway sleepers are popular with those wanting to keep clear of chemical treatments, or contamination, and wanting to use something that is naturally longer lasting, but with weathered, rustic character.