/ Things to do with 4500 railway sleepers

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goosebump - on 21 Sep 2012
Hello all,
This is a work related query - we have 4500 old railway sleepers which are to be lifted from their current location but for waste licensing reasons cant be removed from site; the whole thing is part of a big redevelopment. My job is to look after the wildlife side of things and Im wondering if we could use the sleepers to build a bat hibernaculum (think ice cellar or bunker, really simple structure, partly underground); with the caveat that I dont want to slowly kill any bats through creosote poisoning.

Which got me wondering about rendering the sleepers. They are about 25 years old, dont appear to be oozing. Do you think the creosote would travel through over time? Any additives (plasticisers?) to the render that would prevent this? Would we need to fit scrim or something over them to get the render to stick?

So far the best thing we can think to do with them is have an almighty bonfire. Imagine...WHOOSH :D

EddInaBox on 21 Sep 2012
In reply to goosebump:

You could build a railway with them.
goosebump - on 21 Sep 2012
In reply to EddInaBox:
Round the circumference of the site? Then we would need a train, and stations and that. Probably quite a big ask, and not included in the impact assessment for the scheme. Dont think the planners will go for it.

Know anything about render?
Dan Arkle - on 21 Sep 2012
Giant Jenga?
EddInaBox on 21 Sep 2012
Huge domino topple?
goosebump - on 21 Sep 2012
In reply to Dan Arkle:
Say each one is 6" tall, and you have 2 per layer, so 4 in 12", that make a 1125 foot tower. Cool.

But about this render, would it work?
SFM - on 21 Sep 2012
In reply to goosebump:

Build the wooden rabbit of <insert name here> as some sort of art feature?
EddInaBox on 21 Sep 2012
In reply to goosebump:

> Say each one is 6" tall, and you have 2 per layer, so 4 in 12", that make a 1125 foot tower. Cool.

Then stick climbing holds all over it. Even cooler!

goosebump - on 21 Sep 2012
In reply to EddInaBox:

Might be a bit exciting, since some of the sleepers have seen better days. There again, it would add a touch of objective danger that is lacking at most climbing facilities.

Render people, render. Will creosote come through?
rallymania - on 21 Sep 2012
In reply to goosebump:

but one of those little railways, narrow gauge?, that kids could come and ride on, then it could become an attraction?

sorry i no nothing of rendering... unless you are asking about affter effects or premier pro
derryclimbs - on 21 Sep 2012
In reply to SFM:
> (In reply to goosebump)
>
> Build the wooden rabbit of <insert name here> as some sort of art feature?

portland
goosebump - on 21 Sep 2012
In reply to derryclimbs:

Wooden rabbit of portland? Or portland cement for the render?
cap'nChino - on 21 Sep 2012
In reply to goosebump: Am I right in thinking these are the big wooden things?

If so I would have thought that they would fetch a good price at the right tye of merchant yard. People are always looking for these to line gardens with.
goosebump - on 21 Sep 2012
In reply to cap'nChino:
Yes indeedy, but then the company that owns them has all kinds of waste licensing paperwork to do and for some reason (I am but a minion and not party to all the details/have better things to worry about), this is impossible and they must remain on site. I dont get it either.

Hence,

a) bat hibernaculum
b) giant jenga, tower to the stars, climb if you dare obelisk
c) micro train railway-arama

To be honest there are probably enough for all three, but the first one is the one Im interested in. If it would work it would be a (potentially) tremendous thing sfor the local bat population. But death by creosote is to be avoided, hence my banging on about the potential for rendering them.
jimtitt - on 21 Sep 2012
In reply to goosebump:
Pushing your luck there! Generally creosoted wood is considered hazardous waste as it contains carcinogenic substances and how you dispose of it or what you use it for is very strictly controlled. All the German railway sleepers go to a special gasification plant for burning which was built on the Austrian/German border for this purpose.
The rules are here:- http://www.yorkshirerailwaysleepers.co.uk/artwork/WPA_Guidance_Creosote_version_0107.pdf
goosebump - on 21 Sep 2012
In reply to jimtitt:

Thanks for the link - the fact it counts as hazardous waste is probably why the client isnt moving it off site. However, reading thorugh the list of prohibited uses, I reckon a bat hibernaculum would be ok, assuming it doesnt count as a building (no human access?)

MJH - on 21 Sep 2012
In reply to goosebump: You really need to know what they were treated with - a lot of sleepers were treated with CCA material (Chromium, Copper, Arsenic) if not creosote - both are haz waste needing proper treatment.

Definitely do not just burn them - that is about the worst thing you can do!

IIRC CCA treated timber might be OK with bats, but you really need someone who knows more about bats than me.

Cthulhu on 21 Sep 2012
In reply to goosebump:
> (In reply to jimtitt)
>
> Thanks for the link - the fact it counts as hazardous waste is probably why the client isnt moving it off site. However, reading thorugh the list of prohibited uses, I reckon a bat hibernaculum would be ok, assuming it doesnt count as a building (no human access?)

I'd still check with batologists' organisations - aren't bats protected species? If so, and you use hazardous materials to construct batcaves, you may be in a bit if bother!

gethin_allen on 21 Sep 2012
In reply to goosebump:
It's not just the creosote you have to worry about, think of all the chemicals coming from the trains and waggons and then the human bio waste from train toilets.
If I were a bat I wouldn't want to live with these things.
toad - on 21 Sep 2012
In reply to goosebump: I think (and I've never done any bat work directly) that all timber used in bat habitat work HAS to be untreated. I'm sure there will be Natural England guidance, or you could ask your local bat group / wildlife Trust
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MJ - on 21 Sep 2012
In reply to jimtitt:

All the German railway sleepers go to a special gasification plant for burning which was built on the Austrian/German border for this purpose.

Bloody Germans and their special gasification plants...
toad - on 21 Sep 2012
BigBrother - on 21 Sep 2012
In reply to jimtitt:

> All the German railway sleepers go to a special gasification plant for burning which was built on the Austrian/German border for this purpose.


Which way does the wind usually blow?
cb294 - on 21 Sep 2012
In reply to Cthulhu:

Not a batologist, just a regular biologist (although I did bat telemetry in my student days): I would assume that this would be a giant bat death trap. The bat immune system and metabolism is under massive stress especially at the end hibernation. Exposure to low levels of toxic substances is certainly a bad idea, and it would by necessity be rather long term, too. Probably banned, anyway.

Better paint white dots on the sides for the domino avalanche of death, although I like the Jenga idea too: "Get a bigger crane, maybe we can pull the block at 50m ...."

CB
goosebump - on 21 Sep 2012
In reply to cb294 & everyone:

I am that batologist, but thanks for going to the trouble of links and stuff. I know cresosote/sleeper grot = bad plan for bat health.

Hence me asking, waaaaaaay at the top if rendering the sleepers would prevent its transmission from sleeper to bat...

So, does anyone, know anything about using render (with plasticiser in it?)? Would this stick to sleepers, and if yes, would it prevent penetration by sleeper death grot?

On seconds thoughts maybe Im better off starting a more obviously titled thread...
ollieollie - on 21 Sep 2012
In reply to goosebump: sell them
MaxWilliam on 21 Sep 2012
In reply to goosebump:

There lots of different types of render available, the most common being (sharp) sand and cement. The addition of plasticizer improves workability, and some additives improves frost protection during curing and some improve water resistance. Render will be slightly porous (lots of air bubbles) so chemicals could leech through in time, unless there is an appropriate membrane material.

Render needs a stable base to stick to, that does not move with changes in the environment. For a wooden structure you might use an expanded galvanized steel lath over a membrane on a boarded structure. It would seem like more trouble to make the base structure out of sleepers then batten, board, membrane, lath than to make a simple block-work structure and render directly.

Also a structure at ground level would attract the attention of children to play on - probably not conducive to caring for protected species.
Wonko The Sane - on 21 Sep 2012
In reply to goosebump: Can I ask how the situation came about? Did the owners buy the land to develope? Was a proper desk study done? How have 4500 contaminated sleepers slipped through without being noticed as a potential hazard is what I'm getting at.

I'm trying to imagine a scenario where a company developing the land doesn't have a duty of care to remediate it properly.
JSA - on 21 Sep 2012
In reply to ollieollie:
> (In reply to goosebump) sell them

To me, I could do with a couple of hundred for the (new)stables.
goosebump - on 21 Sep 2012
In reply to MaxWilliam:

<sighs in relief> thanks Max. I though perhaps plasticiser or other additives may reduce/prevent porosity and thus stop transmission of grot. But you echo my thoughts, particularly regarding the faff involved in re-using these things versus building a new structure from scratch.

It would seem the sleepers are just most likely to be stacked and forgotten about (some bats will probably find such a structure pretty good for hibernating. Hmmm, might have to suggest covering it). There is no public access to the area they will be, but I imagine the stack will diminish once its found....
goosebump - on 21 Sep 2012
In reply to JSA:

I would if I could! I hate to see things wasted and if I had any influence over the client that is exactly what I would be pushing for!
JSA - on 21 Sep 2012
In reply to goosebump:

That's a shame, because I could have had an artic down there tomorrow :(
goosebump - on 21 Sep 2012
In reply to Wonko The Sane:

Its a landfill company on a site thats been used for donkeys years and remediation is/will be complex. Full EIA and licensing for this latest development - I only know bits of the story, having come to it late, and only to deal with bat roosts. I imagine that my colleagues have the waste side of things completely and utterly under control; the company I work for specialises in this kind of thing.
My minimal grasp of waste handling is that provided its not moved off the site you dont need a licence to shift it. And providing it not affecting water, air or soil thereafter you could probably put it where you want, subject to EA etc approval.
There is a restoration plan for the site but I imagine its being restored to particular end uses (at a guess agriculture and wildlife) such that a whole load of sleepers stacked somewhere with engineered drainage and whatever is arguably better than leaving them on ballast in the ground. But I dunno what Im talking about really, like I said, Im just the bat person :)
MaxWilliam on 21 Sep 2012
In reply to goosebump:

I guess the quantity could be a problem, as you increase the concentration of hazardous chemicals. My guess is that a risk assessment would suggest a better solution would need to be found than simply stack and forget.

Another guess would be they could still be used in an environment where they do not come into regular contact with skin, foodstuffs or children's play areas. The most obvious place they could be re-used is on the railways! Not meant to sound that stupid - could they be reused by organisations that keep old railways running?
goosebump - on 21 Sep 2012
In reply to MaxWilliam:

Ill suggest it, but the client wants to keep them on site. Still dunno why (other than paperwork faff). Im guessing at the stacking - the sleepers are a minor detail in the grand scheme of the development and in all liklihood there is a sensible plan for them. If needs be a cell or appropriate area could be engineered at the adjacent landfill to take them. Seems such a waste!
Wonko The Sane - on 21 Sep 2012
In reply to goosebump: You possibly could recycle them, but as you say, you can't just cart them off to a new home, you have to use a licensed carrier and a proper paper trail. Tricky and interesting one to be honest..... I've dealt with recycling and I've dealt with contaminated waste. Never had to deal with contaminated recycling!
Timmd on 21 Sep 2012
In reply to goosebump:

When some compost bins were made out of sleepers at the Centenary Nature Reserve in Sheffield, some toerags burnt them down and a large hole had to be dug with a digger instead, so it's now a compost hole.

I'm wondering if you could dig a large hole or a few large holes, and line the holes with a thick enough membrane for them to be partially burried, and covered with it, so an earth mound could go over each heap?

Good luck finding an answer and solution.
brokenbanjo - on 21 Sep 2012
In reply to goosebump:

How's about tell people where said site is, with lots of stacked sleepers in van sized loads. I think your problem may disappear...
toad - on 21 Sep 2012
In reply to goosebump: sorry. Stressy day and need to get out for beer=not reading op properly
Daithi O Murchu - on 21 Sep 2012
In reply to goosebump:
> Hello all,
> This is a work related query - we have 4500 old railway sleepers which are to be lifted from their current location but for waste licensing reasons cant be removed from site; the whole thing is part of a big redevelopment. My job is to look after the wildlife side of things and Im wondering if we could use the sleepers to build a bat hibernaculum (think ice cellar or bunker, really simple structure, partly underground); with the caveat that I dont want to slowly kill any bats through creosote poisoning.
>
> Which got me wondering about rendering the sleepers. They are about 25 years old, dont appear to be oozing. Do you think the creosote would travel through over time? Any additives (plasticisers?) to the render that would prevent this? Would we need to fit scrim or something over them to get the render to stick?
>
> So far the best thing we can think to do with them is have an almighty bonfire. Imagine...WHOOSH :D

i envisage some very nice large scale parquet flooring

also a local boat builder may have some need for them
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JSA - on 21 Sep 2012
In reply to brokenbanjo:
> (In reply to goosebump)
>
> How's about tell people where said site is, with lots of stacked sleepers in van sized loads. I think your problem may disappear...

Haha, you'd have to be quick, I'd be down there with a 40foot trailer and a hiab! ;)
ojp - on 21 Sep 2012
In reply to goosebump:

I could do with 10 for a raised veg patch :)
Moley on 21 Sep 2012
In reply to goosebump:
Drop a dozen at my place - I'll let you do it free of charge.
Sell them, keep you in beer money for years.
Richard Wilson - on 21 Sep 2012
They must be worth at least 10 each.

Thats 45,000 they are loosing.

Do they really know the worth of them? I bet they see them as a liability.

Why on earth do they insist on them staying onsite?

If they have to stay then its time for a major landscaping operation to use them up. Render is just going to bleed through in no time.
John_Hat - on 21 Sep 2012
In reply to Moley:

A serious point, ex-sleepers retail at about 20 per, so even if you sold them for 10 per that's still 45,000, which may - or may not - be enough to offset the cost of taking them off site.

Personally, my thought if the rendering doesn't work would be to set up a saw or great size and just saw the creosote-impregnated sides off, and build the bat sanctury out of the remains, and leave the rest, plus the offcuts, in a pile somewhere with a "help yourself" sign.
John_Hat - on 21 Sep 2012
In reply to Richard Wilson:
> They must be worth at least 10 each.
>
> Thats 45,000 they are loosing.
>

Hah! two minds with the same calculations!
Steve Clark - on 21 Sep 2012
In reply to goosebump:

They have value. I've regularly hired big batches of sleepers (500+) to assist with big mobile crane setups (about 1 per week each + haulage). They are really useful to build massive pads for outriggers or temporary ramps, with the advantage that they can be moved about easily. They are normally the hazardous ones and have a little warning sign stapled on the end. Warns you not to steal and use in your garden and to wear gloves/wash hands after handling.

I think you can exploit the fact that they are work equipment rather than waste to shift them.

Give Ainscough, Mammoet or Baldwins a call. They can probably sort it for you.

(if you want to do something tree-hugging, old nasty sleepers sell for about 8-10quid. Brand new french oak ones in a slightly smaller size are only about 25quid. Maybe ring a merchant a do a trade.)


Steve
gethin_allen on 21 Sep 2012
In reply to Timmd:
"When some compost bins were made out of sleepers at the Centenary Nature Reserve in Sheffield, some toerags burnt them down"

perhaps you've just hit on the answer there, build something that looks vaguely useful from these sleepers and wait for the local scroats to burn it down. repeat until complete.

not very good for the environment though.

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