Working on the Railroad...ties
April 8, 2013 10:04 AM   Subscribe

Best way to get 9x9 10ft railroad ties that are half buried up from the ground & then what to do with them after? Oh, yeah... and who do they belong to? Encroaching neighbor time!

We are planning to put a picket fence around the front of our property. We had a survey done last week. Turns out our neighbor's gravel driveway encroaches about 2-3 feet onto our front lawn. The surveyors were able to find the original markers and neighbor saw them do so, so there is no dispute. We chatted after they left and she said it was no big deal. She said she knew the driveway was over, but figured they wouldn't worry about it until someone noticed. (We just bought the house 2 years ago) Well the big problem is that they have 3 sections of 9x9 10 ft railroad ties that line that side of the driveway.

Question #1:
So any ideas on how to get them up? I figure we will just have to dig until we can get something under them to get them out. But I'll listen to other suggestions. They stick up too high in places to just cover them. Our eventual fence would be uneven.

Question #2:
Who do they actually belong to? My plan was, once we got them up, to lay them on their side of the property line along the driveway. Then it is their choice/ problem to do what they want with them. I would love to just put an ad up on craigslist basically 'saying you dig them up you can have them', but I don't know if they belong to us now or not. I am afraid to ask them if they want them, because if they aren't going to help get them up, then we will do what we need to to get them out- which could mean cutting them.

Part of me feels badly that their driveway has gone from a double wide to a single wide, but I don't feel badly enough to let them continue using it. This is why I am not asking them to help remove them. Although I would love it if they would, but they don't even take care of their property, so why would we think they would take care of this. 2-3ft may not seem like much, but these are small properties. Time is a bit of the essence because we are trying to get the grass growing and had already planned on aerating the lawn, but want it to all be even now that we know the proper line- and it makes the line of the yard look sooooo much nicer now!
posted by MayNicholas to Home & Garden (15 answers total)
You have to live next to these folks for several years, at least. You don't want to set in their minds as "that jerk who ripped out our railroad ties without even talking to us." I'd ask them what they want to do. I'd say if they want to help dig them up, they can have them; if they leave it to you to get them out of the way then what happens after that is up to you.

Of course, IANAL. But I'd talk to them first.
posted by neilbert at 10:08 AM on April 8, 2013 [5 favorites]

Yeah, ask. If they want them, they can help dig them up. If not, try the Craigslist route.
posted by Johnny Wallflower at 10:11 AM on April 8, 2013

Yeah, I think you're pretty much stuck and have to talk with them. Let them know that you are putting up a fence and can either a) cut them or b) they can help dig them up. You wouldn't want to dig up anything that is on their property- even if it encroaches on yours. The fact is that the neighbors knew this day was coming and, unless they are crazy-folk, completely expect you to take your land back.
posted by PorcineWithMe at 10:12 AM on April 8, 2013

Just a practical note. Be careful with these things and do NOT burn them. Railroad ties in the US are almost always chemically treated to prolong their useful life. They often used nasty stuff to do this.
posted by uncaken at 10:16 AM on April 8, 2013

It seems to me that they are already acting reasonable, right? Talk to them, tell them your plan. I think the best way to go about it is to dig them up yourselves (as a courtesy). (I'm a little confused as to why it would be difficult to dig them out. Are they horizontal to the ground or vertical? I bet a little wiggle/wobble and a pry bar and they'll come out pretty quickly.) Then, stack them in an unobtrusive spot on their property. Go about your business of improving your property while not making things obviously ugly or weird on their side. Talk them through your plan.

I would not offer to get rid of the ties for them. They are their ties. Unless you are worried about them doing something unsightly with them, in that case, you could offer disposal as a courtesy, too. But you really don't want craiglist randoms tramping about your property and digging things up. So, you can offer them on the side of the road with a big "free" sign and/or on Craigslist for some amount of money (keep it). Or borrow a friend's truck and take them to the dump for a small fee. A weekend of labor and you just got 2 extra feet of property!
posted by amanda at 10:20 AM on April 8, 2013 [1 favorite]

Wooden railroad ties are not used anymore, due to the toxic brew of chemicals that impregnate the wood. Investigate responsible ways to dispose of them if you remove them. I would not want them on my property, especially in any close proximity to kids, pets, or a garden with edible plants.
posted by citygirl at 10:33 AM on April 8, 2013 [1 favorite]

If these are truly old rairoad ties, and not 9x9 pieces of wood that are roughly shaped like and thus somewhat described by "railroad ties", then yes, do be careful about all the chemicals involved.

I'd be more concerned about what you're going to do with all the gravel, and what might be underneath the gravel, than about the wood. By the time you get the actual driveway "paving" cleared up, the wood will not be nearly so deeply buried.
posted by aimedwander at 11:27 AM on April 8, 2013

I can't help with the legal or disposal answers, but I have dug up a lot of ties and found the easiest, best way was to use a long (6-7 foot) digging bar to pry the tie from the ground. Use the point of the bar to create an access hole and get under the tie, then a small log or 4x4 as a fulcrum and you can pop them right up with minimal effort. A good pick or mattock is the next best option if a long bar isn't available.
posted by buggzzee23 at 11:58 AM on April 8, 2013 [3 favorites]

I would not offer to get rid of the ties for them. They are their ties.

I would, even if I was morally in the right, in the eyes of the gods and surveyors.

Dumping waste on your neighbor's yard as part of a building process you've initiated has a chance of mildly irritating them - you're pushing work onto their plates. These folk will be your neighbors for 30 years - their good will is more valuable than the cost of taking the railroad ties to the dump yourself.
posted by sebastienbailard at 3:36 PM on April 8, 2013

Response by poster: Thank for the suggestions on getting them up & the warnings. I had no idea!

We will not offer to dispose of them though. That would require us renting a truck & frankly we don't want the hassle. Getting them up and fixing the holes they leave as well as getting the gravel out of the way is more than enough work. We will move them to the other side of our privacy fence on their property side. The whole situation still irks me that they knew they were in the wrong & made no offer to help remedy the situation. Oh well. Here's to a green lawn & white picket fences!
posted by MayNicholas at 5:50 PM on April 8, 2013

I just dug out 4 RR ties from the side of my driveway (and replaced them). First, I dug a few inches down about 6 inches out. Then I use the longest crow bar thing (got it from a plumber friend) to pry them up. The crow bar thing (I cannot remember what he called it) was about 6 ft long. Once I got them up a little, I used brute force to just lift them out.

Disposing of them is an issue. As noted above, they are treated wood. Your garbage collector will not just take them. I doubt anyone on Craig's list will either. If they are real RR ties, they are treated with all sorts of chemicals to make them last longer. If they are simply pressure treated wood, they are also treated with chemicals. I got lucky and had another friend who is in the construction business who disposed of them when he was dumping all sorts of toxic construction debris. I think I paid him $100 to cover his costs of disposal.

Talk to the neighbor and see if they want to relocate them. If not, tell them you will deal with it as a good will gesture.
posted by JohnnyGunn at 8:08 PM on April 8, 2013

I'm astounded that the consensus is no one would want these ties. Unless they're rotted I'd be willing to bet someone on CL would want them, if only for another driveway project. The local lumber companies here buy bulk lots of ties when the RR pulls them and then sells them for $18/each.
posted by BlueHorse at 10:42 PM on April 8, 2013

The magic word for the tool you want is a set of Tie Tongs. See if you can find a set to borrow somewhere.
posted by pjern at 9:14 AM on April 9, 2013

one 10' 9x9 tie weighs in around 250 pounds on average. careful lifting. I worked at a golf course where R.R. ties were used heavily for landscaping and path building.. Wear a respirator when cutting them and don't waste a chainsaw blade on a carbide tipped demolition saw from your local U-rent to get them into manageable pieces.
posted by greenskpr at 8:50 PM on April 10, 2013

Response by poster: Update- We used a pick ax & long crow bar to roll them out of the hole. With three of us they were still too heavy to move any further. We lined them up on the neighbors side of the driveway just like they were in the ground. When I saw the home owner I just said sorry we couldn't get them further out of your way but frankly they were just too heavy. I also told her we were planning to eventually put a picket fence around the front of the property and there was no way we would be able to do so with them in the ground. She again protested that they didn't do it- it was like that when they bought the place 26 years ago (although another neighbor said they did it themselves about 15 years ago). Personally I think they make a nice border for their driveway. It will also get them used to not driving on our property while we get the grass growing. We can't afford to be renting equipment to help them dispose/ cut them while we are saving for a fence. Besides- the whole reason we even got the fence idea was because they were constantly using our front yard as a cross walk & letting their dogs crap all over it. The extra land we acquired was a nice bonus! Good thing we did it right and got the survey first.
posted by MayNicholas at 4:32 AM on April 16, 2013

« Older What are the best schedules for ac transit?   |   Help me clean my old gross quarry tile Newer »
This thread is closed to new comments.