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Discussion Starter · #1 ·
I was just curious if anyone had ever tried using one of the new synthetic wood deck products? Sure would be nice to hand lay track without having to replace the ties in a few years.;)

Thanks,
Matt
 

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Hi Matt,

I have had some offlist discussions regarding just this question. In theory, many of the synthetic deck products SHOULD do a good job, but there are potential problems.

First, consider that all of these products are a mixture of some form of plastic resin and wood fiber. The resin gives it dimensional stability as well as it's weather/water resistance. Notice that I said water resistance.

Also consider that NONE of these products are rated for ground contact - there's the first warning sign. In fact, Trex used to sell a landscape edging strip - a 3/8" thick by 4" wide "board" meant for flower bed edging and the like. They took it off the market as it began to fall apart within a couple of years of installation. (The borgs now sell a flexible strip edging that is made of something like Trex, but it is very thin and I know nothing about it suitability as tie material.)

Second, if you look at a piece of Trex, you will note that it has a "sheen" to the surface. When the mixture of resin and wood fiber is extruded to form the boards, it is somehow done so that a virtually pure layer of resin lies on the surface. This contributes greatly to its weather resistance. Cutting up a Trex deckboard to create smaller cross section ties creates at least three sides with a wood fiber surface. The concern here is that the fiber will rot and eventually cause the tie to fail. If you look at the Trex physical properties page, it absorbs 1.7% of its weight in water when immersed for 24 hours. Just sanding the surface, i.e., not cutting it as would be required to make ties, increases the absorption to 4.3%.

Several people have done "tests" to look at the long term durability of ties made in this way. Usually, it consists of cutting up a bunch of ties and soaking them in a bucket of water for some period of time. I've been told that the ties show no sign of rotting, etc. What I have not heard from these tests are the percentage of water absorption, dimensional changes, warpage, etc. Therefore, I'm not sure that these "tests" provide anything in the way of useful information as they do nothing to simulate ground contact or the wet/dry cycles, tree sap, sunlight, etc. likely to be encountered in a ballasted right of way.
SwitchCrafters uses ties cut from Veranda - the decking material sold only by the orange borg. I have not heard of any problems with their turnouts falling apart, but then again they have been out there for probably less than a year.


Perhaps it is time to do a side by side comparison - maybe someone should replace each ladder track in a yard with the various types of ties (redwood, cypress, cedar, Trex, and Veranda as a start) and see how they do in the real world.

The layout I'm currently planning will have about 1400' of track. As I am already old and decrepit, I have no desire to have to relay all the track in five years due to improper choice of ties/spikes/rail. I understand that nothing lasts forever, but making the best choice(s) up front, even at greater expense, makes a lot of sense to me. Like my grandfather told me when I was only six years old - "If you can't find the time to do it right the first time, how are you ever going to find the time to do it again?"

Brian
 
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the Los Angeles Live Steamers use Trex ties exclusively for the the 7.5" gauge lines. There are literally thousands of ties, many have been in the ground for many years. The stuff seems to be working for them, BUT, their roadbed is very well drained, all DG.

- gws
 

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GWS,

Well, LA isn't exactly the wettest place in the US!

As I said, breaking the "skin" of the Trex decking by sanding, and presumably by sawing, markedly increases its water absorption. Do you know if the ties being used by the LA folks are the 1-1/2" square ballusters? If so, the skin would be intact except at the cut ends - that might account for their longevity.

Also, remember that Trex is not warranted for ground contact - must be a reason for that exclusion.

Brian
 

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Matt,

I haven't tried it because I don't handlay my track but you might check out expanded PVC (available at TAP). It comes in various thicknesses and can be cut very easily on a tablesaw into strips of a proper size for ties. Several colors are available.

I've used the material for roofs and also cut strips of 3/8" for use as posts and 1/8" for crossbucks and signs. It takes and holds paint very well and seems impervious to moisture so far. You would have to predrill for spikes and might have to dip the spike tips into an adhesive prior to driving them in but I think it would be a material well worth experimenting with.

Just a possible option for you....
 

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Discussion Starter · #7 ·
Thanks for your replies, gents. I tend to agree with Brian about the Trex. I had my suspicions, and what you've said agrees with them. It seems a lot of garden railroading problems (frost heave, tie rot etc.) would be a lot less of a concern if I didn't live in Ohio, but...
Thanks Brian and Richard. Both ideas are worth looking into.


Matt
 
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