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New Latvian Birch
New ACQ light brown treated Latvian Birch railway sleepers
2.6m x 225mm x 125m
@ £22 + Vat. A light to handle, easy to cut hardwood.

Used African Azobe sleepers
Grade 1, untreated hardwood approx:2.6m x 250mm x 150mm
@ £22 + Vat. Quite excellent condition, with so many uses
S.African Karri sleepers

new untreated FSC approved hardwood sleepers.
2.6m x 250 x 130 @ £30 + vat

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There have been lots of news items and enquiries recently about the issue of creosote and railway sleepers. Were they banned ? Were they dangerous ? Could we still sell them ? What were the restrictions all about ?
We cover most of the issues and history in our section 'Railway sleeper treatments', however here are a couple of the letters we've received:

Dear Kilgraney
Could you help me. I am told that it is illegal to use sleepers in the garden (because of Europe.. so I am minded not to comply) but I need 10 to terrace my garden.

Adrian Andrew

K. Fear not, the knock on the door by the special branch is unlikely to follow your use of creosoted railway sleepers in the garden ! They haven't been banned, only restricted - 1) you can't eat off them 2) you can't use them for children's play areas (or areas of frequent skin contact) 3) You can't use them inside a house. So, you should have no problem using them as a terrace.
Dear Kilgraney,
We are are a small furniture design studio in Israel. We use old railway sleepers to build some of our home and garden furniture. Some sleepers are used whole and some are cut in different ways. Lately we heard about the dangerous CREOSOTE used as pesticides. We are both exposed to saw and sanding dust in the workplace and are concerned about the possible hazard to our customers. We saw your web site and are hopeful that you can advice us on some matters What procations are you taking while handeling, cuting and sanding the sleepers? Do you know if coating the wood with varnish makes it safe to be used as a furniture? Dose the strong odor coming from some sleepers indicates the level of toxicity? Is using dust musk while cutting and sanding the Is it O.K. to put these furniture in the house or only outdoors? We have no access to reliable information in Israel and will be very happy if you can help us. You are also welcome to visit our site (the railway sleepers furniture are presented only in the Hebrew part) Thank you for taking the time to read our mail
Yours Sincerely Harel Nadav
K. Thankyou for your e-mail, and quite excellent pictures. We will put them on our website, as examples of your studio's work. We have visited your great site and find your design and creativity very impressive. Both simple and stylish.
It's hard to answer accurately your questions. Firstly because we are not doctors or scientists, and secondly because there is not much written about the effects of creosote. So please don't take our opinions as hard evidence !
1) Creosote has been happily used for hundreds of years. It is only in the last three months in Europe, that there has been restrictions on the use of sleepers that have been creosote treated. (see our article on 'Sleeper treatments')
2) The European restrictions say that creosoted sleepers should not be used where there may be 'frequent skin contact', risk of 'food contamination', or 'inside houses'. However they can still be used for many landscaping, construction etc.. purposes.
3) In terms of ourselves, we use gloves when handling sleepers, and are wary of inhalation of sawdust whilst cutting, as one would be with any type of timber. We only cut them outside. We don't sand them, although customers do do this, as well as sand blasting them, and pressure washing them. I don't know whether the stronger the smell indicates that a sleeper is more 'dangerous'. However, it is true that older sleepers tend to smell less, as though the creosote has weakened or evaporated.
4) Should you use creosoted sleepers as furniture ? Fortunately, or unfortunately the decision has already made for us by the European Parliament. We're not allowed to use creosoted railway sleepers as furniture. However, we have in the past quite happily used them inside houses. The issue then was merely whether there was surface tar, oil or creosote to make it impractical or unpleasant to use as a seat (for example), or whether the smell was too nasty to have inside. The conclusion is that you can make furniture out of used railway sleepers that are untreated (e.g. Jarra, Azobe, Oak etc..) or treated in an un-creosoted way (e.g. salt-treated russian bulkheads, or tannalised pine) or use new untreated sleepers.
5) I don't know whether varnishing the surface of the sleeper would 'seal' the creosote inside. I doubt it
Hello, I have seen many purveyors of furniture made from railway sleepers, specifically coffee tables. I'd very much like to own one, but am a little reluctant to pay the sometimes astronomical prices asked for such items. I therefore had the idea that i wuold buy my own sleepers (from a reclamation yard) and create my own furniture. I then read on your site that the original treatment of such timbers make most of the old oak sleepers unsuitable for such a use. Can you advise me if there are any sleepers that may be suitable for my requirements? Do I need to do something with the timbers that make them suitable for indoor use and is this why furniture companies charge so much for their stock? thanks in advance Marc
K. It's a big rip-off world out there... so what's new ! There's lots of sleepers, new and old, that might be suitable. New is more straightforward because they are straighter, and not treated with anything nasty - so, Baltic Pine, French oak or African Azobe. Used would mean Russian Bulkheads (salt treated), or Jarra (untreated) or some untreated unused seasoned reject dutch oak. Best thing is to come and chose and take them away with you.
Hello First of all I have to say what a fantastic website you have and how much I enjoyed browsing it, and so easy to use also. I didn't realise that there were that many different sleepers available - my local timber yards had one variety of the reclaimed stuff and only two choices of the new sleepers (brown or green..hhmm??) so I was very glad to stumble upon your website.
Anita Mistry

K. Thanks
Need some advice, please could you inform me which are the best Railway Sleepers to use for decking (popular), and do you have them in stock. Paul
K. Thanks for your e-mail A hard question to answer because it depends on the look you are wanting. From a practical construction point of view, handling, cutting and staining, it is easier to use new sleepers - either French oak, Baltic pine,S.African Karri or African Azobe. They tend to be straighter, and don't have tar or creosote weeping out of them in the summer. They will age and 'character' over the coming years, and last for decades. If you plump for used sleepers, you get bags of character and weathering, but likewise you may have a tar problem if the sleepers were originally creosoted. Likewise the surface of the deck will be more uneven and aged (which after all is one of the reasons for using them instead of conventional decking !)
Recent news item: 'Last week we were offered railway sleepers from Zimbabwe (described as 'Rhodesian', a dubious anacronism in itself). Should we buy or boycott railway sleepers from Zimbabwe ? Is buying them supporting a corrupt regime, and empowering Mugabe, or does it enable trade, and the trickle down effect to those empoverished ? If you feel strongly, let us know your thoughts'.

Dear K, What an enjoyable site! It took me a wee while to transition from suspicion - this site has to be a spoof - through incredulity - it appears to be legit - to having a ball reading around what you have. I can barely believe you can make a site about railway sleepers, for crying out loud - no offence - so lively! Anyway, enough superlatives..
Sally Cummings
K: Thanks!
K says: Whew! Thank goodness we got away with it.

A reader replies... Dear K, I don't think you should buy them because it ain't that ecological to transport them all that way here. They can be used locally for something that helps the local area!
PS. We like your site ! ...
Beverley Chipp
K: Thanks for your thoughts. I guess that ecologically applies to all used sleeper imports irrespective of regime, and maybe, in fact, all imports, full stop. Not to mention that often half the price of an imported sleeper is the haulage cost (lorry, diesel, driver) and associated polution. However, is there ever a situation where political and economic benefits outweigh ecological arguments, e.g. in the case of importing fairtrade goods such as tea and coffee ?
K says: There's no such thing as a free sleeper.. !

Your letter could be pride of place
Here !!

Dear K, Just wanted to say hi, found your website to have great humour and very professional to boot (think you could show many pro-designers a thing or too). Great attitude and brilliant ethos ... hope to see you soon! Regards

K.Printing such feedback is somewhat endulgent, we know, but what the heck !
K says: Incidently, what does 'heck' mean ?

Dear K. Just thought I would send you an email to show you what I did with the Azobe sleepers I bought in Jan. The wood worked very well, though the final table did weigh in at 120kg! My next project.... making a bed. Best regards,
Matt Parkes.

K. A great design. Thanks for sending the photo
K says: ... Untill you've got to move !
Matt's Azobe coffee table

Hi Jerry, thanks for your response. we have now been told elsewhere that CCA treated poles should not be used for play equipment, what is your advise? Best Regards
Glenn Mount DeputyDC, Gravesham Scouts UK
K. CCA treated poles are still used by many councils and landscapers. Others are now insisting on an even more friendly alternative pressure treatment, such as 'Tanalith E'. Our current poles are mainly treated this way, and will be completely so in the next year.

Dear K, I'm wondering if you can help us. we've just had our garden landscaped and have 2 large flights of steps made from old railway sleepers which have already started leaking tar in the recent warm weather - no one warned us that this would happen. the contractor has merely told us to throw sand over the tar but this doesn't stop it getting on your shoes etc. is there a product that will seal them or do you have any tips which you would be willing to share with us? many thanks,
Sue Thomas

K.Sorry to hear your news - the last thing you want in your new landscaped garden. There's no magical solution I'm afraid. Softwood sleepers (Pine) treated with tar and creosote, will invariably leak in hot weather. We've stopped selling them in the last few years fo that very reason. Hardwood treated sleepers tend to be much better, if not perfect in hot weather. There are also sleepers that are untreated, or treated with different solutions that have no tar or creosote base, and are fine. ... all of which is absolutely no comfort to you at all. My advice is to (a) grin and bear it (b) replace them with similar size and profile sleepers, but in a nicer tar-free version (c) I can't think of any others. As a gesture, we will supply the right size to you, as economically as possible.
K says: invite the well heeled contractor to sit on your steps for a quiet sticky chat. ....CLICK ON Railway Sleeper Treatments for more details

Dear K, I see from your WEB site that you sell Azobe railway sleepers. I am a member of the International Woodcollectors Society and, as you may guess, collect wood! I've been keen to add Azobe to my collection for some time. This is probably a long shot (I appreciate it would be a tiny order) but is there any chance you'd be able to supply me with an off-cut, say 8" long? It doesn't have to be perfect, just sound. If you could supply this, a note of the cost including postage to Southeast Scotland, would be very much appreciated. I only wish I lived nearer and could visit!
K. Happy to oblige
K.says: Amazing what people do with their spare time !

Dear K, We are thrilled with the sleepers you delivered last Friday. The delivery driver was incredibly prompt (you said approx 10am and he arrived 10.01). He managed to unload 10 sleepers on his own and stacked them really neatly in our side access alleyway. As we live on a fairly busy main road I was nervous about leaving £300 of sleepers on display so my husband and I carried them round the back that evening - how heavy? We spent most of Saturday digging them in and by Sunday afternoon had completed planting the new raised beds. They whole effect is great and we have told all our friends about your website. The only snag is that my husband overestimated the number we would need and we have 2 left over! Any ideas for garden sculptures ...? Caroline Glover
K. Well done, and thanks for the kind feedback. It's amazing what you can achieve with sleepers in a short period of time. Send us a picture.
K says: .. and spread the word

I Thought I would drop you a quick line, I found you web site after searching for railway sleepers on MSN Search I must say how impressed I am with it , very, very informative. with a little bit of fun , sound advise etc etc EXCELLENT !! Iíll contact you when Iím in the market. All the best Umesh
K. We know it's gratuituous back-slapping, but we like it sometimes !
K says: .. and why not ? The British are so reticent about success.

Dear K, How can we get rid of seeping tar from sleepers ?
K. You can't. Well, not satisfactorily. That's why we advise non-tar treated sleepers* For spots on clothes and children you can buy a tar dissolving solution.
K. says: Replace them !
*CLICK ON Railway Sleeper Treatments for more details

Dear K, After delivering 23 sleepers to us at Easter, it took us 10 days, start to finish, with the help of 2 or 3 'good friends', who strangely enough we don't seem to have seen much of since then - I think they said something about 'chiropractors' and 'back strain'. It looks absolutely brill - just like the artwork. Since then we've done loads of bopping about at 2 in the morning on the sleepers, and everyone who sees it says how effective, wonderfully timesaving and thoroughly enjoyable it is. We've had no trouble whatsoever with leaking tar, & the cats think the sleepers are excellent for avoiding the gravel !! All in all, a fantastic success, and when I get a minute from eating and drinking outdoors I will send a photo. Thanks again for just being there, on the 'net' with your sleepers.
K. Great feedback. A credit to your hard work. Please send us a photo. Inspiring.
K says:
Your fairweather friends are missing out on bopping !!

Dear K, I would like to complement you on every aspect of your service. The website is well-designed, easy-to-use and informative. The service is quick - our order arrived 2 days after we placed it. The guy was friendly and didn't mind (I don't think) that I didn't offer to help! The sleepers are just what we were after, as described and I think the prices, including for delivery, are very reasonable. I will definitely recommend you, I only feel disappointed that I am unlikely to need any more myself in the near future (although we are moving house soon!) It's great to do business with such an efficient company. I hope to do more business with you in the future. Ben Ackroyd
K. Thankyou very much for your great words. We don't always get it right, but when we do it's great to hear !
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