Large Scale Central

Using Composite Wood for ties

Back in 2019 we had a thread about using composite ties outdoors with some having sucess while for others it did not work.

During our November Ops session one of the points came unsoldered on the first turnout I built using composite wood for ties more then 20 years ago and I had a chance to bring the turnout back indoors and do a little maintenance. I now use a much stronger solder so I reworked both points.

I have made a lot of improvements over the years in turnout construction so looking over a 20+ year old turnout to see how it held up was fun.

There are two different types of composite wood, capped and uncappped. The capped wood has a plastic shield around the composite wood and if you cut the plastic you expose the underlying composite wood to moisture which it is not designed for.

I use MoistureShield Vantage uncapped composite wood which has a 50 year sliding warranty and they advertise you can cut it without impacing its structural integretity.

I have found that when you cut the wood two thin the wood has a tendency to break when stepped on so i have gone to close to 1/2 inch thickness to avoid this issue. This turnout had 1/4" ties and one was broken where the spikes were and was replaced.

None of the spikes had come loose from the ties and while there was more texture on the old ties than new ties the overall integritudy of the turnout was excelent. ( if you loook closely at the photo you can identify the new tie which is the first tie past the point of the frog) The wood I use is gray so I recoated the ties with a black stain (which in time will wear off), and reinstalled the turnout. I now look forward to another 20 years of use before its due for another time in the shop.


1 Like


Fascinating. Our little trestle is made of some sort of composite, and, like you, we found anything smaller than a 1/2" fell apart (though our smaller stuff rarely made it onto the finished project!). The larger “timbers” are doing well after about 5 years in the tropical sun.


Thanks for the post. I bought a bunch of SwitchCrafter’s switches when he first started manufacturing hem. The composite ties lasted maybe three years, and then a majority of them failed, pushing out the spikes, or breaking where the rail was spiked to the ties. Not sure what he was using, maybe Trex?

Good info. My East Es-cap-e` Bridge deck was made by cutting bridge ties and guard timbers from foamed PVC board (Sintra, Azek etc.). According to the file dates, this was built in the fall of 2011…

The PVC sections were spray painted, probably with Krylon, before the rail was laid…

And then attached to the “girder”…

And finally rail was hand spiked in place…

Before being placed into service in November 2011…

As far as I know, none of the spikes have pushed out and the bridge remains in good condition, The paint on the ties has faded badly, but other than that I’d call it a success.

For comparison, I built a second bridge for Indian Hill using Cedar milled on my table saw in 2015…

The ties were stained with a mixture of stain and linseed oil…

It required repair a few years ago and needs to come in this winter for more repairs. None of the ties on either bridge have failed due to weather. Misplaced boots are another story!

1 Like

This is what I did with some scrap (from a bridge arch cutout) …remember not all composites are the same. Some are like insects and have an Exoskeleton however when you cut into them you will find the soft inner middle just like a tootsie pop …ahhh never mind

so you take artificial wood and treat it to look like wood.

i dont get it.
don’t you have any real wood anymore?
i mean like fruit crates, pallets, neighbour’s fence or similar?


I might be reading too much into the photo…

I like the way you apparently used the stone/brick from the wall to be an abutment for the bridge. It certainly keeps that section of the wall from getting misplaced if the wall needs reassembly when the bridge is pulled for maintenance.

However the question comes into play with indoors or outdoors which I didn’t mention on my post. My ties were for indoor display purpose however Stan and Jon’s were outdoors which makes a difference especially on the NEC (North East Coast of the United States)

Does that help Korm?

Re post from what I re read as suggested. Stan did say "compostie "

not really.
last time i saw the movie “The Last Mohican”, there seemed to be stil enough real wood in your northeastern wilderness.

It does look that way, however, the abutment is poured concrete as are the edges of the opening to square off broken wall bricks.

1 Like

BD we should have an annual LSC award for most brilliant idea, and I would like to nominate Korm for his. :grinning_face_with_smiling_eyes:

I did a test section using left over trex for ties seven or eight years ago. After the first full year outdoors the thing that impressed me most was not a single spike came loose and these were stainless steel so no rust to hold them in. While I have moved away from hand spiking track, I started building switches using trex and never looked back. The only wood I use on them are the switch stand ties because of their length I found they did not hold up well so I use PT wood for them.