How To Build a Railroad Tie Retaining Wall?

If you have access to a railroad tie and a slope that needs a retaining wall, this is the ideal project for you!

Although having a steeply sloping backyard may seem attractive, you start cutting this useless side hill and wonder about the benefits of getting rid of it.

As a result, the concept of constructing a railroad tie retaining wall was invented.

With the installation of a retaining wall, a large portion of the sloping yard can be removed to make room for the shortest usable backyard.

So, let’s begin!

Materials for Railroad Tie Retaining Wall:


Although steel requires a little more work, it is one of the safest and safest materials for railroad ties.

Since you need to understand the use of bricklaying and mortar, it is advisable to leave this type of work to a professional for a better understanding.


One of the best materials for retaining walls is stone.

It gives you a healthy, mesmerizing look.

Working with stone is not as difficult, however, it is also advisable to leave it in the hands of someone with experience for better results.

Caged Rocks:

A great and highly attractive option for retaining walls, caged rocks go great with railroad ties.

10 Steps to Build a Railroad Tie Retaining Wall:

Step 1- Level and smooth the surface:

Level and smooth the surface

We started by levelling the area.

It slopes down slightly towards the building; the dirt was then compacted to provide a firm foundation.

Tamping dirt will also reduce the chance of the wall settling or swaying.

However, it will steady and slightly change regardless of what you do.

Step 2- Cut out the area to create a snug fit for the railroad ties:

Cut out the area to create a snug fit for the railroad ties

To make sure the tie fits there properly, you must cut the wall square.

To allow room for adding gravel to the back of the embankment wall, dig the area about 5 to 6 inches deeper than the railroad embankment.

By doing this, any water that runs down the hill will be able to seep into the gravel instead of draining out and eventually causing your dam wall to collapse or slide.

Step 3- Add a Gravel Layer:

Add a Gravel Layer: Railroad Tie Retaining Wall

Once you’ve created a nice spot for your wall, add a base layer of gravel.

We tamped our nails and made them approximately 4 inches thick.

Rather than pushing out the railway embankment or eroding the soil away from the wall, water flowing through the gutter will drain the bottom of the wall.

Step 4- Align the first tie to the wall:

Align the first tie to the wall: Railroad Tie Retaining Wall

After you’ve laid down and compacted a solid gravel bed it’s time to level the first tie into the wall.

It is important to level tie precisely because the higher the wall, the greater the error.

Place gravel underneath or gravel as needed until the tie is level in both directions.

If the wall is out of line it will sag, swell or collapse more quickly.

Gravel can be adjusted by tampering under the front or rear edge with a sledgehammer used as a tamper.

Step 5- Prepare the pins needed to hold the tie together:

Prepare the pins needed to hold the tie together

Making some pins or “dead men” is the next phase.

The ridges on the rebar help catch the dirt and the railroad ties hold the wall tight.

Even though we didn’t have a lot of rebars, we did have some square-bent 1/2′′ steel rods with eyelets that we discovered in the barn.

These will firmly secure the wall to the ground.

We used four pins because our wall is 8 feet long, and each pin needs to be around 2-2 1/2 feet long to maintain a secure grip on the ground.

The pin will be considerably simpler to drive through the earth or railroad ties if one end is cut at an angle.

Railroad ties are occasionally nearly impossible to pierce without sharpening them.

Step 6- Drill pin holes in the tie:

Drill pin holes in the tie: Railroad Tie Retaining Wall

Now you need to start drilling.

The hole should be approximately the same size as the pin you wish to drive through.

You can make the hole smaller if you wish, but doing so will make it very difficult to insert the pin, especially if your pins are rebar-based.

An expanding wood auger bit works better than one of those drill bit expanding devices.

A drill bit extender should work, but at some point, it will probably come loose in one of the rail ties.

As a result, one of your drill bits will have a permanent residence inside the tie.

Although nice and cool, drill bit extenders are not suitable for this use.

Tuff oak is used to build railroad tracks, which are then tarred and baked.

They are quite flexible; the auger bit is long enough to drill and cut through multiple ties at once if necessary.

If you hit the ground too often, you’ll wear out a bit faster.

Utilizing a corded drill with some power is the most straightforward stage.

Rinky-dink cordless drill (or its battery) won’t be thrilled if you try to drill an auger bit into a railroad tie with it.

Step 7- Pound in the Pins:

Pound in the Pins: Railroad Tie Retaining Wall

 At this point, some pins should be driven in.

When things get tough, we like to start with a 5-lb hand sledge and finish it off with a 10-pound full sledgehammer.

Tighten the railroad tie down to lock it so that it will not loosen after the pin is almost fully inserted and sticking out about 4-5 inches.

We hammer a pin into the wall every two feet because it is 8 feet long.

It was important to confirm that the foundation tie was effectively tied to the earth.

Step 8- Fill the gap between the tie and the wall:

Fill the gap between the tie and the wall

After the first tie pins are secured, fill the 5 to 6-inch space with gravel.

Lower the sledgehammer to make it smaller.

We like to spread gravel in layers of about 2-3 inches, tamp it down, add another 2–3-inch layer, tamp down, etc.

Step 9- Continue the process till the desired height:

Continue the process till the desired height

Repeat the process once more.

Tie a railroad tie on top of the previous tie you put in, drill as deep as you can, drive the pin in, cover the back with gravel, lower it, and repeat!

Step 10- Add the Final Touches:

Add the Final Touches: Railroad Tie Retaining Wall

If that’s the look you’re going for covering everything in the dirt is acceptable.

Drainage should not be affected too much.

We only did it temporarily until we could cover the entire area with a gravel road and connect it to the rest of our driveway.

When that time comes, we will clear the gravel between the dam and the wall to drain the small amount of dirt that covers it.

In addition, this explains why dirt appears a little less.

Make room for a gravel driveway!

Advantages of Railroad Tie Retaining Wall:

  1. Using railroad ties for retaining walls is a low-cost option to maintain a sloped yard.
  2. The ties can be purchased and trimmed to desired lengths at any nearby lumberyard.
  3. Railroad trestles are lightweight and strengthen the wall when piled together.

Disadvantages of Railroad Tie Retaining Wall:

  1. Cross-ties are not only harmful to the environment, but they also pose a major health danger.
  2. Only a little amount of creosote has been proven to be absorbed by plants, but some chemicals have been shown to adhere to roots, which could result in higher levels of creosote in tuber crops.
  3. Some creosote ingredients are extremely sticky, insoluble in water, and adhere to the ties.


Is it too conservative to attempt to use railroad ties to build a retaining wall?

Even if you don’t have the time to construct a railroad tie retaining wall on your own, hiring a reputable landscaping company may be done quickly.

Section Under: Retaining Walls

Hello and welcome to House Modify! I am Rahul and I am passionate about everything related to design, decoration and renovation. I am a serial renovator, currently working as a civil engineer. Take a look around, leave a comment and don't forget to subscribe to my emails so you don't miss out!

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