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How to Lift Railroad Ties

Sasha Rousseau

Railroad ties are frequently used in landscaping gardens or as retaining walls. As the wood rots or becomes worm-eaten over time, the ties can become entrenched in the earth and are no longer possible to move using manpower. Proper tools are then necessary to break the tie free so that you can lift, move, dispose of, or sell it. Although lifting the tie is easiest and safest when two people work together, one person can accomplish it alone.

It's illegal and dangerous to use chain when towing heavy objects. They could become a safety hazard if they lose grip and whip around wildly.
  1. Dig a trench around all sides of the railroad tie. Remove the dirt until the tie's bottom edges are visible.

  2. Wedge the flat end of the crowbar under a section near one end of the tie. Press on the crowbar until the tie feels slightly loose in the ground. Move to the opposite end of the tie. Wedge the flat end of the crowbar under the tie there and loosen that side likewise. Wedge the flat end of the crowbar under the middle of the tie, and do the same loosening process there. Repeat until the tie is loosened from the ground, and only lying loose in the trench.

  3. Knot one of the ropes around the railroad tie---near one end of the tie---using a lark's head knot. Loop the rope so the ends are in one hand and the bend at the mid-point is in the other. Slide the bend under the tie. Slip the ends through the loop at the midpoint.

  4. Drag the ends to the truck and knot them, using a slip knot. Create a large loop with your rope. Bend back the bottom of the loop so you have two smaller loops. Slip either the left loop through the right or vice versa, depending on which way you want the knot to go. Slip the knot over the hitch or tie the knot around the bumper. Repeat the process for the second rope, so that both ropes are securely connected to the hitch and the railroad tie.

  5. Drive your truck or car, dragging the railroad tie behind you, out of the trench. Untie the rope from the tie once you've moved the tie as far as you'd like.

  6. Wedge a hand-truck's front lip under it and tilt the hand-truck so the tie slides securely onto its lip and off the ground.