Eco-friendly railway ties

Who could have guessed that plastic bottles tossed into a recycling bin would one day end up under a train at the Port of Montreal?

A composite tie is estimated to last 40 years, compared to about
a decade for a  wooden tie.

Since last fall, at Cast Terminal close to Boucherville Street, a section of railway belonging to the Port of Montreal is different from the rest: for 40 feet, the crossties are black and they have a plastic texture instead of a wood texture.

They are actually made of a composite material consisting of plastic bottles and recycled tires. We are currently studying how they react to the Quebec climate, and the rough winter we went through certainly put them to the test!

They passed with flying colours. This summer, we will install 180 more on port territory, in Sections 55 to 58 between Viterra Grain Terminal and Racine Terminal.  If the results continue to be satisfactory, these new composite crossties will gradually replace the old wooden ties as they need to be replaced. The port railway network has about 100 kilometres of track and serves terminals from Bickerdike Terminal, near the Bonaventure Expressway, to the far end of Cast Terminal, east of the Louis-Hippolyte-Lafontaine Tunnel.

Invaluable environmental benefits

A composite tie is estimated to last 40 years, compared to about a decade for a wooden tie. Better yet, the new crosstie is 100 % recyclable at the end of its life cycle. Every mile (1.6 km) takes 3,300 composite ties, making it possible to save 750 hardwood trees, to eliminate the use of 22,000 pounds (close to 10,000 kilos) of creosote and to recycle two million plastic bottles, nine million plastic bags and 10,000 used tires. Not bad!

Dany Cattiaux, project manager and  engineer at the Port of Montréal

What’s more, these new crossties will not cost more than the old wooden ties. “On top of the purchase price, we had to pay $15 per wooden crosstie to dispose of them because they contain creosote,” explained Dany Cattiaux, Project Manager and Engineer, Civil Engineering at the Port of Montreal.


These breakthrough ties come from Texas and are manufactured by American TieTek. Dany Cattiaux met people from the US-based company at the annual convention of the American Railway Engineering and Maintenance-of-Way Association (AREMA), in Indianapolis, Indiana, in October 2013. After some discussion, they agreed to a test run. “People from TieTek came from Texas to the Port of Montreal to provide technical support and follow-up. They are really thorough people,” said Dany Cattiaux.

Respect for the environment is a top priority at the Port of Montreal. All projects of every kind must be analyzed from a sustainable development perspective, and they must show what steps have been taken to minimize their impact on the environment.