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?


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, not a wood texture.

Actually, they are 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 just went through certainly put them to the test!

If the results are satisfactory, these new composite ties will replace the old wooden ties when they need to be changed.  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 percent recyclable at the end of its life cycle. For every mile, or 3,300 composite ties, these ties make it possible to save 750 hardwood trees, to eliminate the use of 22,000 pounds of creosote and to recycle two million plastic bottles, nine million plastic bags and 10,000 used tires. Not bad!

Dany Cattiaux, engineer at the
Port of Montreal

These breakthrough ties come from Texas and are manufactured by American TieTek. Dany Cattiaux, Project Manager and Engineer, Civil Engineering at the Port of Montreal, met the U.S. 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 were 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.