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Railway Sleeper Grades Explained

UK Sleepers Grading

Railway Sleeper grading is a subjective issue, we grade ours quite simply - an explanation is given below:

Reclaimed Softwood Railway Sleeper and Crossing Timber Grading

  • Grade A
    A Grade A railway sleeper is a used sleeper in very good condition. It will have bolt holes where the tracks were attached to it and a small amount of damage or slight wane is acceptable to one edge. It is very sound, free from rot and can be used for stacking, building retaining walls and many other uses where a clean straight edged appearance is essential.
  • Grade B
    A Grade B railway sleeper is also a used sleeper with all the same characteristics of the Grade A above but can have slight damage to one side and perhaps a small amount of rot  to the underside where it lay on the ground under the tracks for decades. It should have at least two good straight edges so can also be stacked and used to build retaining walls etc.
  • Grade C
    A Grade C railway sleeper has all the characteristics of the above grades but can have more serious damage to most sides. A larger amount of rot to the underside is allowable,  a grade C sleeper will always have one good face and so can be used to edge driveways, stand portable buildings or containers on or a plethora of other uses.

Hardwood Railway Sleeper Grading Rules

As for the softwood but with the following additions:


  • Grade A
    Possiblility of small splits at either end and possibly one waned edge.
  • Grade B
    Possiblility of larger splits at either end and the possibility of two waned edges and or be bent.
  • Grade C
    All the above, can also be very misshapen.

Tropical hardwoods:

  • Grade A
    Very sound, a minimal amount of loosening of the grain is allowable and minor splits. 
  • Grade B
    Possibility of split ends and some damage to the sleeper, the grain will appear very loose around the edges and especially the ends, this is completely normal with tropical hardwood but the sleeper will be essentially sound although very rustic looking - please take this into account before ordering.
  • Grade C
    All the above and the additional possibility of severely damaged edges and some rot.

New Unused Railway Sleeper Grading Rules

  • Grade A
    Perfect straight edges to a minimum of three sides (normally all four). Minimal damage allowable, wane to one edge allowable. This sleeper can look very architectural and be used for many purposes where a straight true finish is required.
  • Rustic Grade
    Rustic new softwood or hardwood sleepers have wane allowable to two edges and it can be quite severe.
  • Railway Sleeper Grade
    New railway sleepers are cut from solid pieces of timber, they can sometimes have one or two waned edges, a small amount of residual bark, sometimes minor insect damage or the occasional small split to the ends - a new sleeper will almost never have all these slight issues at the same time however and is normally close to perfect!


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