Trails to Rails – how salvage of abandoned track for rail trails helps preserve and promote historic rail operations
When a rail corridor is abandoned the last owner of the line usually salvages as much of the infrastructure as possible to maximize their return on the property before disposing of it. Rails and ties have a material value. Bridges, if the cost to take down is not exceeded by the scrap value, are sometimes removed. Scree, culverts, and in some cases the railbed itself can be carted away. The removal of bridges, drainage infrastructure, and the rail-bed can be detrimental to rail trail development. However, by simply removing the track and ties, a former rail line can very easily be converted to a multi-use trail with very little expense.
It’s not uncommon for a government entity or trail developer to acquire a former rail line that has yet to have the rails and ties removed. What now? How much do salvage operations cost?
You may be surprised to find the high value of scrap metal and re-use of the ties can significantly off-set, and in many cases cover the entire cost, of removing this material from the corridor. Iron Horse Preservation is a rail salvage operation that specializes in removing track and ties specifically for the development of rail trails. Iron Horse a not-for-profit operation that uses salvaged materials to restore and preserve historic railroads in many parts of the country. Thus, an abandoned rail line, that’s no longer usable for rail traffic, can be converted easily and inexpensively to a rail trail and the old rails and ties will benefit a historic railroad elsewhere. Talk about a win-win for rails AND trails! For more information about Iron Horse and their salvage operations, check out their home page.
Ozark Greenways, Inc., and citizen-led effort to develop and promote multi-use trails in Missouri, tackled a common hurdle with a remarkably unique and ingenious solution. The Frisco Highline Trail between Willard and Bolivar, MO needed, among other things, short bridge sections to be restored and trail developers were having trouble finding a cost-effective design. One day, out-of-the-blue, a Greenways’ board member saw an advertisement for a salvage company that converts old flatbed rail cars into rail bridges! The cost of installation was slightly higher than traditional decking, but the steel flatbed cards will require less long-term maintenance than the wood deck counterparts and it’s expected that savings will add up over time. You can read more about these unique bridges here.