Can You Cut Railroad Ties with a Chainsaw? (If YES, How to?)

HONESTLY speaking:

My life was completely changed when I bought my first chainsaw (I guess about 20 years back).

I was SUPER amazed at the sheer power it had. And since then, I’ve been cutting through anything in my way! (just KIDDING 🙂)

But can you cut railroad ties with a chainsaw?

can you cut railroad ties with a chainsaw - featured image

Let’s find out…

Can a Chainsaw Cut Through Railroad Ties?

Yes, you can cut railroad ties with a chainsaw, but it won’t be easy for your chain. Because railroad ties are made of hardwood like oak, jarrah, and karri. On top of it, they’re treated with creosote and a bunch of other chemicals which make them even harder to cut.

That’s not all!

Railroad ties may have lots of metal nails or spikes, stones, and dirt in the cracks, which can dull your chainsaw chain in no time.

metal nails, spikes, cracks and dirt in railroad ties

Related: Can a Chainsaw Cut Through Metal?

Plus the NASTY creosote can get inside the clutch cover, chain sprocket, clutch, and gum up the works. (The smell of creosote is what puts me off the most, yuck! 🤮)

dirty chainsaw interior

So, if you attempt to cut railroad ties with a chainsaw, you should be prepared to sharpen your chain quite often (at least once every 5 cuts) or throw away the chain altogether.

But other than that, there’s NO big issue with cutting railroad ties with a chainsaw!

Here is a video of a guy cutting railroad ties with a 14 amp chainsaw: 👇 (I couldn’t believe my eyes when I saw it!)

Last summer, I had to clear some old railroad tracks in my backyard, and it was really a HASSLE. But thanks to my trusty chainsaw, I got it done smoothly.

I used my old dull chains for the job. I sharpened them properly. Surprisingly, it worked out just fine. Keep an eye on the chain’s condition and you’ll be good to go!

Also Checkout:

How to Cut Railroad Ties with a Chainsaw?

Let’s face it:

Cutting railroad ties can be a DAUNTING task! But with the right tools and technique, it doesn’t have to be so difficult!

A chainsaw is one of the most popular tools for cutting railroad ties. It makes the job faster, easier and safer.

But, how do you cut railroad ties with a chainsaw? 🤔

Don’t worry! I’ll walk you through the process step by step.

Step 1: Wear Your Safety Gear

chainsaw safety gear

It’s not a SECRET at all!

Railroad ties are treated with “creosote” which helps to protect them from rot and decay.

But do you know what?

Researchers have identified over 300 hazardous chemicals in creosote! They’re expecting the exact number to be as high as 10,000. (can you imagine?)

Short-term exposure to these chemicals could cause irritation of the respiratory tracts, and skin damage. Long-term exposure or direct contact could even cause skin cancer. (Source: Virginia Department of Health)

In addition, the disgusting smell of creosote is not what you would want to experience (you can trust me on that!). So, always wear the right safety gear.

  • Safety glasses 🥽
  • Respirator 😷 (or any other certified mask)
  • Jacket and long pants 👖
  • Gloves 🧤
  • Boots 👢 (That’s all!)

Step 2: Elevate the Railroad Tie Off the Ground

Now, you’ve to lift the railroad tie off the ground. This would –

To do that, place two wooden blocks at both ends of the railroad tie (check the image below for reference), and place the tie on it.

how to cut railroad ties with a chainsaw - step 2

You can also use large rocks, bricks, or anything else that you have handy.

Step 3: Cut 3/4 of the Way Through

Once your railroad tie is secure and elevated, you can start cutting.

Start the cut 3/4 of the way through the railroad tie using your chainsaw (It’s a standard practice and recommended by the experts!). This reduces the risk of hitting the ground accidentally.

how to cut railroad ties with a chainsaw - step 3

Here’re a few things to keep in mind while making this cut 👇:

  • Hold the chainsaw firmly with both your hands.
  • Don’t apply too much pressure (let the saw do its job).
  • Take help from some support if needed.

Step 4: Turn the Tie Upside Down and Finish the Cut

In this step, you’ve to turn the railroad tie upside down and finish the remaining 1/4 of the cut.

how to cut railroad ties with a chainsaw - step 4

It’s easier and safer to do that, because the chainsaw won’t contact the ground this time. (This would also help you to get a nice, straight, and even cut).

And, once you’re done with that – Your railroad tie will be perfectly cut into two pieces.

Step 5: Clearn Your Chainsaw Properly

Don’t forget to clean your chainsaw after you’re done cutting the ties. You wouldn’t want to smell the creosote all around!

Take off your chain, guide bar, and clutch cover. Use a dry brush and a can of air compressor to get rid of stubborn wood chips, sawdust, and dirt.

Then use mineral spirits (or any other solvent) to clean the drive sprocket, chain, and bar.

Finally, lubricate the chain and put it back together.

Best Chainsaw Chain for Cutting Railroad Ties

Carbide chainsaw chains are probably the best for cutting railroad ties. As the name suggests, these chains are made of carbide steel which is much harder and more durable than normal stainless steel. (But in terms of appearance, they’re not so different)

Regular chain vs carbide chain

That’s not all!

Unlike regular wood-cutting chains – the cutter teeth of a carbide chain can stay sharp for a longer time (which increases the cutting efficiency!)

But can I be totally honest with you?

I still don’t prefer carbide chains for cutting railroad ties. Why?

Well, there are two main reasons 👇:

  • First of all, they are hard to sharpen manually ❌ (our local sharpeners charge up to $25 for sharpening one carbide chain).
  • Second, they are hell-expensive 💸 (a good quality carbide chain can easily cost you over $100. Not JOKING!).
price of a carbide chain

So, for someone like me, who cuts railroad ties occasionally – it’s a complete WASTE of money.

I would rather prefer buying a bunch of old regular chains and sharpen them as needed (call me old-fashioned, but I still like to do things my way 😎!)

Alternatives to Cutting Railroad Ties with a Chainsaw

Don’t feel like cutting railroad ties with a chainsaw?

No problem, here are some alternatives 👇

Circular Saw

cicular saw

Circular saws are great for cutting railroad ties.

They are –

  • Fast,
  • Handy, and
  • Easy to use.

With a good quality circular saw, you can cut through a railway tie in just a few seconds. Even a handheld circular saw would do the job quite NICELY.

Here’s a video of a guy cutting a railroad tie with a circular saw 👇:

Sawzall (or Reciprocating Saw)


Sawzalls are AWESOME!

I know they take a bit longer than a circular saw, but they’re still great for cutting railroad ties.

  • They are powerful,
  • They can make curved cuts and angled cuts,
  • And they are portable.

Plus, they can be used to make long straight cuts too!

Here’s a video of someone using a Sawzall to cut railroad ties 👇:


A handsaw can be a cheap and cheerful alternative to a chainsaw or circular saw. It’s a bit slower and more laborious, but it still works quite well. 


The best part?

They are quiet and don’t require gas or electricity.

Frankly speaking, I’ve never used a handsaw to cut railroad ties before, but I’m sure it can be done with some patience and skill.

Related F.A.Q.s

1. What are railroad ties made of?

According to the 2018 Road Tie Survey, 94.8% of rail ties in the United States are made out of wood (usually hardwoods like oak or maple). Concrete ties make up 4.6% and other materials such as steel, plastic, or composites make up the remaining 0.6%. (Source)

2. What is the best tool for cutting railroad ties?

Chainsaws are probably the best tool for cutting railroad ties. They are powerful, fast, and efficient. However, if you don’t have access to a chainsaw, circular saws and Sawzalls (reciprocating saws) can also be used to cut railway ties.

3. Do railroad ties have metal in them?

Yes, some railroad ties contain metal. This includes steel rods, spikes, and other reinforcing pieces that are embedded in the wood for added strength. That’s why I would recommend using a metal detector before cutting any railroad ties. This will help you avoid accidentally hitting metal and damaging your saw blade.

4. How much does a railroad tie weigh?

Generally speaking, an average 8-foot-long railway weighs between 100-200 pounds. But depending on the type of wood, age, and condition, some railroad ties can be as heavy as 300 pounds.

Samuel Anali

Hey there! My name is Sam, and I'm the NERD behind this site. I'm an avid chainsaw enthusiast, and I've been tinkering with them since I was 17 (it's almost 20 years now!).

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