I plan on cutting some railroad ties for business, and I want to know how many I should be able to make. I will have a 50 hp electric portable mill. Does anyone know how long it should take to cut a hardwood rail tie and how many I should be able to produce a day? Any tips?
(Sawing and Drying Forum)
From contributor M:
I have cut ties, but from softwood. We do not have hardwood available to us here in western Canada. I have always found ties to be marginal when it comes to profitability. If they are to form the meat and potatoes of your business plan, I hope you have another source of income.
Cutting ties is not the hard part. If you only cut 4 cuts and turn every time, a tie could be cut out in 5 to 7 minutes. But bigger logs have a lot of side lumber on them that I wouldn't want to throw in the slab pile. They can pay as much or more than the tie. Log handling and offbearing ties is quite time consuming - sometimes as much as the sawing.
The big thing is getting the tie off the mill and trimmed to length spec, stacking, etc. We have rollers set up off the end of our mill so we can just roll them out, trim the ends with chainsaw and dump them onto loader forks. We have two Terex loaders – 5500 lbs and 6600 lbs to move things.
Sawing is not the time killer; we can crank out a tie from a log in a few minutes. It’s everything else that really eats up the time. I may mention there are just two of us (old enough to get the senior citizen’s discount) running the mill, so one is sawing and one is edging, offbearing, stacking lumber - we stop sawing a lot to do a hundred other things.
Adding at least one more person speeds up the process a lot. But then you’re dividing your production per person by three instead of two and at the end of the day, you’ve not gained anything.
Not every tie log will make a tie. Our logger is not any too good at making tie logs. Many will not make a tie even though they’re big enough and long enough. Many have heart defects, sweep, forks, etc. that disqualify them from making a tie from the start. Then when we saw logs that should make a tie, probably 20% fall out on the mill for finding internal defects not seen on the outside. We end up making what lumber we can from these logs – but they don’t help our tie production numbers.
As to what production numbers you can expect, we’ll need a lot more information than 50hp. How much support equipment do you have – loader, edger, live log deck, green chain, dust removal, etc.? How well are you organized to move logs in, slabs, sawdust, edgings, lumber, ties out? How many people will be working the operation?
The best tip I can give you is to ask your mill manufacturer if there are any mills like you’re getting in operation within driving distance that are making ties. If so, ask to go visit with them and see how it all works.