MONTEVALLO, Ala. – Norfolk Southern Railway, one of the largest railroads in the U.S., says it must replace millions of wooden railroad ties under its tracks, claiming they’re degrading at a faster rate than expected.
In a federal lawsuit, Norfolk says Boatright Railroad Products failed to use proper protective coating on over 4.7 million railroad ties. Norfolk claims Boatright told its employees to "make the ties black by whatever means necessary" so they only appeared to be treated.
Motor oil, anti-freeze, paint and other substances which would not adequately preserve the wood were used on the ties instead of creosote — the chemical which should have been used, Norfolk alleges.
The lawsuit also alleges that Boatright provided misleading samples to a Norfolk quality assurance consultant. Norfolk says Boatright employees were told to take the consultant out hunting when he was to be inspecting the ties.


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Norfolk says properly treated railroad ties are essential to the entire railroad's operation. Untreated ties can degrade prematurely, potentially jeopardizing the safety of the rail network.

Boatright has not yet publicly responded to the claims.
Boatright Railroad Products, Inc. engages in manufacturing, distributing, and selling forest products primarily in Alabama. The company’s products include building poles, fence posts, lumber, building squares, and railroad materials; and industrial railroad and bridge timber. It offers commercial, farm, residential, and lath wood fencing products; and pallets, skids, and pine lumber products.
In 2014, Boatright was acquired by Stella-Jones Inc., a leading producer and marketer of pressure treated wood products. Stella-Jones supplies North America's railroad operators with railway ties and timbers, and the continent's electrical utilities and telecommunication companies with utility poles.

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