Creosote Council Blog

New Jersey’s “Ghost Tracks” Crossties Tell the Story of America’s First Railroads

New Jersey’s “Ghost Tracks” Crossties Tell the Story of America’s First Railroads

Every good “ghost story” tells the life story of the person whose soul is stuck between this life and the after-life. The audience learns his or her trials and tribulations, and usually what “unresolved issues” are keeping the spirit circling its childhood home. The best stories actually help the ghost right its wrongs or otherwise find closure, allowing it to graduate to a peaceful repose. New Jersey: The Land of North America’s First Railroad The “Ghost Tracks” of New Jersey’s Cape May...

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Canada’s Grand Trunk Railway: Unifying People and Building Economies

Canada’s Grand Trunk Railway: Unifying People and Building Economies

The construction of railway systems that could withstand the severe northern climate came at a pivotal point in Canada’s history and played an important role in fostering Canadian unification and independence from Britain. Entrepreneurial drive, technological developments, and wood preservation techniques were crucial to these developments. The Emergence of Modern Canada: From the Atlantic to the Midwest In response to political uprisings in the 1830s, leaders of British North America took...

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How Creosote-Treated Crossties Made the World’s First International Railroad Possible

How Creosote-Treated Crossties Made the World’s First International Railroad Possible

A History of the Shortline Railroad from Montreal to Portland, Maine In the early 1800s, shipping remained the dominant way of transporting goods in the United States, yet the harsh environment of the northeast posed serious challenges to commerce. Temperatures there remained below freezing for much of the year, which could stall important routes like the St. Lawrence River for months.  New England businessmen and leaders soon realized that railroads—with their creosote-treated ties—could...

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Creosote: The Tried-And-True Wood Preservative for Over a Century

Creosote: The Tried-And-True Wood Preservative for Over a Century

Creosote-treated wood has played a major role in infrastructure thanks to “empty-cell processes.” What are these?  During the 19th century, wood could be preserved with creosote using a "full-cell" process, developed in 1838 by John Bethell. But this method used a large amount of creosote, which was still too expensive for some industries. At the turn of the 20th century, Max Rüping and Cuthbert Lowry both developed wood pressure-treatment methods that used less creosote; these...

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Century-Old Tracks: How Creosote Preserved a Beach Railroad Decades Beyond Its Operation

Century-Old Tracks: How Creosote Preserved a Beach Railroad Decades Beyond Its Operation

More than a century ago the wooden railroad ties of the Delaware Bay and Cape May Railroad traversed the sandy beaches of the New Jersey coast. They had just one job: to transport sand to the Cape May Sand Company for manufacturing glass and construction purposes. Its ties lay in direct sunlight all day, exposed to high temperatures and harsh salt water. The tracks were in service for 31 years, transporting hundreds of tons of quartz sand from 1905 until the plant was shut down in 1936 to...

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