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How to Lay Railway Sleepers in the Garden

Railway sleepers have become an increasingly popular feature in many gardens over recent years, and that popularity shows no signs of waning anytime soon. That’s not really a surprise, because not only do they add a pleasing combination of structure and rustic charm, but they’re also phenomenally versatile.

Another great advantage is that, as long as you have the strength to manoeuvre them, their uniform shape means they’re really not that hard to work with. Nevertheless, it’s sensible to do some research before you start so that your project not only ends up looking how you imagined, but also to ensure it retains its structure for years.

Let’s take a look at a few common landscaping projects using railway sleepers and briefly see how you would go about using them in each case.

Railway Sleeper Planters

Sleepers are ideal for building your own planters and raised beds, because their shape naturally lends itself to the project, while their strength means the result is unlikely to shift much over time or under the weight of the soil within.

If you’re placing your sleepers onto a hard surface, such as concrete or patio, they can just go straight on top, but if they’re going onto the lawn or soil, you’ll need to dig a shallow trench for the first sleeper to sit in. You might want to put a layer of concrete, sand or aggregate in first, but this isn’t always strictly necessary. Continue around in the same way until you’ve got the bottom layer in place.

At this point, it’s worth using a spirit level to make sure all your railway sleepers are lying flat. If you’re adding multiple layers, don’t forget to overlap from one layer to the next, in the same way you would when laying bricks.

Although sleepers are strong, it’s still a good idea to fix them together. This is usually best done with long timber screws and metal plates to support the corners.

Railway Sleeper Edging

Sleepers make great edging for your lawn and borders, but there are two things to bear in mind. Firstly, the ground needs to be flat and, perhaps even more importantly, you can only work with straight edges. Sleepers aren’t going to be much use when you’ve got curved borders!

The process is similar to that described above, except that this time you’re unlikely to want more than one layer (otherwise it will make getting to the beds behind quite tricky!) and fixing them together shouldn’t be necessary either. 

So all you need to do is dig your trench, lay a base of mortar, sand or aggregate, and then use your spirit level to check they’re lying flat.

Railway Sleeper Retaining Walls, Terraces & Steps

With these kinds of projects, you’re definitely going to be needing to use concrete, because once they’re in place they’re going to be taking a great deal more strain and undergoing much heavier usage than the planters and edging. 

Otherwise, the way you go about laying them is going to be broadly the same as with planters and edging, although you might need to add extra support in the form of wooden stakes to hold the sleepers in place.

In the case of steps, you can make the finished project look even better by filling the space between each step with decorative aggregates like our 10-20mm grey granite or our 10mm shingle.


If you’re thinking of landscaping your garden with railway sleepers, Neil Sullivan & Sons can help by supplying everything you’ll need. That includes the sleepers themselves, while our concrete and aggregate services mean you’ll be able to ensure your project is done in a professional way that’s sure to last for years. We can deliver to your Essex address or you can collect from our yard in Wickford.

Order your railway sleepers online now, or give us a call if you want more information.