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rehabilitate ex railway tracks?

 
ted agens
Posts: 16
Location: Elk County PA
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Well thanks for all the info. We all can always learn more-yes?

Since you all seem very knowledgeable-here is another question. Going through my property (and it is my property) is a railroad track that has not been used. The company applied to the Federal Government to have it "abandoned (versus "banked")" so they have about 5 yrs to get the rails and ties and gravel out.

Under all of this is a bed of coal ash-cinders, that was used to originally build up the rail bed. They will not be required to remove this this they only have to return the area to "original grade/slope" and are not required to do any type of rehabilitation to it.

With these cinders, what are some ideas to rehabilitate this area? That is, what do you think would be a good way to make this strip of property usable for me then the growing of weeds?

And no, I will not be paying to have 'top soil' trucked in. I am thinking about the use of the chicken manure as one option though.
 
                    
Posts: 238
Location: AR ~ozark mountain range~zone7a
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How to use an old RXR bed might make a great new thread topic, especially if you included a satellite pix, or a property boundary diagram showing the RXR bed, current buildings and surrounding grades. I've never tried reclaiming something like that. I guess the use- depends on how the roadbed lays & where it is, and how it actually surveys out...do you own both sides of the roadbed?...for example.

Might make a good flat 'working or building area', you will probably know much better how to use it once you see it, once it is made available to you. Might be a bunch of dandy big stones under the roadbed worth getting out... or not, that scrap gravel might become useful as it should be about as inexpensive as you can get, considering 'the company' probably wouldn't have to haul it far. You might be thinking now about starting some trees or shrubs from seed...intending on using them in the roadbed about 5 years in the future. If the roadbed was purposed to grow food stuff, I might have the 'cleaned up' roadbed dirt tested for various herbicides or whatever... of which I think the RXR companies are well known for using. I would consider hugelkulture or sheet mulching on top of the roadbed. Might make for a huge animal paddock.

james beam;)
 
ted agens
Posts: 16
Location: Elk County PA
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james beam wrote:How to use an old RXR bed might make a great new thread topic, especially if you included a satellite pix, or a property boundary diagram showing the RXR bed, current buildings and surrounding grades. I've never tried reclaiming something like that. I guess the use- depends on how the roadbed lays & where it is, and how it actually surveys out...do you own both sides of the roadbed?...for example.

Might make a good flat 'working or building area', you will probably know much better how to use it once you see it, once it is made available to you. Might be a bunch of dandy big stones under the roadbed worth getting out... or not, that scrap gravel might become useful as it should be about as inexpensive as you can get, considering 'the company' probably wouldn't have to haul it far. You might be thinking now about starting some trees or shrubs from seed...intending on using them in the roadbed about 5 years in the future. If the roadbed was purposed to grow food stuff, I might have the 'cleaned up' roadbed dirt tested for various herbicides or whatever... of which I think the RXR companies are well known for using. I would consider hugelkulture or sheet mulching on top of the roadbed. Might make for a huge animal paddock.

james beam;)


Let's see, where to start...

I own all of the property on both sides, in fact, I live on a unusual stretch of RR line. It was 'condemned' (the right of way) for RR use only by a court before it was built over 100 yrs ago. There was a small town here and they didn't want RR land grabs and such-like what was going on "out west" at the time. A judge agreed to allow the line but only allow it for RR use only. For us today, that mainly means that the RR can not transfer the right of way to anyone, like a rails to trails tyoe of thing.

By deed, I own continuously all the way through down to the middle of a river. My deed does not "stop" to reflect the presence of the right of way, only says that one is there. Me and others on this 5 mile stretch seem to be the only property owners in this area with this kind of RR relationship.

They stopped maintaining it about 8 yrs ago and stopped using it 2 yrs ago. It is disconnected in town and bypassed over to a line across the river. For nearly 15 yrs, I have been the only one spraying any herbicides. I submitted a request to the RR claiming that I had livestock (chickens) and food for human consumption growing and that I wanted to know what was being applied and the only way was for them to stop spraying. So I had to sign an agreement saying I would maintain the right of way.

My property is a big rectangle with "simple sides" boxed in by a road on one side and the river on the other. The RR follows the river and the road parallels the RR. So the tracks on my property run in a straight shot.

They will bid out the demolition and the contractor will be required to remove the ties and rails, plates, spikes and gravel. The gravel is like a number 1 large gravel-too big for anything I need. They will take it anyhow no matter if I wanted it or not. There is currently a market for gravel for building the Natural gas pads with all the fracking going on.

I plan on using the space to plant more fruit trees / bushes. I am thinking that well cured chicken manure would be a first step in 'reclaiming' the cinders. And then adding in regular soil later for more mass.

Another issue is that people illegally use the right of way to ride 4 wheelers. Everyone knows it is illegal but no one enforces it. If any of us try to stop them by putting a tree in the way or something, people just move it. They feel it their god given right to ride where they like.

When I do get the ground back I plan on creating a "living barrier" of apple or pear trees. Not necessarily blocking the road by making ot very difficult to come through. I also plan on busting up the clay culvert pipe that is under a section where a small stream passes through-creating a bridge. Of course I will have to put up a "bridge out" sign so I do not get sued if someone gets hurt trespassing on my property (the whole issue is ridiculous, the RR will come through and make sure that the right of way is "safe" for 4 wheelers to ride through even though it is illegal. They would rather have people break the law then get sued if someone s hurt)

I think that mulching would be a good idea as well to get a good layer of some top of "soil" going.

I'll make a thread (if I can figure out how)

thanks
 
                    
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Location: AR ~ozark mountain range~zone7a
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Hey ted, I would probably start by putting up some signs...not your ordinary signs, make them look real official, make up a whopper of a lie to put on the signs. Something like: Penn State University, Agriculture Reclaimation Experimentation Area {AREA}, throw in there some other acronyms USDA, & RXR names, and some fake code #'s to make it all 'official'. You get the idea, be creative, you might mention project deadline dates, or KEEP OUT, or mention the Sheriffs Dept.'s phone#. hahaha...all you really are trying to do is convey to the locals that the long time purpose of the RXR roadbed has recently & drastically changed & is 'no longer public access', be firm about that point...it might take 5 years for some of the 'non-readers' to figure it out, and the same 5 years to get the RXR equipment finally removed.

I could suggest fencing it off now, when the removal contractor gets there eventually...they or you can make a gap in the fence. The fence is really to keep trespassers from access. If you happen to work in that area, or intend to, then be down there from time to time, especially during deer season. Most guys will take the hint when you stop what your working at and amble on down there, where they are...to talk. Remember your a neighbor and so are they, not much point in getting your feathers ruffled, just tell it like it is. You will get some interesting conversations. But since it is your property, and the purpose of the property has recently changed then their is really not much the neighbors can say about how your going to use it.

I guess as far as what to grow, that really depends on your own personal ability. If the place is already heavy forested, a break in the woods is nice for fire control on a hillside for example. Might make a good deer plot feeding area. I guess your on a southern exposure, maybe a grape vineyard could be set up, but that is a lot of work. Maybe a mossy area could be set-up, river water if it is nearby could be pumped and misted to that area, I've never heard of a mossy area catching on fire. A roadbed full of fruit trees might be useful in the future. I guess if your in the wilderness area, varmits are going to eat most of your crop if you don't have some decent fencing. Those old RXR ties would make some dandy fence posts, or vineyard posts. I wouldn't pay anymore than $1 each for the best ones, neatly stacked on the up-hill side of the roadbed (tis easier for you to drag a tie down hill than up-hill)...if they are any good at all~~~remember the reclaim contractor has to pay $4+/gal. for fuel, tis cheaper for him to sell 'em on site and move them... not far at all.

That roadbed might make a good working or staging area, maybe you have timber that needs thinned. Small time Charcoal making might be fun.(don't burn the woods down) A sawmill might be fun. Firewood is a lot of work but a few $ can be made at it. The good thing about wood processing of various sorts is that the waste woody debris yields a good amount of bulk material for soil building projects. Are you good at making dirt from woody debris...is it fun for you?

Since your already good with chickens, maybe a broiler house contract operation might suit such an old roadbed. Cost a lot of money to jump into something like that..., OR maybe you can do it 'on your own' make that 100 birds into thousands. Eggs is a good operation I imagine, depends what your good at and what you want to do in the next 5 years, and 10 years...

Since your waiting on the contractor to get the RXR equipment out, you might think about accumulating vast quantities of woody debris, staging it near the work zone...then when the contractor is getting close to finished, while the big equip. is working, pay him a small fee, have him drag your stored debris into the finished roadbed in one quick move. Poof 'instant hugelkulture' setup for a little money. One guy, in 5 years can accumulate a lot of debris to be used in a growing area.

Depending on the lay of the land & existing roads...might be worth mentioning to the contractor, that an access road thru your place up to the main road, might help the contractor a bunch, and help you with a new well packed private access road. I would mention that you are helping to reclaim the old RXR roadbed in various ways. Develop a plan that might use the contractor to your benefit.

Oh yea, as far as that clay drain tile...is it really huge like 5' diameter, if you don't need it, maybe your county road dept. could remove it for you and reuse it in another roadway...cost you nothing, but helped the county somewhat.

james beam



 
ted agens
Posts: 16
Location: Elk County PA
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Ok, not sure how this will turn out since it is my first time on this forum. I posted this on another forum, no issues and I could always go back and edit of I had too )

So, my house in on the North side of the highway (US 219)-there is a lot with a "pole barn" structure to the right (west) and further down the east, there is an empty clearing. My property is from the pole barn property to the east along the highway to near the empty lot and then a turn straight down to the river (to the middle of it actually).

You will see the tracks going through my property (there a tracks across the river as well). This is about 4 yrs old or so.

So, not quite enough space to do some of the things suggested and the plan is to plant fruit trees and fruit bushes (strawberry, blueberry)

That is, how to "convert" the coal ash cinders into usable "soil"?[/i]I appreciate all the ideas but I guess my question is more of how to rehabilitate the actual ground. That is, how to "convert" the coal ash cinders into usable "soil"?

All the stuff the cinders will mainly grow now are weeds, sumac and blackberry and the occasional aspen tree.
 
John Elliott
pollinator
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I'll second the idea to put the chicken manure on top of the coal ash/cinders.

Coal ash has the annoying property of having lots of available heavy metals that can leach out. When it really piles up (like next to a coal-fired plant), all that ash can do havoc to the groundwater and wells in the area. What needs to happen is that the metals need to be bound up so that they are no longer leachable. This can be done in a few different ways, but chelating them with the urea in chicken manure is quick and easy -- just spread it around and let the rain soak it in.

Another thing to keep in mind is that coal ash is most detrimental when it comes straight from the power plant. If it has "weathered", i.e., sat on the ground for a long time and been rained on a lot, then much of the metal ions have leached out. If this track bed supports a healthy crop of weeds, then most likely the weathering has been effective. However, if nothing grows on it, treating it with manure is really indicated. Then you can follow that up with a high sulfur crop like a brassica, and that will further bind up the offending metals into insoluble sulfides.
 
ted agens
Posts: 16
Location: Elk County PA
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John Elliott wrote:I'll second the idea to put the chicken manure on top of the coal ash/cinders.

Coal ash has the annoying property of having lots of available heavy metals that can leach out. When it really piles up (like next to a coal-fired plant), all that ash can do havoc to the groundwater and wells in the area. What needs to happen is that the metals need to be bound up so that they are no longer leachable. This can be done in a few different ways, but chelating them with the urea in chicken manure is quick and easy -- just spread it around and let the rain soak it in.

Another thing to keep in mind is that coal ash is most detrimental when it comes straight from the power plant. If it has "weathered", i.e., sat on the ground for a long time and been rained on a lot, then much of the metal ions have leached out. If this track bed supports a healthy crop of weeds, then most likely the weathering has been effective. However, if nothing grows on it, treating it with manure is really indicated. Then you can follow that up with a high sulfur crop like a brassica, and that will further bind up the offending metals into insoluble sulfides.


Sounds good..the cinders have been there for as long as 100 yrs and as recent as when ever they stopped using coal fired engines (1950's?). Our well water tests negative for anything harmful now and 30 yrs ago, so at least there is that.

Now I just need to wait for these things to get pulled up.
 
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