Imagine a trail dipping below a steep valley edge surrounded by lush, verdant greens. A brook chatters below and in its soft watery tones invites hikers to a moment of relaxation and communion. The breeze is soft and sweet as the leaf canopy dances in unison overhead. It is idyllic and accessible because of the wooden boardwalk solidly supporting each who visit this natural wonder.
This boardwalk and others like it can be found in many natural areas. But it is made possible by pressure-treated wood, a building material that when processed with the correct preservatives, often outlasts and outperforms durability estimates and usefulness before it can biologically deteriorate.
The Railway Tie Association publishes a magazine, Crossties, for producers and users of treated wood crossties and related products. The May/June 2017 issue introduces a new regular feature called “Meet the Researchers,” and it kicks off by showcasing researchers from the Forest Products Laboratory (FPL).
This makes perfect sense, as one of the original goals for early FPL scientists was developing preservatives for railroad ties. More durable rail ties lengthened the service life of ties in use, and helped ease the demand for lumber, as trees were being cut at alarming rates across many northern and western forests.
Over time, lumber treatment and preservation research focused on environmental concerns as well as durability. Today, FPL researchers in the Durability and Wood Protection group continue to work on improving the treatment of wood.
You can read the full issue of Crossties here. See page 13 for the Meet the Researchers feature.