Can You Recycle Railroad Spikes?

Railroad spikes have been actively used to secure rails to lateral support since the 1930s. As such, they’re indispensable for railroad transportation. These spikes are made from carbon steel and are extremely durable and resistant to wear and tear.

They look like long and hefty nails. Although they come apart sometimes, mostly due to long years and overuse, you shouldn’t be picking them. However, that doesn’t mean you may not see them around. So, even though you shouldn’t be picking these nail-like spikes, you may find yourself with a couple or more of them sometimes.

On the other hand, railroad spikes need to be replaced every 50 to 50 years, depending on the weight they withstand during their lifespan. So, can we recycle railroad spikes? How do railroad companies dispose of the spikes that have exhausted their lifespan?

This blog post will explore recycling options, among other questions railroad and train lovers commonly have. Let’s go!

Can Railroad Spikes be Recycled?

One of the most common forms of transportation in the US is by train. It’s common in both domestic and commercial industries. For instance, did you know that the length of the railroad network in America is a whopping 150,462km?

That’s a huge number, which means that many railroad spikes are used to secure the rails. But, of course, as we mentioned earlier, those railroad spikes can only last as long as six to eight decades, which means thousands of spikes will have to be recycled from time to time.

Now, this begs the question – can you recycle railroad spikes? How do the government and railroad organizations dispose of the used spikes?

They aren’t biodegradable, which means that if they’re disposed of like the usual waste, they’ll end up taking space in our landfills. But, of course, they won’t decompose immediately and may even end up spending long years in the landfills.

So, is recycling a viable option for disposing of these metallic spikes? Well, it certainly is.

However, a typical recycling center will not accept railroad spikes because the recycling machines aren’t strong enough to handle steel materials. But companies that recycle metals and other construction materials will. You have to know the right places to look, and you can start with the internet.

If you’ve stumbled on some railroad spikes, you don’t have the option of recycling them at a scrapyard. That’s because most scrap yards cannot accept spikes and other utility scrap materials without a proper release form from the legal owners.

So, what you can do in this case is to hop on the internet and find a metal recycling expert that’s willing to take on your new finds.

What are Railroad Spikes Made of?

Railroads are used every day – they’re essential transportation options for the domestic and commercial industry. In the commercial industry, freight transportation deals with heavy materials, and of course, the railroads bear these massive weights.

As such, railroads must be made from sturdy construction materials – for our safety, which also extends to the spikes that hold the tracks in place. They’re typically made from metals, but these metals are different.

Now, railroad spikes are made from carbon steel. Steel is an alloy, and it has different types. Some are non-corrosive, while some are highly susceptible to rust. But of course, the ones susceptible to rust are also as string, but they lack chromium, the component that prevents rust.

If you’ve been attentive, you’ll have noticed that some railroad spikes are a bit rusty when you find them. That’s because they’re made from carbon steel, and it doesn’t contain chromium.

There are different types of carbon steel, and they all have a low carbon content that never exceeds 2%. They include low carbon steel, medium carbon steel, and high carbon steel.

Carbon steel is reasonably affordable, very strong, and durable. The strongest type is high carbon steel, the most common one for railroad construction materials. When you pick up a spike, you’ll see HC labeled on it if it’s made from high carbon and LC when made from low carbon.

Do Railroad Spikes Make Good Knives?

You can fashion steel into almost anything as long as you apply sufficient heat. For example, railroad spikes already have the required base for a knife, so can you shape them into knives? More importantly, is it worth the effort?

Well, there have been lots of controversial opinions about this. However, one thing most people who have contributed to these discussions have in common is their love for railroad spikes. Of course, they also have a desire to use knives made from these spikes.

While the spikes are made from steel, that doesn’t make them suitable for making knives. Sure, they can be melted and shaped into knives, but they won’t be strong enough to perform the basic functions we expect of knives. So instead, they work better as letter openers and prybars.

Again, they have to be made from high carbon to be as strong as this. As such, that means attempting to make knives from low carbon, which isn’t nearly as strong as high carbon, will be a futile feat.

It’ll end up breaking if you try to use it for serious business. So, if your fascination with railroad spikes and knives collide, at best, you can enjoy using your creation as a letter opener or prybar. But, avoid putting it to real use to prevent it from falling apart.

Can You Scrap Railroad Spikes?

Absolutely not! Scrap yards are sometimes our go-to option when we can’t seem to find a recycling center that’ll accept our metal waste. The best part is that most times, we can even sell these materials for a substantial amount.

However, that doesn’t extend to railroad spikes. That’s because they’re not basic household items – they’re mostly owned by the government and private organizations. Railroad spikes are also commonly pilfered because they’re unprotected.

As such, they are pretty vulnerable, and anyone can walk up to a railroad when no one’s watching and take a few spikes to sell.

Scrap yards have been prohibited from accepting railroad spikes without the proper authorization to prevent situations like these from reoccurring. So, as a private individual with no ties to a railroad company, you cannot walk into a scrap yard and expect to donate or even sell railroad spikes to them.

How Much are Railroad Spikes Worth?

Subsequently, we’ll explore several things you can upcycle railroad spikes into. That’s why there are people who sell them online and offline.

As we mentioned earlier, it’s illegal to take railroad spikes from train tracks, and you may not even find them when you check. So, if you want to try some of the projects railroad spikes are suitable for, you may have to buy the spikes.

So, if you want to buy railroad spikes, you can get a single one for about 80 cents to a dollar. However, you’ll pay a lower price when you buy the spikes in bulk, and they’re usually measured in pounds. But, of course, this excludes shipping fees, and that depends on where you’re buying from.

Now, when you’re buying railroad spikes in bulk, you’ll certainly get them at a lower price. Most times, it’s weighed in pounds, and the price depends on the size of the railroad spikes in question.

Of course, you also have to consider the shipping fee, which depends on where you’re buying the railroad spikes. You can get these spikes on Amazon, and this online retail store offers pocket-friendly shipping fees.

What to Do With Railroad Spikes?

We mentioned earlier that some people would pay good money to buy railroad spikes from you or the internet. Of course, that must mean that there’s something or a couple of things they use them for.

Well, you can also join that trend. Railroad spikes are useful for several things, and the majority of them are domestic. So, without further ado, here are a few things you can use railroad spikes for:

1. Wine Holders

Wine holders are a must, especially if you fancy yourself a wine connoisseur. You don’t even need to break your bank to start your own wine gallery; you just need some railroad spikes!

So, you can use the ones you recently picked up, or even buy some from the internet. Now, let’s get to work.

For this craft, you’ll need a wooden slab. It has to be large enough to house the number of wine bottles you envision, so the size is entirely up to you. You’ll also need your railroad spikes and a hammer.

Railroad spikes are like nails, so have that in mind when working. However, you won’t be hitting these nails completely into the wooden slab. Place them in pairs, with enough space in between each to hold a wine bottle.

Then, when you’re certain they’re secure enough, repeat the process for the next couple of rows and columns. But, again, remember the size of the wine gallery is entirely up to you!

2. Coat Hangers

As we mentioned before, keep in mind that railroad spikes are like nails. In fact, you could say they’re gigantic nails. So, you can use them for coat hangers. 

This is a great hack because railroad spikes have blunt bottoms that won’t catch on your coats and hats, unlike real nails. Railroad spikes are also large enough to hold your coats and hats comfortably.

Now, as always, you’ll need several railroad spikes. This depends on how large you want your coat hanger to be. Of course, you’ll also need a long slab of wood and some small nails.

When you’ve secured the slab to a suitable wall in your home, you can use the hammer to hit the railroad spikes into the slab. Again, make sure it’s a tight fit because some coats weigh a considerable amount.

3. Letter Openers

Railroad spikes can’t make sharp knives, but they make great letter openers. So, if you’ve already attempted to fashion a knife out of a couple of railroad spikes, you can turn it into a letter opener instead.

4. Napkin Holders

If you’re starting to grow tired of not having the right place for your napkins, then this hack is for you.

Just as we’ve done with the wine gallery, we can also apply it to napkins. A sizable slab of wood, some railroad spikes, and some small nails.

Repeat the process for the wine gallery, and you’ll have yourself a neat and presentable stand for your napkins.


It’s not uncommon to come across loose railroad spikes sometimes. You can also buy them online for one thing or the other.

Of course, we’re certain you won’t hold on to them forever, and that’s why we’ve provided this blog post to guide you on how to dispose of them properly when the time comes. So, please, read up and make informed choices from now on.

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About Rinkesh

A true environmentalist by heart ❤️. Founded Conserve Energy Future with the sole motto of providing helpful information related to our rapidly depleting environment. Unless you strongly believe in Elon Musk‘s idea of making Mars as another habitable planet, do remember that there really is no 'Planet B' in this whole universe.