They needed some method of keeping track of the lives of ties, so like their European counterparts they decided to mark them.Early methods included: By the late 1800's American railroads settled on the use of date nails.Dating nails should be driven the same day the tie is put in. in diameter, having stamped therein two figures designating the year; the figures to be 3/8-in. If after the fourth immersion there is a copper-colored deposit on the sample, or the zinc has been removed, the lot from which the sample was taken shall be rejected. The standard solution of copper sulphate shall consist of a solution of 34.5 parts of crystallized copper sulphate in 100 parts of water. (2) Section foremen should be especially careful to see that the marks or nails intended to identify the ties are not injured or destroyed. The nail shall be made of iron or steel, galvanized with a coating of zinc, evenly and uniformly applied, so that it will adhere firmly to the surface of the steel; it shall be ¼-in. This solution shall have a specific gravity of 1.185 at 70 degrees Fahrenheit. Available through is a very active community of date nail collectors and traders. (b) The standard solution of copper sulphate is prepared by dissolving 36 parts of crystallized copper sulphate in 100 parts of water, then adding enough cupric oxide to neutralize any free acid.
By the early 1920's, however, most of these railroads returned to the practice of placing nails in every treated tie.Add to that the nails which, tell wood, treatment, and other information, and toss in all date nails used in poles and other timbers, and the total number of different nails from this continent easily exceeds 3,500.Western Europe suffered a timber shortage much earlier than North America, which is why railroads in France, England and Germany were chemically treating ties long before companies here.The newest date nail in a tie in North America is an aluminum 94 found in CSX track in Virginia.The decline of the use of date nails can be attributed mainly to two things: the perfection of treatment techniques, and to the reliance of stamps in the ends of the ties for records.