Lawsuit Raises Concerns About Safety of Norfolk Southern’s Railroad Ties

Norfolk Southern’s railroad ties are falling apart faster than expected. That’s bad news for the Norfolk-based company, and railroad workers and passengers who face increased dangers.

The problem was noted recently by The Associated Press. The company revealed in a federal lawsuit that it faces replacing millions of defective railroad ties on its tracks because they are deteriorating faster than expected.

The issue is serious because degrading ties can impact the safety of the railroad as a whole. Railroad workers may be placed in elevated danger from the issue and Amtrak passenger services also use Norfolk Southern tracks.

The issue of Norfolk Southern’s railroad ties should be seen in the context of deteriorating tracks across the country which are causing more accidents.


Last year, the Washington Metropolitan Area Transit Authority reported poor track conditions along the Orange and Silver lines led to the derailment of a Metro train.

These kinds of accidents are particularly alarming when hazards or inflammable materials are involved. A recent report noted of 31 crashes involving crude or ethanol on America’s railroads from 2013 to 2016, 17 were related to track problems.

In its lawsuit, Norfolk Southern blames Boatright Railroad Products Inc., an Alabama company that produces its railroad ties for failing to use the proper coating.

Norfolk Southern claims instead of using materials that preserved the wood like creosote, the company ordered employees to make the ties black by whatever method.

The lawsuit alleged Boatright used motor oil, paint, anti-freeze and other substances to make the wood black. Boatright is also accused of providing misleading samples to a consultant for the railroad who was checking up on the quality of the work.

The litigation alleges the Alabama firm’s employees were told to take the consultant hunting when he was meant to be checking the railroad ties it was treating at its plant.

Norfolk Southern’s railroad ties are considered integral to the safety of its operations, the Virginia-based company states in its lawsuit.

The complaint states untreated ties can “degrade and deteriorate prematurely, therefore, jeopardizing the safety and the integrity of Norfolk Southern’s rail network as a whole.”

These kinds of allegations, if substantiated, alarm me as a Norfolk-based railroad worker accident attorney. We expect the big railroads and their contractors who put safety first and not to cut corners. If you have been hurt on the railroads, please call us at (757) 455-0077.

John Cooper