In order to overcome the force of erosion, you need a retaining wall that can prevent dirt from sliding even when that dirt is completely saturated. While cement is a great choice for a retaining wall, concrete is not much to look at. If you want to go with a less modern look for your home, or you simply want something with more character than concrete, railroad ties are a good alternative. You just have to make sure that you build your wall correctly.
A Sure Foundation
The first key to building a solid wall from railroad ties is to bury the first run of ties under the ground. If it seems like a waste to bury your decorative ties, then buy some treated lumber that is about the same diameter as your ties. Because you shouldn't be able to see this row, it won't matter that it does not match. In any case, having one row of your wall buried will prevent it from sliding forward later on as the dirt behind it pushes against it.
The second key to a strong retaining wall is to use spikes to connect each row you add to the wall to the row beneath it. Railroad ties are heavy, but if you just have your ties sitting one on top of the other, they can still slide and thus will not make a solid wall.
Lean in to It
As you add each row of ties, make sure the front edge of the tie is an inch back from the front edge of the tie below it. This will create a tendency for the wall to lean back into the dirt that it is meant to hold in place.
Make it Fun-Sized
The last key to a solid retaining wall is to not make it too tall. If you have fifteen feet of slope to hold back, don't plan on making one wall that is fifteen feet tall. Instead. you should make three five-foot sections of wall and terraces in between each section. This will make your wall more stable, but it will also create flowerbeds that you can use to beautify the area around the walls.
Railroad ties are a great option for making retaining walls, but you have to know what you are doing. Luckily, it is not super-complicated work, and as long as you start your wall correctly, it should last for years to come. For more information, contact local professionals like L & L Excavation & Landscaping.