SouthField residents who want to spend their free time relaxing in an Easy Boy recliner may unconsciously be part of a recycling project that started in their own community.
Sustainability is a key element at SouthField, and we’re committed to limiting environmental impact during construction. The team is using the latest techniques to ensure that material salvaged from the former South Weymouth Naval Air Station remains an integral part of the development.
One important consideration is the amount of material that can be recycled. Material from demolished runways, for example, has been crushed on site and used to build roads and sidewalks. Currently, the transport legacy of the former air base may also find a way into the residences through the recycling of on-site railroad tracks.
There is nearly 2,000 feet of disused railroad track at SouthField and it needs a specialized pair of hands to remove it properly.
The Iron Horse Preservation Society are those hands and, in keeping with the sustainable objectives of the development, have been appointed to make sure that the key elements of the project (the track and ties) are recycled as opposed to being disposed of in a landfill.
Formed in 2005, Iron Horse Preservation is the enterprise of Jim and Joe Hattrup, two brothers who set themselves a goal of “being able to get rid of overgrown corridors and turn them into recreational rail trails.”
Removal of rusting track wouldn’t seem to fit into the whole sustainable equation but Iron Horse is a company who prides itself on letting nothing go to waste while at the same time creating railway trails that can encourage a healthy community lifestyle.
Joe Hattrup, a former Marine who will be overseeing the work at SouthField, believes that the people “are the blood and the heartbeat of the community”. He is keen to point out that ““the communities that we get moving are the communities that keep us moving” with Iron Horse dedicated to highlighting the recreational opportunities of a reclaimed rail corridor.
Proud to be a non-profit organization, their early successes in the preservation of America’s railroad heritage came through the government who brought the company in to remove track and railroad ties from defense bases that no longer needed an internal railway.
“We were railroad contractors before Iron Horse was a company so we have a background in the business,” explained Joe. “We would just take the railroad track in exchange for cleaning it up. We were a little successful with that but the government always wanted to spend money, that’s the way they roll.”
Branching out into the private sector was the next step. Iron Horse has already been involved in over 200 miles worth of projects ranging from a few thousand feet of track to a distance of twelve miles. The entire track and ties recovered are recycled and “nothing goes to waste”, including the 2,000 feet that will be repurposed from SouthField.
“These rails themselves will end up as a recycled product,” says Joe. “Sometimes they could end up going to a foundry but in this case a lot of this material could end up in parts for La-Z-Boy chairs. It’s kind of funny but it is excellent steel, it just gets essentially heated up, re-rolled into iron and then punched out for parts. The same iron gets used in bed frames under the boxspring – another product that this material goes into.”
The railroad ties will also find a new life as Iron Horse ship them out to a company in Pennsylvania that turns them into fuel for boilers, creating electricity through sustainability.
“It’s 100% recycled, nothing is going to a landfill,” Joe says. “Nothing is being dragged off to some place, capsulated and forgotten about. Everything that we are pulling out is going to go to a use. That’s the exciting thing about railroad tracks, a lot of people assume that they go to landfills but they would be wrong.”
People who see the future in a more sustainable light are often dismissed as eco-warriors but Iron Horse is not trying to force any green credentials down anyone’s throat.
“We have a very civic-minded presence and we’re interested in the body of work that we do,” Joe states. “It’s not just about doing the work, paying jobs and paying for equipment. We want to do something good too, that’s why we are a non-profit. We’re not trying to save the world but if you can make jobs and do something worthwhile on the way…I think that is a good thing.”
A sustainable world is something that we can all dream of and the developers at SouthField are doing their best to make that dream a reality.
We’ll post photos of the SouthField rail preservation project as it proceeds. Stay tuned!