I believe that there are roads (streets) paved with Western Australian
Jarrah in England. I can't testify to this having never been there, but
in the dim dark recesses of my mind I recall being told this while doing
my apprenticeship. I think the blocks were planted on end.
In New York State there were numerous "plank roads" in the 1800's. They
acquired a reputation for uncommon slipperiness, and thus danger to
horses and cargo. The wood used was whatever was at hand and in abundant
supply. Frequently, as in the Catskills, this would have been Canadian
Hemlock. To this day, hiking trails there and elsewhere occasionally
have small wooden bridges (just big enough for a person) thrown across
small streams and with a light coat of green algae/slime/whatever are
indeed slippery as all heck. After they were torn up, remnants of said
"plank roads" are said to have survived well into the 20th century in
piles that moldered in obscure nooks of the countryside. I do not recall
having heard whether the planks were treated in any way.
If your goal is just to see how long untreated wood will last before
rotting, build yourself a back porch! :-) If made from untreated wood
you will go through several during your lifetime.
Growing up in CT, we lived in a house that my Grandfather had bought for his
family in the early 20's. Although he never drove, and my father didn't own
a car until 1953, we had a wide driveway/pathway... about 12 feet wide and
50-60 feet long... leading to the caning shed. It was made of endgrain
treated timbers about 4" thick and about the size of a standard brick.
Considering my Grandfather's immigrant roots, I'm sure they were "free", and
probably throwaways from the machine foundry where he worked. When we left
the house in 1959 they were still there... in fact, they were still there in
1985 when I last visited the house.
Tough stuff, huh?
Used to be common in UK railway stations about 100 years ago. Milk was
delivered by rail (first train of the morning was always known as the
"milk train") and in metal churns. To keep noise down when unloading
these, the light freight platform and driveway at urban passenger
stations would be payed with end-grain wooden blocks to reduce the
noise. These were commonly made from recycled end-grain blocks, the
wedge-shaped blocks used to fill Maunsell-pattern railway carriage
wheels (these wheels had an iron core, a steel tyre and a wood block
filler between, supposedly to quieten noise).
I've also worked in heavy machine shops (car body panel press shops)
where the whole floor (several acres) was end-grain maple blocks. They
were an inch thick in grease (sheet lubricant from the presses) too,
which made even standing up difficult. I used to wear a suit, tie,
rubber gloves and hobnail boots!
When I was growing up my family had a piece of land along the Little
Kanawa River (West Virginia). It had a couple of creek beds that my
dad built bridges over by setting 4 telephone poles across the creek
(creek was about 4 to 6 feet below the bridge deck) and then planking
them with rough cut oak planks (about 2" thick x 10" wide). Somewhere
along the road he coated them with used motor oil, but when installed
they were fairly green and untreated. I know that they were used for
about 10 years. How long they lasted after that I don't know (this was
almost 40 years ago). A thought would be to excavate the drive deep
enough to lay telephone poles or railroad ties as sleepers and plank
on top so that the "roadway" is not in direct contact with the ground.
Interestingly enough, in addition to the corduroy and plank roads of
the 18th and 19th century, early 20th century automobile racetracks
were sometimes made of wood because ordinary road surfaces weren't
smooth enough to race on. With time these plain wood tracks decayed,
loosing planks which were set on edge as I recall. I once read an
account by an early driver about driving around holes and also heads
appearing in front of him as kids under the track would stick their
heads through the holes to see the race up close.
Sounds like the best choice would be IPE, http://ipe-wood.com/faq.html ,
as it is impervious to insects, rot and fungus and about is three times
harder than teak, cedar, PT-SYP or other weather resistant woods.
OP was thinking about oak. White oak would be the choice, red oak is
porous and rots readily.
Other domestic woods that might be better are black locust, very hard
and rot resistant, and osage orange (aka bodark, or hedge).
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