Growing Texas-Based Company Recycles Railroad Ties

Bailey Bark Materials, Inc. Relies on Peterson Grinder for Tough Job
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NACOGDOCHES, Texas – Growth is on the minds of the principals at Bailey Bark Materials, Inc. And well it should be.

Since its inception in 1983, Bailey Bark Materials has added employees and product lines – and of course, equipment and vehicles. Ten years ago the company added a second site in Shreveport, Louisiana. But it is still growing and planning to add 20 employees to the Nacogdoches location in the near future.

Readers get the idea. Bailey Bark Materials is a fast-growing company. Bailey Bark Materials is owned by Jeff Bailey (president) and Billy Bailey Jr. (vice president) and their brothers, Brad Bailey and Shane Bailey.

Jeff and Billy Jr., as well as Billy Bailey Sr. and Jennifer Harrell, corporate manager, talked with TimberLine for this article. Billy Sr., Jeff and Billy Jr. started Bailey Bark Materials (BBM).

“We’re one of the largest locally- and family-owned and operated mulch and bark businesses in Texas, probably,” said Jeff. And mulch and bark are just part of a diverse product line that includes aggregate, sod, compost, playground substrate, and more.

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Recycling railroad ties is good for business and good for the environment. The process of recycling railroad ties also gives a very good workout to any grinder.

Over its 34 years in business, BBM has had a great deal of experience with grinders. In early 2017, when it purchased a grinder to handle railroad tie grinding at its Shreveport facility, the company chose a Peterson 5710D horizontal grinder with the Peterson R+ option for tramp metal.

Peterson, an Astec Industries Co., is headquartered in Eugene, Oregon. BBM bought its Peterson 5710D from Texas Timberjack in Lufkin, Texas and worked with Charles Bailey (no relation) the proprietor there.

There’s no question about the primary reason BBM chose the Peterson 5710D horizontal grinder. “It’s because it had a railroad package,” said Jeff. “[We get] lots of ties in the yard at Shreveport.”

One demo was all it took. When the team at BBM saw what the Peterson 5710 could do, the grinder got the nod.

The R+ option on the Peterson 5710D incorporates very heavy-duty internal components that stand up to the metal the grinder encounters. The track grinder is generally used in the Shreveport yard, but it is sometimes taken to mill sites to grind for customers.

“It does a really good job,” said Jeff of the Peterson 5710D with R+ option. Besides grinding the ties and mill waste, the machine is sometimes used to grind plastic railroad ties.

Ground material from wood ties heads to electricity generating companies that use biomass fuel. The ground plastic goes to plastic recyclers that use it in producing more plastic ties.

Keeping BBM strong means looking at varied ways to bolster the bottom line and to change with markets. “When we started, we had 2 trucks,” said Billy Jr. “Now we have 31 trucks.” More trucks are on order.

Making the most of every resource – that’s a phrase that defines BBM. Even wood byproducts taken in as raw material is scoured for wood with value. Billy Jr. explained the company purchased a portable band mill to extract salvageable material for boards.

Railroad tie grinder is actually a minor part of the product line at BBM, said Billy Jr. But it’s an important one.

The creosote in ties makes an excellent heat source, perfect for boiler fuel. The key to realizing its full worth – along with that in the wood — is to achieve a consistent and relatively small ground product, which the Peterson 5710D does.

The Peterson grinder stands up to the challenges. “We hit some really big metal,” said Billy Jr. “It’s been excellent. The operator, Billy Kestner, claimed it’s the best he’s seen [in his experience with grinders].”

BBM has 68 employees, and is in the process of expanding its staff roster. Twelve of the employees are at the Shreveport facility.

The Nacogdoches, Texas headquarters and founding location of BBM is in east Texas. Most wood byproduct for the Lone State facility comes from within a 100-mile radius of Nacogdoches. Deliveries go to a much wider area in Texas, Arkansas and Louisiana. Some contract haulers are used, but the majority of product is delivered by in-house trucks and drivers.

The BBM Nacogdoches site spans 50 acres. The Shreveport site sits on 20 acres.

Billy said the versatility of the Peterson 5710D is great. “We do some land clearing jobs,” he explained. And the Peterson horizontal grinder has proved a perfect fit for those efforts.

Time is a precious commodity to a busy enterprise. For that reason, the Peterson 5710D is not switched between railroad ties and other grinding more often. The changeover from the R+ package takes about two hours, said Billy Jr. That’s not too long, but switching back and forth for a few hours at a time does not make sense.

The array of products from BBM is complemented by a growing list of services. For example, BBM will maintain chicken houses for customers by not only delivering sawdust and shavings, but also by cleaning out the old material. The litter and shavings collected become part of compost that is sold to farmers.

Mushroom compost is another product in the BBM line. New lines keep emerging. “We’re expanding into paper chip hauling,” said Billy.

“The paper chips will go to International Paper,” said Jennifer. She is not surprised by the ingenuity the principals at BBM have brought to tailoring their product line.

From her vantage as corporate manager at BBM, Jennifer has observed a unifying characteristic of the owner-team at BBM. “They are very hard workers,” she explained.

Several different grinders are used to produce mulch from bark and wood. Machines from Diamond Z, Morbark and Rotochopper are among them.

“We do all kinds of custom mixes,” said Jeff, explaining their approach to mulch. Fertilizer may be mixed with mulch, for instance. In Shreveport, a coloring system from Sahara is in use.

Decorative mulch, such as black fine, is just one of many selections offered by BBM, which will also work with customers to get the mix that suits their needs. All mulch is sold bulk.

BBM sells an IPEMA-certified playground material. (IPEMA is the International Play Equipment Manufacturers Association.) And BBM is an authorized distributor for Sof Solutions.

A member of the Texas Nursery and Landscape Association (TNLA), BBM emphasizes the significance of the reusereduce- recycle approach to doing business. TNLA is headquartered in Austin, Texas. It serves as an advocacy and educational voice for its members (who are part of the green industry).

Whichever product BBM is making, maintaining high-quality is the focus to the process from start to finish. The aggregate product line includes Arizona flagstone, Colorado Creek rock, mossy boulders and more. Crushed concrete is also sold.

Grinding railroad ties has been part of the BBM’s repertoire for about five years, explained Jeff. Prior to purchasing the Peterson 5710D with the R+ package, the process could get bogged down easily if a piece of metal disrupted the performance of the grinder being used. The Peterson rarely meets a piece of metal it cannot handle.

With the highest power to weight ratio of any Peterson grinder, the Peterson 5710D is designed for high production and built for frequent moves. Peterson, like BBM, is committed to extracting maximum value from all products – and doing so in the most environmentally friendly way. Turning low-grade organic material into high-value products furthers the commitment.

Keen on railroad tie recycling – it’s another vital service that ensures all wood fiber sees maximum use (reuse), Peterson offers a primer on railroad tie recycling at its website. ( It recommends using Terra Select screens to meet exacting specification of purchasers of ground material.

The IQAN control panel offered by Peterson for the 5710D horizontal grinder provides the operator with information that enhance the efficient operation of the machine. Engine and system parameters are all readily available to the operator via a large LCD display.

It is possible to operate the Peterson 5710D via wireless remote. That means an operator can be in a loader and also operate the grinder.

The 5710D can be towed. Peterson offers an optional tow dolly.

The ownership and fraternal team at BBM appreciates the independence the company provides to them. “We just like working for ourselves,” said Jeff.

Children of the owners are now involved in both locations of the company too, said Jennifer. And also have some oversight responsibilities at the Shreveport facility.

The strength that derives from being a family business is something that Jeff and Billy Jr. both appreciate. Talking with them and with Billy Sr. and Jennifer, one begins to sense why. There’s a huge amount of enthusiasm for the Bailey Bark Materials enterprise and all that the company is accomplishing – and will accomplish as it continues to grow.

Drag racing is a major passion for the Bailey family when away from their business. The Baileys are the proud owners of Pine Valley Raceway (PVR). As a drag racing family, they saw a need for a quality track in East Texas and started construction of PVR in 2000. The International Hot Rod Association (IHRA) sanctioned the track upon completion in 2003, and racing began in late March of 2004. Located in Lufkin, the track is 3,500 feet in length from the starting line, and the grandstands will seat 1500 people. And all four brothers drag race. So, too, does Billy Sr. Racing keeps the Bailey family competitive in both business and on the track.