The aim of this study was to investigate the main mechanical properties of sapwood and heartwood in white and red oaks. Samples of wood were taken from 26 oak beams prepared to be used for railway sleepers, of which 62% were from white oak (either Quercus petraea or Q. robur) and 38% from red oak group, represented by Q. cerris. For both oak groups, the following parameters were determined: the density, bending strength, modulus of elasticity (MOE), compression strength and Brinell hardness of sapwood and heartwood. Multiple analyses were done to compare the properties of sapwood and heartwood, as well as the properties of white vs. red oaks. The results revealed no significant differences between sapwood and heartwood properties but statistically significant differences were found between the properties of white and red oaks. The research results contradict the common opinion of users that the mechanical properties of sapwood are inferior to those of heartwood. Investigations revealed that Q. cerris had even better mechanical properties than Q. robur or Q. petraea, which also contradicts the common opinion that its mechanical properties are inferior to those of white oaks. The results help to understand better wood variability for optimal selection of timber for constructions.