Hopper or tank? Hot dog or baby? How we made an express course about the railway for IT people and not only

Hopper or tank? Hot dog or baby? How we made an express course about the railway for IT people and not only

The first freight company is engaged in railway transportation – but not all of our employees had experience in the railway industry before joining PGK, especially IT specialists. To help beginners immerse themselves in the topic, we made a special introductory course about what kind of cars there are, how railway shipments differ, and where the name “boot” came from. Oleg Demchenko, deputy director of the Rostov branch of PGK for the organization of transportation, helps us understand the terms and concepts.

Be careful: by the end of the text, you might also learn something new about the railroad. So, where does the immersion in the topic of rail transportation begin:

Who transports goods

All railway companies belong to one of four types: infrastructure owner (of locomotives and tracks), operator (rolling stock owner), consignor (cargo owner) and consignee. The owner of the infrastructure in Russia is one, there are many operators, consignors and consignees. At the same time, the same company can act in several guises at once. For example, if a large energy holding has its own wagons and it sends raw materials from one of its enterprises to another, it will be the operator, the consignor and the consignee at the same time.

To identify such subjects (senders, recipients, operators, etc.) in information systems, universal four-digit codes are used, which are assigned to companies by the Territorial Centers of Firm Transport Service of Roads (TTSFPTO). A unique code is assigned to each legal entity and does not change throughout its activity – but if the company is liquidated, its code can be transferred to another company.

What are the goods transported in?

All types of wagons can be grouped into two broad categories: universal and specialized. Universal rolling stock is covered, semi-wagons (the most popular type of rolling stock on the railways) and platforms. They transport coal, metal, construction cargo.

Semi-wagons in Russia are in the first place in terms of popularity – that’s for sure. This is the most demanded rolling stock, taking into account the fact that our country is developed for coal cutting, metallurgy – such cargoes are most often transported by semi-wagons.

Special rolling stock is much more diverse. These are, for example, fitting platforms – containers are transported on them. There are hoppers – wagons designed in the form of a hole with hatches in the lower part. They carry bulk cargo and cement. There are wagons for the transportation of bulk cargo: tank containers (in fact, this is a container for transporting liquids on the platform – there is a barrel on the platform) and tanks (they are not removed from the platform and have a large capacity).

Acids and liquid fertilizers are usually transported in tank containers, the same, plus oil or food cargoes in tankers. Tank cars are the second most popular type of rail car and can vary depending on the cargo being carried. For example, a tank for transporting bitumen must be equipped with a special vapor jacket to keep the bitumen in a liquid state.

Even if special conditions are not required for cargo transportation (as for bitumen), the wagon still acquires “specialization” — for example, only cement is loaded into a hopper for transporting cement. And oil cannot be poured into the tank in which alcohol was transported – simply because the new cargo will put a different load on the axle, and this can threaten traffic safety.

What is important for efficient freight transportation

One of the important characteristics associated with the movement of wagons on the railway (sometimes it is even called the most important indicator of the operation of railways). wagon turnover. It is usually considered the time from loading to the next loading of the wagon. Operator companies, such as PGK, use this indicator during budget planning:

Compliance with the calculated indicator has a very serious effect on the profitability of the car. If we set a half-wagon turnover of 13 days, and we carry 15, we lost two days in profitability. For the company, the wagon turnover is a very important indicator for achieving the planned profitability.

The discrepancy between the planned turnover shows not only the lost profit — it can, for example, indicate that the company has taken more orders than it can fulfill:

We simply may not have enough fleet: we accepted an application from a client, slowed down in turnover, did not bring him a wagon. And this entails financial problems, image problems, and many others.

Therefore, transport companies constantly monitor this indicator. For example, in PGC branches, the turnover is monitored and adjusted every month: if the actual indicators deviate from the planned ones for reasons independent of the company, the planned turnover is revised and recalculated taking into account the freight base.

Another important characteristic empty mileage ratio. This is the time when the car is without load. For a rolling stock operator, it is desirable that the value of this coefficient be minimal, then the car earns more and works more efficiently.

If we came from Western Siberia to the North Caucasus and picked up the load here back in the direction of Western Siberia, it is very good for business. The car works efficiently. And if we send an empty wagon back to Siberia, the coefficient of empty mileage appears here.

At first glance, in order to reduce the coefficient to zero, it is quite simple to wait in place every time until the corresponding shipment turns up. In fact, if the carrier company has a large service contract, it cannot wait and waste time on the delivery of other transit cargo – there are fines for delays. Therefore, the wagons have to be sent empty, especially if the train has arrived in a region where there are no large enterprises, and there is no one to load it.

Small owners work a little differently. They take the accompanying load in any case, try to pick up the load so that they can drive at least half the way loaded. Only large operators can afford to transport empty wagons.

How goods are transported

Not only the wagons are different, but also the types of shipments: there are individual, group, route and container shipments. Carriage – when the sender of cargo loads only one car, the group car can consist of groups from 1 to 3, from 3 to 5, and from 5 to 20, from 20 and more.

The most popular route shipment. Such a train moves without “overhauls” — only the locomotive and the locomotive crew change on the way. Due to this, a high speed of movement is achieved: according to the plan, the “route” should cover 550 km per day, a single carriage – 330 km. The difference of 220 km is a decent distance, like from Rostov to Krasnodar, and companies are naturally interested in their cargo being delivered as soon as possible. However, not everyone can afford route dispatch – these are large enterprises with their own developed infrastructure, access roads and locomotives.

If route shipments are used mainly for the transportation of coal, metal, fertilizers, then container shipments are used for the transportation of food products, goods of daily demand and cars. However, containers can also be convenient for other shippers – for example, if they do not have their own railway infrastructure, and the cargo needs to be delivered “door to door”: from the station to the final destination, the container can be transported by road.

How long does the cargo take?

The speed of movement depends on the type of shipment – one wagon goes longer, a group of wagons a little faster. The technical or departure route will go much faster. The difference in speed is related, among other things, to stops: if in the case of a route departure the train stops at a large sorting station for no more than 40 minutes, then a car of a group or single-car departure can stay at the station from 12 to 24 hours, depending on the technology of operation stations

The car arrives on a dismantling train at a sorting station, and it is processed. If this is a long distance, then to another sorting station, and so on until it reaches its destination.

But in general, the carrier has Price List 10-01, which determines the terms of delivery of the wagon from point A to point B. At the same time, the delivery term does not depend in any way on the importance of the consignor or the “breakthrough” capabilities of the seller who negotiates the deal with him – it is regulated by law.

All this is basic knowledge that helps to get closer to understanding what railway transportation is made of. It is no less important to know the client: what he is transporting, where he is located and what possibilities there are for receiving empty and loaded wagons in the adjacent railway station.


And it’s also good to be able to understand railway slang – at least to speak the same language with professionals. Here is what you can hear in the conversation of the railway workers:

  • A barrel is a tank car

  • Slow down – reduce speed

  • Jaundice is a signal vest

  • Railway canvas – rails

  • The kid is a small single-section locomotive.

  • A mechanic is a driver of an electric locomotive or diesel locomotive

  • Nagin – delay reduction

  • Teplushka – a car for transporting people

  • The skirt is the lower part of the locomotive

  • Floor cabinet – a box on the railway section with a control panel (alarming, centralizing and blocking) device and power devices

  • The field is part of the railway section at the station

Cherevyk is a railway name, a folk name. In general, this is a regulator of the speed of movement of wagons. For example, when going down a hill that does not have automated car decelerators, he puts brake shoes under the cars. Brake shoe is no longer slang, but terminology, a special object that is placed under a wagon so that the collision speed when connecting one group of wagons with another does not exceed 3 kilometers per hour. Otherwise, there will be serious consequences: the impact may break the boilers in the tanks, derailment, flight of the cargo, etc. By the way, the hills are not some random height differences on the route, but special sections equipped with sorting stations.

How the course appeared

The idea to make a course “Fundamentals of railway transportation” arose at the Center for Training and Development of the Personnel of PGK. It all started with the fact that with the growth of the company, people who had no experience working on the railway began to come to it: first it was a commercial block, and then a development block. For example, a person could be an excellent salesperson – but without immersion in the specifics of the business, he did not understand what he was selling. That is why we made a special introductory course so that all new employees of PGK knew the basics of railway transportation, understood the principles by which a car moves from point A to point B, could speak the same language with colleagues, with customers, and with the owner of the railway infrastructure. .

Image / First cargo company

Now the course consists of 11 online lessons lasting about half an hour each. The course includes photos, illustrations and interactive card blocks. At the beginning of each lesson, it is suggested to take a small test to check your knowledge. Those who did not score enough points are encouraged to return to the material they have studied and try to take the test again.

For our employees, the introductory course is not the only way to temporarily “get out of IT”. In addition, colleagues can, for example, go out into the fields – we talked about how our “Digital Wagon” team visited a wagon repair depot and saw first-hand the processes that their IT product calculates here.

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