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Soviet Union

Organization and Equipment of the Railroads

The Soviet Railroads (Sovetskie zheleznye dorogi--SZD) were managed and operated by the all-union (see Glossary) Ministry of Railways. The ministry was divided into twenty-three main administrations, each responsible for an overall segment of the railroads' operating or administrative management. Directly under the ministry were the thirty-two regional railroads, which in fact constituted the SZD. The railroads were named after republics, major cities, river basins, or larger geographic areas. The October Railroad, headquartered in Leningrad, was of course named in honor of the October (Bolshevik) Revolution. Each regional railroad, except the Moldavian, was subdivided into divisions. The divisions were generally named after their headquartered stations (see table 40, Appendix A).

In 1989 the most important lines carried heavy freight and passenger traffic and were electrified. Among them were lines linking industrial areas, maritime ports, and foreign countries. Also, major population centers were interconnected and linked to vacation areas. Lines with steep grades, as in mountainous regions, were often electrified (see table 41, Appendix A).

The railroads had about 7,000 marshaling yards, of which 100 were of major importance. Computer technology has gradually increased the efficiency and quality of train handling at the yards, many of which had centralized hump release controls and automatic rolling speed devices. Such automated procedures as checking a train's weight and composition, as well as modernized communications facilities, have sped train formation and dispatch and provided yard management with advance information on the composition of arriving trains. Nevertheless, in the mid-1980s classification yards were unable to process efficiently the required number of trains.

Automated signaling equipment and devices helped improve traffic control and train safety, although the latter remained a problem in 1989. Some 20 percent of track lines were under centralized train control. This enabled the railroads to increase track capacity substantially, particularly over long distances. In 1989 more than 60 percent of the network was equipped with the automatic block system, which regulated distances between trains, as well as with automatic cab signaling.

Electric and diesel-electric locomotives were the basic categories of traction. Within these categories were about twenty versions of electric locomotives and about twenty-five versions of diesel-electric locomotives. In 1981 some 1,377 electric locomotives and 6,870 diesel-electric locomotives were in mainline freight service. The self-propelled ER 200 train set operated on limited-schedule service on the Moscow-Leningrad line in the mid1980s . Composed of traction units at each end and between three and six married sets of powered cars, the ER 200 had a maximum speed of 200 kilometers per hour and was the Soviet counterpart to French, Japanese, and American high-speed trains.

In 1982 the railroads had an estimated 1,856,000 freight cars. The fleet consisted for the most part of four-axle (two bogies) cars of sixty-two- to sixty-five-ton capacity. Nevertheless, sixaxle (three bogies) and eight-axle (four bogies) cars of 120- to 125-ton capacity were increasing in numbers. These high-tonnage cars raised train weights without extending train lengths. Maximum axle-loads ranged from twenty-three to twenty-five tons. In 1989 all cars were equipped with automatic couplers and brakes, and over half had roller bearings. New freight cars were designed for maximum speeds of 120 kilometers per hour, but normal operating speeds were limited to 90 kilometers per hour at full load and 100 kilometers per hour when empty.

In addition to the basic types of freight cars--boxcars, hoppers, gondolas, and flatcars--the inventory included specialized types for transporting specific cargos, such as automobiles, dry and liquid bulk materials, grain, perishables, and materials under pressure. Several types of cars transported passengers. Depending on train sets, their passenger capacity ranged from 384 to 1,484. Long-distance and international trains were composed of compartmented cars, sleepers, and dining cars. New cars were designed for maximum speeds of 200 kilometers per hour. Most of the passenger rolling stock was of foreign manufacture, primarily from the German Democratic Republic (East Germany).

Data as of May 1989


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