While travelling across Russia I saw plenty of freight trains, each made up of a variety of different rolling stock. So how are each of these freight wagons identified?
As with every other rail operator, the Russian Railways have a classification system – one inherited from the former USSR and also used by other operators in the Commonwealth of Independent States. Each wagon has a eight digit number to uniquely identify it, as well as a model number from the «Единая нумерация моделей вагонов» (Uniform System for Classification of Rolling Stock).
Roughly translated, Russian language Wikipedia describes the system as such
The Uniform System for Classification of Rolling Stock is a system to identify freight wagons, passenger carriages, electric and diesel railcars, metro trains, and trams in the former-USSR and now the CIS and Russia. Put into effect in 1976, all rolling stock produced by domestic enterprises is assigned a model number.
This model number consists of two parts, separated by a hyphen. The first part indicates the type of the rolling stock, while the second part refers to a specific model of rolling stock. The second part is usually divided again into two parts – the first digit usually indicates the company that developed the design, and the second part being the relevant drawing number.
The top level classification groups as as follows:
10 – covered hopper wagons with bottom discharge for apatite concentrate (fertiliser)
11 – boxcars
12 – gondola
13 – flat wagon with sides
14 – Транспортёр wagon (Schnabel car)
15 – tank wagon
16 – refrigerated wagons
17 – covered hopper wagon
18 – freight wagon bogies
19 – grain hopper wagon
20, 22, 23, 25, 26 – specialised industrial product wagon
31, 32 – 4-axle wagons, dump trucks
33 – 6-axle wagons, dump trucks
34 – 8-axle wagons, dump trucks
41 – narrow gauge boxcars
42 – narrow gauge rail cars and hopper cars
43 – narrow-gauge platform cars
45 – narrow-gauge tank cars
47 – narrow gauge wagons, dump trucks
48 – narrow gauge passenger cars
52 – narrow-gauge self propelled railcars
55 – hopper cars
61 – passenger cars
62 – electric multiple units
63 – diesel multiple units
65 – passenger train power van
68 – passenger car bogies
71 – trams
81 – subway cars
RA – rail buses
Note the appearance of two non-rail vehicles items in the list – type 18 “freight wagon bogies” and type 68 “passenger car bogies”.
In most cases the most visible number on the side of a piece of rolling stock is the wagon number – with the model number nowhere to be found. This makes identifying wagon types difficult – a wagon number to model lookup is required. Some wagon lookups I’ve completed include:
Model 12-1704-04 “4 axle gondola with floor hatches” – numbered #54042643.
Model 11-270 boxvan #24582983.
Model 11-739 covered grain hopper #95055836.
Model 20-4015 “4 axle wagon for transportation of pellets and sinter” #58804816.
Model 15-1780 liquefied gas tank wagon #76605112.
Model 31-673 side dump car #55824874.
And model 23-4000 log wagon #91503227.