Sitting, dining and sleeping carriages are a common sight around the world. But in Russia the army operates a special type of train – the банно-прачечный дезинфекционный поезд (БПДП). Translated to English, that is the “bath and laundry disinfection train” or “bath on wheels”.
The first “bath on wheels” was deployed to the railways of Russia in 1904, with 38 such trains in service by the time of the 1941-1945 Great Patriotic War. A handful of bath trains remained in service throughout the Cold War and survived the demise of the USSR, being deployed to Chechnya in 1994, as well as the Second Chechen War in 1999, still with steam locomotives in tow to provide the hot water!
Work to build a modern bath train commenced in the early 2000s at the Tver Carriage Works, entering service in late 2005 – the steam locomotive retired, with a diesel boiler to provide an autonomous source of steam.
This 2004 article from the «Независимое военное обозрение» (Independent Military Review) section of Russian newspaper «Независимая газета» (Nezavisimaya Gazeta) has the full story on the operation of the bath train.
Bath on Wheels
20 August 2004
The village of Petrovsk, that in the Yaroslavl region, is a place in its own way remarkable. Here, in the railway dead-end of the 1005th Central Warehouse of the Ministry of Defense of the Russian Federation, there is an unusual train – the 12th bath and laundry disinfection train (BCPP) – nicknamed “Bath on Wheels”.
The BAPP is a unique phenomenon in the Armed Forces. There are no analogues in any army of the world. But domestic military strategists realised its importance for the defence capability of the country at the beginning of the last century. As told in the Military Medical Museum of the Ministry of Defence of the Russian Federation, for the first time the train-bath appeared in Russia in 1904 and was intended for the needs of the Red Cross. Then it consisted of four cars: laundries with hand washing machines and disinfection chambers.
During the Russo-Japanese campaign, the mobile sauna served hospitals and infirmaries in the Far East. Although the staff was small – 14 people, the amount of work impressed: for 10 hours processed up to 400 kg of laundry, which, by the standards of that time, was quite a lot. The bath-laundry train was also actively used during the First World War.
Over time, the Armed Forces’ need for bath and laundry compounds only increased. If there were only 9 of them before the beginning of the Great Patriotic War in the Soviet Army, in the initial period of the war (1941-1942) the number soared to 100. Usually these convoys were located in the districts of the railway distribution stations of the fronts, where they were attached to the sanitary checkpoints.
In comparison with their predecessors, their structure also somewhat changed. In addition to the bath-disinfection department and laundry, the train got auxiliary carriages. As a result, it markedly lengthened. So, the bath-disinfection department included 4 wagons: changing room, shower room, disinfection room, dressing room. One of the wagons was equipped with two steam-formalin disinfectors for 60 sets of uniforms. Mechanical equipment was installed in four laundry cars. Two water tanks, a power plant with a metalwork shop, a kitchen, a dining room, a warehouse and a wagon for the personal train were included in the auxiliary. As a result, its performance has significantly increased. In an hour, up to 100 people could go through a full sanitization.
After the war, the volume of bath and laundry jobs fell slightly. However, mobile baths have not been forgotten. Furthermore. They were modified somewhat. The current BAPPs consist of several segments. The administrative-economic group includes a wagon-staff, a wagon-warehouse, a dining car, water tanks, a wagon-power station, a hostel car.
The main group is bath-disinfection. These are wagons-sanpropusniki, a disinfection car, a shower room and a cloakroom car. The laundry group includes storage wagons with clean and dirty laundry, laundry facilities, a dryer and an ironing car. In total, the entire economy is housed in 19 wagons, which are fueled by steam from the locomotive attached for the duration of the operation.
The scheme of washing personnel, sanitizing laundry, developed many years ago, is still valid today. Here’s how it happens. A group of 30-40 people enters the sanitary checkpoint, hangs clothes on hangers, and the underwear leaves on the floor. While the staff is washed, the attire in the bath collects linen and carries it to a warehouse of dirty clothes. The scheme of changing clothes is built in such a way that the clean flows do not intersect with the dirty, explained in the Central Glove Directorate of the Ministry of Defense. After a shower, soldiers receive clean linen from the exchange fund. For everything about everything – an hour.
An integral attribute during washing is the medical officer, who determines the degree of contamination of the laundry. If it lodged, for example, lice, then it is placed in the disinfection room for disinfection.
THE FATE OF THE 12th BAPDP
Baths on wheels were also useful in peaceful conditions. The fate of the 12th BAPP, which is commanded by Major Sergei Zemlyansky, is noteworthy. From 1985 to 1989 he was stationed at Baikonur, servicing military builders, guard duty. After overhauling, he was again thrown to the responsible site. During the earthquake in Armenia he settled in Leninakan. His clients were servicemen, civilians.
In the 91st he again went to repair in Vologda. And a year later I went to a new place of registration in the village of Petrovsk.
A new twist on the fate of the 12th occurred in late 1994. Then in the North Caucasus, only notorious events unfolded. It should be noted that almost simultaneously with him, the third BAPP went to the rebellious republic. But for some reason the boss was left to give to him. So Zemlyansky had to manage two compositions at once. The fighting weekdays of the latter began with an unpleasant curiosity.
At the station Prohladnaya (Kabardino-Balkaria), the composition was established at a dead end. But the angle of inclination of the railway branch, as it turned out, did not allow draining the water from the car. Over time, it accumulated in such a volume that it nearly paralyzed the work of the whole train. They decided to weld a hole in the floor of the ill-fated car. During the welding work, the heater was lit. So the soldiers put out the fire, being … knee-deep in the water.
No less exotic vicissitudes occurred with the 12th train. In February 1995 he arrived in Ingushetia to serve refugees from Chechnya. But the comic situation was that the local population simply did not get the amount of laundry necessary for the full functioning of the bath on the wheels. Yes, and people: once or twice and obchelsya. So here he did not stay long, he headed for Chechnya.
At station Chervlennaya subordinates of Captain Zemlyansky, perhaps, for the first time felt the “charms” of wartime.
Sergey Valeryevich recalls:
– Somehow from a passing train some “joker” launched an illumination rocket, which landed in a pit with fuel oil. The flame enveloped the locomotive, then the tank with water flashed. It was not possible to save the tents with dirty laundry.
They extinguished the fire with the whole world: both the personnel and the guard of the station. And the local population did not remain aloof. And only after two hours managed to curb the raging elements. “It’s good that we pulled the car with fuel oil on time, and then …”, smiled the blue-eyed front-runner.
It so happened that on Chervlenaya the 12th performed a certain humanitarian mission. Chefs worked as chefs in agreement with the leadership of the North Caucasian railway in the dining-dining room. So the relationship with the local population quickly formed a warm, even friendly.
In Chechnya, the 12th worked for six months. The command came to the conclusion that it is no longer worth keeping two trains in the region. And in July 1995 he anchored and went to the point of permanent deployment. And Major Zemlyansky, having taken him to Petrovsk, returned, having accepted the leadership of the 3rd.
The summer of 1996 turned out to be disturbing. Especially “hot” was in August. The militants then launched an attack on the headquarters of the federal forces in Khankala. Banno-laundry train was also delivered. During the bombardment, several grenades exploded under the wagons. Three people were injured. Victims could have been more, Major Zemlyansky believes, if the grenades got into wagons with people. While the “turntables”, stiffen accurately over the train, fired back, Sergey’s subordinates, biting into the ground, digging additional trenches. The attack was repulsed. As a reminder of that terrible incident in the carpet of the injured car, bullet holes and grenade splinters are still visible.
Not so long ago, the 27th bath and laundry train operated at the location of the federal group in Khankala, arrived here at the very beginning of the second Chechen campaign. And … in the end he rested, as they say, in a Bose – he was written off on old age.
SCRAPPED TOO EARLY
Repair of existing bath and laundry trains, Major Zemlyansky is convinced, is economically inexpedient. Wagons made in the middle of the last century, developed their resource twice, morally obsolete and do not meet modern requirements. And the Chechen experience has revealed a number of fundamental shortcomings.
“When the 12th was withdrawn from Chechnya,” continues Sergei Valerevich, “serious problems arose with the wagons of the pre-war model, the operation of which was banned by the Ministry of Railways from the year 1995.
At the station, the fish running gear of one of them went out of order. The chief of the road section arrested him. So the ill-fated car had to be left at the station. Already in part, it was decided that it does not make sense to repair it.
They are also disadvantageous from the ecological point of view. For a day, as experience of military operations in Chechnya has shown, 200-250 tons of waste water were collected, and there is no suitable reservoir. Where to put it? I had to pour directly under the cars. Because of this, there were constant frictions with environmentalists.
But the most important drawback is the locomotive. At the dawn of the emergence of bath-laundry trains, it was not only a source of steam, but also a draft force of the whole composition. Over time, the railway industry stopped the production of not only locomotives, but also spare parts for them. They remained only in the bath and laundry farm of the Armed Forces. The most “young” now more than half a century, the rest – even older. For a long time, they have not produced a special refractory brick for furnaces. Instead, it uses chamotte, which does not withstand the thermal loads from burning fuel oil. And instead of the required month the locomotive can only work for a week. In Chechnya, while one was under repair, another worked.
But it’s too early to send the bath-laundry trains to the scrap, Zemlyansky is convinced. To date, the BAPP is the only mobile facility with tanks capable of holding 100 tons of water. This allows uninterrupted functioning of the entire bath and laundry facilities during the half-day.
Another plus. Located on the railway tracks, the train works in close cooperation with the services of the Ministry of Railways. This allows you to make various repairs in specialized workshops. For example, rewinding electric motors, turning the shafts to pumps, washing machines. In the field, these and other repairs can not be done – stationary ones are needed.
Now the Tver Rail Carriage Plant is developing a new generation train – BPDM-2000. They will include a dry-cleaning car, a sewage treatment car. But the locomotive will disappear. The cars are equipped with an autonomous source of steam – a KPP-500 boiler operating on diesel fuel. By the way, in the farm Zemlyansky already has several experimental cars of a new model. To date, 9 have been developed, and the whole composition will consist of 15. In the fourth quarter of next year, it is planned to conduct state tests of such a train with its subsequent adoption into service.