“Excellent Railwayman” breast badge together with seven other decorations for railroaders was instituted on September 22, 1943 by Decree of the Presidium of the Supreme Soviet of the USSR, the highest legislative body of the Soviet Union, “as a reward for the most distinguished ranks and commanding personnel of the railway transport”. The right to award “Excellent Railwayman” badge was granted to the People’s Commissar of Transportation; heads of chief and central directorates of the People’s Commissariat of Transportation (NKPS); heads of railways; heads of military reconstruction departments of fronts; railway services heads. Statute and appearance of the badge remained unchanged after NKPS was renamed Ministry of Transportation (MPS) in 1946.
Statute of the Badge stipulated that it was “an award for the most distinguished workers of the railway transport track facilities”. Thus, сriteria for decoration with the badge were as follows.
- Exemplary military discipline and excellent execution of operational regulations;
- Exemplary and solicitous maintenance of track facilities;
- Vigilant protection of railway tracks, railway points and subgrade;
- Securing of railway traffic according to schedule;
- Fulfillment and overfulfillment of repair operations and track works;
- Excellent working knowledge of operating tools as well as high quality and working efficiency.
“Excellent Railwayman” Badge was also awarded for important invention and rationalization proposals aimed at higher labour productivity.
Decoration with the badge was put into effect according to orders of the day and was entered into service records. Repeated decorations of the same person with an “Excellent Railwayman” badge were allowed provided outstanding achievements had been displayed.
The very first presentation of badges took place on October 29, 1943 in conjunction with the 25th jubilee of the All-Union Leninist Young Communist League (VLKSM, or Komsomol). It was then that 825 particularly distinguished young railroaders were awarded with recently instituted NKPS decorations, including the one in question. One week later, on November 07, 1943 the first mass decoration with the Badge was held, thus marking the 26th anniversary of the Great October Socialist Revolution.
“Excellent Railwayman” breast badge had a shape of the vertical oval that symbolized angularly placed driving wheel of a steam locomotive. It was flanked with fir branches that stood for the harsh conditions that kind of transport was generally used. The wheel rested upon a fragment of a ruby red-enameled rail. Narrow flying ruby red-enameled flag was superimposed on the upper part of the badge. The flag bore an inscription “Excellent” (“Отличный”), while the rail – “Railwayman” (“Путеец”). Both were executed in gilt capital letters. White enamel was applied to the inner space of the driving wheel. Upper portion of a wheel just above the hub showed an image of the railway arch bridge with space between bridge footings (tunnel) being covered with blue enamel. Lower part of a wheel bore hub and five spokes with a superimposed image of the Soviet railways emblem introduced in 1932. The latter consisted of crossed hammer and adjustable wrench, sometimes referred to as “French key”.
“Excellent Railwayman” breast badges had counter relief (mirror) reverses, no serial numbers were ever engraved.
Interesting to know that design of the badge in question was absolutely similar to the badge “Excellent Builder”, save name of the decoration found at the bottom of an obverse.
Despite mass production of the decoration within fourteen years, from 1943 until 1957, only several minor varieties of the Badge are known to exist, the most remarkable being number of vertical hangers (from five to eight) and shape of earthfills close to bridge footings.
“Excellent Railwayman” breast badge measuring 28x40 mm was manufactured of bronze with application of white, ruby red and blue enamel. It was worn on uniform or civilian attire attached by a screw soldered to the reverse and round nut. Depending on a period of manufacture, the latter bore either of the following maker marks: “Ш.М.З. Н.К.П.С.” or “Ш.М.З-Д М.П.С.”. Those abbreviations stood for “Plating and Engineering Plant of NKPS/MPS” (“Штамповочно-механический завод НКПС/МПС”).
The badge was presented together with an award document, type of which depended on a period of decoration, i.e. NKPS (1943-1946) or MPS (since 1946). Dark-coloured calico-covered certificate bore embossed image of the badge and full name of the issuing authority running in five (NKPS) or four (MPS) horizontal lines. Surname and initials of an awardee, his designation, date and number of the order were filled in by hand; no space for photo of a railroader was provided. NKPS-issued documents bore two additional fields: that for the serial number of a badge (although it had none, in fact) and that for brief grounds for decoration. The former (“No.___”) usually contained number of the order, but certain docs show it was sometimes left totally blank. Whenever award document described above was impossible to be given to an awardee, he was issued with a simplified temporary (provisional) cardboard certificate.
Decoration with “Excellent Railwayman” badges of the MPS was discontinued in the autumn of 1957 according to the Decree of the Presidium of the Supreme Soviet of the USSR “On breast badges to reward railway transport personnel” signed on September 16, 1957. The badge in question, as well as seven other decorations mentioned at the beginning of the current article, was replaced by the general badge “High Achiever of the Railway Transport Socialist Emulation” (“Отличник социалистического соревнования железнодорожного транспорта”) introduced in April 1957.