“Excellent Wagon Fleet Worker” 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 Wagon Fleet Worker” 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 wagon fleet service”. Thus, сriteria for decoration with the badge were as follows.
- Exemplary military discipline and excellent execution of operational regulations;
- Excellent care of railway carriages;
- Provision of well-timed и accident-free train traffic on schedule, exemplary inspection and repair of wagons;
- Adoption of railcars repair without decoupling, reduction of defective wagons fleet and those waiting for repair, improvement of repair quality, reduction of downtime in depots, car repair shops and stations;
- Ensuring of high working efficiency and quality of operations.
“Excellent Wagon Fleet Worker” 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 Wagon Fleet Worker” 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 Wagon Fleet Worker” 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 – “Wagon Fleet Worker” (“Вагонник”). 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 tetraaxial covered freight wagon with wooden body. 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 Wagon Fleet Worker” breast badges had counter relief (mirror) reverses, no serial numbers were ever engraved.
Due to the mass production of the decoration within fourteen years, from 1943 until 1957, several varieties of the Badge are known to exist, the most remarkable being shape of the hub, presence or absence of vent holes in freight wagon, location of a carriage (horizontally or angularly), shape of the railways emblem.
“Excellent Wagon Fleet Worker” breast badge measuring 28x40 mm was manufactured of bronze with application of white and ruby red 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 Wagon Fleet Worker” 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.