According to statistics, about 20% of railway transportation of starch products are carried out by tank сars intended for petroleum and petroleum products, even though it contradicts the existing regulations. In Russia, specialised stainless steel rolling stock for molasses is only appearing at the moment. UWC is in the forefront of this process, offering the market a model on a bogie with increased axle load.
Changing Minus into Plus
Molasses can be transported with the use of various types of transport: railway tank cars, road tankers and special thermally insulated tank containers. Today, road transport is rather popular means of molasses transportation. However, the safest and most efficient type of transport for long distances and large consignments is the railroad.
At the same time, about 20% of the total tank car fleet for molasses transportation in the CIS countries will be decommissioned by 2025. In order to return the cargo to the railway, the car manufacturing plants need to replace a total of more than 175 specialised freight cars. Considering the current requirements, it should be a rolling stock designed with due account of cargo characteristics with an increased service life for reliable operation throughout the life cycle.
“Starch products (molasses, syrups, malt extract and others) are classified as food products, and therefore the designers of freight cars for their transportation should follow the uniform sanitary and epidemiological requirements”, explains Maxim Aginskikh, Head of Department of the Freight Car Design Directorate of All-Union Research and Development Centre for Transportation Technology, who supervised the development of freight cars for molasses transportation, – “One can only use the materials approved for food contact, with no harmful substances forming during their interaction”.
According to the Technical Regulation of the Customs Union TR CU 021/2011, a tank car should ensure protection of a food product against contamination, penetration of animals, including rodents and insects, as well as the possibility of cleaning, washing and disinfection. The internal surface should be made of washable non-toxic materials.
However, the rolling stock which is currently widely used on 1520-mm gauge railways does not fully comply with all these requirements. Moreover, molasses is rather frequently transported in tank cars with a carbon steel boiler type 09G2S, which is not approved for contact with food products. “With long-term contact of molasses with such boilers, excessive migration of ferrous metals into the product can occur”, explains Maxim Aginskikh.
The mass tank cars for molasses transportation were designed on the basis of model 18-100 bogies and their analogues with an axle load of 23.5 t, which does not allow to fully utilize the track capacity. These models also have other operational drawbacks, which have an impact on fleet maintenance costs. One of the substantial drawbacks is the standard overhaul life: after manufacture – 210,000 km or 3 years, between depot repairs – 110,000 km or 2 years, after overhaul – 160,000 km or 2 years.
Due to a lack of certified specialized tank cars, more molasses is transported by road than by rail. However, this ratio can change due to a new tank car model with a stainless steel boiler manufactured by TikhvinChemMash (part of the UWC Holding).
Works like a Charm
The UWC tank car is equipped with 18–9855 bogies with a 25 t axle load, which allows to increase the car capacity to 74.4 tons, and the overhaul life1 to 1 mln km. Its structure features a separate braking system for individual bogies. This means that each bogie is equipped with an individual brake cylinder with a separate lever transmission. It increases the efficiency of the braking system and transportation safety in case of failure of one of the cylinders.
 To be updated following the monitored operation results.
The molasses tank car produced by TikhvinChemMash is equipped with 18-9855 bogies with a 25 t axle load, which allows to increase the car load capacity and the overhaul life
The product is filled using a standard filling port, and discharged with the aid of a universal draining device which, as well as the boiler, is manufactured from stainless steel. All the equipment is selected with due account of the physical and mechanical properties of the cargo, i.e. molasses. Thus, due to an increase in product viscosity, a heating system is required for draining, even in moderate climatic conditions. The system is a steam heating jacket consisting of a frame, casing, piping and ducting for steam supply and bypass.
“Heating of the boiler shell and therefore the product is carried out by means of high temperature steam supply into the steam heating jacket”, explains Andrey Bekshaev, Technical Director of TikhvinChemMash. – “At the same time, in terms of structure the jacket is similar to the one used in the tank cars for other viscous cargo (for instance, heavy fuel oil), which allows to use the existing infrastructure of cargo recipients and repair organizations for molasses discharge.”
In order to prevent possible corrosion and consecutive corrosion spots contact to quality food products the dedicated service for shell’s inner surface treatment is put in place. First stage – comprehensive abrasive cleaning (i.e. metal is cleaned and defatted using abrasers; notice that the abrasers must not contain ferrum, which could additionally contaminate the metal surface – Editor’s note). Next stage – deep chemical etching for removal of surface corrosive agents (etching of stainless steel products normally done using acid solutions that prepare surface for final chemical treatment – Editor’s note). Then the chemical passivation involving protecting microfilm formation on the tank shell surface (passivation is the metal chemical treatment process using nitric acid-based solution. This results in product protection against corrosion, prolonging its lifespan – Editor’s note).
Passivation of the internal surface of a stainless steel tank shell, according to Andrey Bekshaev, is a key process in manufacturing of tank car for food products. A series of development works were completed for its successful implementation; as part of these works the optimal technology for this process was selected. Quality control for performed operations is finalised by high humidity testing. After one day of exposure to humid atmosphere the inner surface is inspected for representative corrosion spots. If none detected, the shell can be reliably accepted for transportation of food products.
Taking into account the operations on complex treatment of the internal boiler surface, production of a single freight car is completed within several working shifts. Technical staff is provided with recommendations on careful handling of the internal boiler surface during rolling and welding-and-assembly operations in order to prevent the occurrence of scratches, burrs and other defects.
Frame preparation for installation of brake equipment: brake line, air chambers and brake cylinder are mounted and connected to one another
Thus, TikhvinChemMash is ready for production of tank cars for molasses and vegetable oil transportation. This project is of interest to designers in terms of searching for a balance between the production cost, labor intensity and car parameters. For the plant, the start of production of the new model implies an expansion of the range of specialized products with improved technical and economic parameters. In turn, the owner will receive a long-awaited car which fully complies with all requirements for starch product transportation, and will be able to update a worn-out and obsolete fleet.
The client is always right
The first purchase of UWC tank cars for transporting molasses was made by GATX Rail Vostok (a subsidiary of GATX Corporation, a leading global railcar lessor). We spoke to Elena Korolkova, Deputy CEO at GATX Rail Vostok, about how the company went about identifying the right fleet and why it chose Tikhvin-produced railcars.
Elena, GATX operates in many regions around the world. What basic principles and features should be considered when developing a fleet in different countries, particularly regarding the transportation of food products?
The core of GATX’s business and its key competency consists of leasing rolling stock to its clients. The GATX fleet in North America, as well as the fleets of its subsidiaries (GATX Rail India and GATX Rail Vostok in Russia) is well-diversified and includes specialised rolling stock, such as cars for transporting food freight.
Above all else, GATX Rail Vostok takes the needs and requests of its clients into account when building its portfolio. Our task in these transactions is to comply fully with the requirements applicable both to the cars themselves and with regard to the availability of all the necessary approvals provided by the supplier. It goes without saying that, when choosing a fleet for food transportation, we pay special attention to the criteria for ensuring the safety of freight during transportation. Furthermore, there are state specifications which we also take into account, owing to the particularities of each country’s standards.
When choosing a supplier for our rolling stock, we evaluate its production capabilities and the quality of products
Are you seeing a trend of strengthening regulations on the transportation of food freight in the 1520-mm gauge area?
The transportation of food products has always carried with it a high degree of responsibility because, unlike many other types of freights, food has a shelf life and requires special temperature controls. In recent times, Russian freight owners (especially those belonging to international groups) have begun to enforce increasingly strict requirements on the quality of railcar production. Further to this, national standards on the quality of produce and its transportation are currently under review. This will necessarily be reflected in clients’ increased attention both to overall product quality and the quality of steel and other materials used in the construction of specialised cars. Among other things, certain types of food freights can only be transported in stainless steel tanks.
How do you choose a supplier for your rolling stock, and what criteria should it fulfil?
GATX Rail Vostok is governed by local, widely accepted standards as well as internal company policies and procedures. Furthermore, when making a decision we evaluate a supplier’s production capabilities, assessing whether a given enterprise can roll out a particular model of railcar in line with the parameters set by clients. We pay close attention to the quality and wider culture of the production process, taking these factors into account not least when deciding whether to sign an agreement on the production of railcars.
We are delighted to acknowledge the high degree of professionalism and willingness to meet all of our requirements shown by the UWC team
GATX Rail Vostok and UWC enjoy successful cooperation. Last year, GATX Rail Vostok purchased a batch of UWC tank cars for the transportation of caustic soda and other chemical freights. A joint project is currently being implemented to produce tank cars with stainless steel tanks for the transportation of molasses across the 1520-mm gauge area. What are the expected outcomes of the new UWC cars becoming operational?
We value our partnership with UWC. There are already Tikhvin-produced cars active in GATX Rail Vostok’s fleet in Russia. Our clients are showing a clear interest in models with increased payload capacity, and we are pleased to be able to offer them a fleet that meets these requirements through our partnership with UWC, gaining practical experience from putting it into operation. The project which you mentioned and which we are now working on together is very interesting, not to mention the fact that this will be the first tank car model produced in Russia with a stainless steel tank on a bogie with an increased axle load. Our client has strict requirements when it comes to the quality of the shipped freight, namely molasses, and it is very important to us that we comply fully with all of these requirements, both at first hand in the construction process and further down the line during the operational life of the tank cars. We are delighted to acknowledge the high degree of professionalism and willingness to meet all of our requirements shown by the UWC team who are working on the project with us.
Please tell us about the company’s plans for the Russian market in the mid-term. Are you planning to expand the range of railcars?
GATX Rail Vostok sees Russia as an important market segment in the context of its international presence, and expanding the fleet is certainly something that features in our mid-term plans. We are always guided by the needs of our clients in our work. Depending on their requirements, we will examine and hopefully sign new deals in Russia so as to meet the needs of our current and potential clients as fully as possible.