The M2 is a series of 244 electric multiple unit cars produced for the Metropolitan Transportation Authority and the Connecticut Department of Transportation for use on the New Haven Line (then part of Penn Central, now part of Metro North). Built primarily by the Budd Company in a consortium with General Electric and Canadian Vickers between 1972 and 1977, the cars were initially branded as The Cosmopolitans. Final assembly of the M2 cars using Budd bodies was completed at GE's Transportation Division in Erie, Pennsylvania.
Both the model and brand name followed the pattern set up by the M1/M1A series (The Metropolitans) in use on the Long Island Rail Road (M1) and on the Metro-North Hudson and Harlem lines (M1A), sisters to the Metro-North New Haven Line. In the late 1980s and early 1990s, the M2 design was licensed by the MTA and ConnDOT to two other companies to produce followup series.
All cars are equipt with GE 1259 DC motors with a rated output of 162 horsepower (121 kW) on all axles.
The M2 Cosmopolitan series replaced EMU cars dating from the early 1920s to 1954. These were originally manufactured for, and inherited from, the New York, New Haven and Hartford Railroad. As with the cousin M1 series, the M2s accompanied an overhaul of the long-neglected main line and the New Canaan Branch in which longer, high level platforms were introduced along with other infrastructure improvements.
Aside from the technical differences of the New Haven Line (electrification via overhead catenary instead of third rail), the cars are similar to the sister M1A order and, in times of equipment shortages or severe weather, the M2s have run on the Hudson and Harlem lines. Most of the other differences are in the interior and exterior appearance of the cars, such as red striping on the exterior rather than blue, the interior wallpaper having both the New York and Connecticut state seals and the obvious pantograph and mechanical apparatus on the roof. Both the MTA and ConnDOT purchased bar cars, but complaints from riders from stations in New York, coupled with arrival of new equipment on the Hudson and Harlem lines, led to the conversion of the ten MTA-owned bar cars to standard coaches. The ten ConnDOT-owned bar cars, which run on express trains to New Haven, Stamford, South Norwalk and New Canaan, remain in service during weekdays.
After the LIRR and Hudson/Harlem lines received an updated version of the original Metropolitan series of cars in 1984-86 (the LIRR M3 and Metro North M3A series), plans were announced for a similar undertaking on the New Haven Line. Originally, Budd was to produce these cars but pulled out in the wake of struggles that eventually led to the company's departure from railroad manufacturing.
After Budd stepped away from the order, the rights to the M1/M3 and M2 designs were transferred to the MTA. With these rights, MTA and ConnDOT eventually awarded the order to Tokyu Car, a unit of Sumitomo, which produced 54 M4 cars (8900-series) in 1987-1988. Nearly identical to the M2s, Tokyu Car initially gave the "Triplex" brand name to the M4 cars to highlight their being a three-car set, as opposed to the married pairs of the M2s. These cars are now commonly referred to as "triplets" by railroad personnel.
In 1993 48 M6 series cars (9000-series) were produced by Morrison Knudsen. Nearly identical to the M4s and, these cars have the distinction of being one of the last with wholly American construction. The M6s also feature distinctive chimes that sound whenever the doors are closed, a feature that does not exist on the M2s or M4s. The M6s also have black framed windows, giving them the illusion of being larger than the windows on the M2s and M4s.
At the start of the 21st Century, the original Cosmopolitans began to reach the end of their expected service lives, as they have traveled over 1 million miles in all types of harsh weather. It was then that the cars saw some of their most intense service as the combination of increased ridership and conflicts on funding between ConnDOT and former Governor John G. Rowland delayed ConnDOT's ability to fund replacement cars.
With the replacement of Rowland by current Governor M. Jodi Rell in 2004, the process for a replacement series was expedited. After an earlier deal in principle with Bombardier Transportation fell through, Kawasaki Heavy Industries was awarded a contract in July 2006 to produce the M8 series, expected to enter service in mid 2010. The 342 cars will be based on the M7/M7A series much as the M2s were based on the M1 series, though with some interior improvements and a different front end. An additional 38 cars are still on option. The M8 series will fully replace the M2 series by 2012, though the M4/M6 series will last for approximately another decade.