MTA 2011 Highlights: New M-8 Cars Debut on Metro-North Railroad's New Haven Line

In February, the first set of new M-8 cars rolled out of Stamford delighting Metro-North's customers with the latest in rail technology and comfort.

Metro-North M-8 carsIn all, 405 new cars will replace a fleet that is well beyond its useful life and has been plagued with weather-related component failures. A total of 58 M-8s support the scheduled 40 M-8s (two 8-car train sets and four 6-car train sets) now operating in regularly scheduled train service as of December 20, 2011.

Customers have the opportunity to ride one or more of the 249 weekly trains (210 weekday and 39 weekend) operating in scheduled New Haven Line service with the six M-8 train sets. These trains operate during peak and off-peak service between New Haven, Stamford and Grand Central Terminal.

Thirty M-8s manufactured in Lincoln, Nebraska and 38 M-8s manufactured in Kobe, Japan have arrived in New Haven as of December 15, 2011. Kawasaki continues to prepare M-8 cars for the testing phase before being accepted for regularly scheduled train service. The expectation is that there will be approximately 60 M-8 cars in service by the end of 2011.

The M-8 car has been engineered to replicate closely the advances that were made with the M-7 cars currently in operation in New York State on the Harlem and Hudson Lines and on the Long Island Rail Road. Metro-North's 336 M-7 cars, which were delivered between April 2004 and July 2009, are extremely reliable, and last year operated an average of 727,000 miles without causing delays. By comparison, the old New Haven Line electrical fleet operated just 79,000 miles without delay last year.

In the M-8, critical, solid-state, computer-controlled electrical components are protected within the car body rather than exposed under the car so that inclement weather will not interfere with their operation.

Redundancies are built into the cars to ensure continued operation if a system malfunctions. For example, as in the M-7s, each car has two, modular air conditioning units so that if one fails, the other will continue to cool the car until the broken one can be removed and replaced with a spare. Older cars such as the M-2s have one AC unit that was integral to the car so that the entire car had to be taken out of service while repairs were made.

Metro-North M-8 carsWhile the cars are complex, computer-controlled machines, what customers have noticed are roomier, high-back, contoured seats with individual headrests, curved arm rests anchored at both ends in the upholstery. They are enjoying larger windows and better lighting, especially in the vestibules for improved safety. The cars also are equipped with an intercom system that customers can use to contact the crew in emergencies. Other features include LED displays that show the next stop and automated audio announcements. Each seat is outfitted with electrical outlets, grab bars, coat hooks and curvaceous luggage racks. The color scheme is a vibrant red, the historical color of the New Haven Railroad, predecessor to Metro-North.

Outside, customers see prominent electronic destination signs and external public address speakers. Single leaf doors provide high reliability and less susceptibility to snow intrusion.

The cars are electrically complex with three types of propulsion systems. They have third rail shoes that receive direct current to power the trains between Pelham and Grand Central Terminal. The cars also have the capability to run under two types of alternating current overhead wire, known as catenary. The New Haven main line uses 60 cycle, 12 kilovolt power. The cars also operate at the newer, 60 cycle, 25 kilovolt power, which is used on the Shoreline East route east of New Haven and all the way to Boston.

The cars operate as "married" pairs. The "A" car has 110 seats and the "B" car has 101 seats plus a handicapped-accessible, airline-style vacuum toilet. Each car also has a "cab" from which an engineer can operate the train.