The network of the Ferrovie Nord Milano (FNM) was developed from the second half of the 19th century, in competition with what came to be known as the Italian state railway – giving rise to duplicated but almost entirely separate routes linking the city of Milano (and its own terminus there, Nord Cadorna) with important towns in the area including Novara, Laveno and Como. In 1974, FNM in its entirety was acquired by the regional government of the Lombardy region which paved the way for a certain degree of modernisation.
The network was almost entirely electrified, but as this had been done many years previously, even its existing electric traction was showing its age – its E600s had been built in the 1920s and the E610s in the 1940s.
The answer was a scaled-down, four-axle version of the FS class E632 “Tigers” then in production for the state railway. Six such machines were ordered from Ansaldo in Genova in two batches of three in 1980/81, and delivered in 1982. These were designated class E620 and almost immediately gained the nickname “Tigrotto” i.e. “Baby Tiger”.
They were equipped for push-pull operation and spent their careers on suburban passenger trains in and out of Milano Nord Cadorna. However, they were dogged by poor levels of their reliability for their entire careers. E620-05 was used in the late 1980s as a guinea pig for some mods with a view to improving this, however these were unsuccessful, and indeed that machine was not returned to traffic – instead becoming a Christmas tree for its five sisters, all of which were out of traffic by 2010 – the last one being E620-02.