Category Archives: Utica

Pacemaker service

Pacemaker service was effectively ended when the Central introduced “Early Bird” service, which started around 1956/57. This didn’t last long itself, as the introduction of Flexi-van service then carried LCL

When the Pacemaker cars were delivered they were used only on Pacemaker freight service routes. But that does not mean they didn’t appear in other trains or that they were not mixed with other cars in Pacemeker trains.

The Pacemaker service train NB-3 provided overnight service from New York to Buffalo. But it also took cars for other destinations. It was not a dedicated train for the NY-Buffalo service.

It would be interesting to know if any trains of all Pacemaker cars were seen in regular service. I believe they moved along with regular cars from the beginning of the service. TI’s hard to imagine how a solid train would occur other than for publicity photos. Do we have any non-PR photos that show a train with only Pacemaker cars ?

When did the service end? Depends on what you mean by “the service”. LCL service declined rapidly in the 60’s and was almost gone at the time of the PC merger. I’m not sure when dedicated trains were discontinued, but the overnight New York-Buffalo service is not shown in the 1954 timetable.

What happened to the cars when the service ended? They were used as ordinary box cars.

Did the cars remain in their old colours for long? Yes, until they were in a shop and really needed a paint job. They slowly disappeared like any other old car.

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Here comes the big “John B” locomotive

Here comes the big “John B” locomotive rolling down the track and attracting hundreds to every depot along the way. They’re there to get a close look at the new, powerful engine, one of the largest in the country at 31 tons.

The mail train from Schenectady now is drawn westward by the “John B,” named in honor of Utica’s John Butterfield. On both sides of the engine appears a good likeness of Butterfield and his name. Why Butterfield? Well, why not?

In 1857, he opened the west with his overland stagecoaches that were the first to carry mail from the Mississippi River to the West Coast in fewer than 25 days. He had signed a contract with the U.S. Post Office to deliver mail on regular runs to California. Many said it could not be done.

Butterfield built dozens of stations along the 2,800-mile route, equipped them with fast, fresh horses and hired the best stagecoach drivers in the country. His first stage between St. Louis and San Francisco completed the trip in 24 days, 18 hours.

Butterfield became known as the country’s “Mr. Transportation.” He also built and operated hotels and two years ago was elected mayor of Utica. In 1862, he opened a trolley line along Genesee Street from Broad Street to New Hartford. Utica thus became the only the fifth city in the country with trolley service – after New York City, Boston, Philadelphia and New Orleans. Later, Butterfield, Henry Wells and William Fargo were among the founders of a company that evolved into American Express. His son, Daniel, was a major general in the Civil War and co-composer of the bugle call, “Taps.” (John Butterfield is buried in Utica’s Forest Hill Cemetery.)

This Week in History is researched and written by Frank Tomaino.

New Hartford, New York cow captured by ‘real live’ cowboys

It was like a scene from an old Western movie on French Road on Friday afternoon as cowboys on horseback corralled and lassoed the famous New Hartford cow.

“We just went hunting for the cow in the woods, the dogs jumped on him and started barking and we (walked) him out here,” said Curt Walker, one of the four cowboys. “Then we roped him. It was dangerous. It was crazy. Truthfully, very scary.”

The rogue cow — which the men deduced is a 1,600-pound, 3-year-old heifer — was first spotted on Route 840 in mid-June. New Hartford police had tried to trap it with food but had no luck.

Utica police got involved Saturday when the cow was seen near the Uptown Theatre on Genesee Street, and were contacted soon after by Walker and his friends.

The four men — Walker, Steven Batchelder, Brandon Martindale and Steven Miller — used three Louisiana Catahoula Leopard dogs and four horses to track down the elusive heifer, which wsa finally caught around 1:30 p.m. Friday.

These guys are experts. They come from Washington County and are hired regularly by farmers whose cattle or other animals run away or become loose.

Concert At The Stanley Decades in the Making

It was 34 years ago that three bands gathered at Utica, New York’s Stanley Center For The Arts for a performance that was meant to last one night. But the legacy of that show continued through the years – a reminder of the community that a venue such as the Stanley can create.

Those three groups — the Todd Hobin Band, The Justice McBride Band and The Dust Devil Band — took the stage at the Stanley once again March 21, 2015.

When the three bands originally appeared on the old stage in 1981 they did so to help keep the theater open. So when the theater again found itself in need, Jerry Kraus, executive director of the Stanley, thought it would be cool to round up the original members for another fundraiser.

“We understand that this place (the Stanley) has a cut of history, so it’s a great opportunity to host an event with bands that started out here,” Kraus said.

Todd Hobin Band
Todd Hobin Band

Todd Hobin, singer/songwriter and founder of his band, said he has performed in Utica a great many times, but the opportunity to return to the Stanley is a unique one.

“I’m from Rochester, but I love the city of Utica – it’s like a second home to me,” Hobin said. “This will be a third time for me at The Stanley, and I love playing these old theaters. One of my passions is making sure that all the old theaters in the Northeast are preserved.

“Back in the old days, musicians, comedians and live entertainers used to perform before and after a movie at the theaters,” he continued. “They were called palaces, and they were designed to be grand. the Stanley really is a great place to play music, and it should be a meeting place for all of the community to come to witness great entertainment.”

The performance by the Todd Hobin Band, which is celebrating its 41st anniversary, will feature original members, including Hobin, Doug Moncrief, Shawn Hobin, Brett Hobin and Bruce Fowler. Also set to appear are special guests Greeley Ford and Jim Lucas, who played with the band the last time it was at the Stanley.

“It’s a reunion for us as a band, too,” Hobin said. “We’re so excited about it because we’ve been friends for a lifetime. We stayed in touch, but now we’re going to be playing together on the Stanley stage again.”

In addition to some favorite tunes from the band’s collection, Hobin said they also will play a couple songs from its latest album, including “Brother.”

“I think people will particularly like ‘Brother,’” Hobin said. “It’s important to those of us playing that night because for all of us guys in all of the bands – we are brothers of the road.”

The Justice McBride Band is pictured. Pictured are Mark Sisti, Dan Sisti, Al Sisti, David Smith and Gene Voce.
The Justice McBride Band is pictured. Pictured are Mark Sisti, Dan Sisti, Al Sisti, David Smith and Gene Voce.

Those “brothers of the road” include the original members of The Justice McBride Band: Mark Sisti, Dan Sisti, Al Sisti, David Smith and Gene Voce. The local southern rockers are known for being on the bill with bands such as The Outlaws and The Marshall Tucker Band.

The concert also will feature The Dust Devil Band, including locals Mike Stone, Darryl Mattison, Dan Porter, George Deveny and Ed Rosenburg.

For Rosenburg, getting the chance to play with his former bandmates again will be cathartic, to say the least.

“We haven’t all sat in the same room together for 34 years before we started rehearsing for this – that’s something,” Rosenburg said. “Of the five musicians in the band, I’m the only one who’s been out of the business for all those years, but the others have been playing right along. It’s going to be pretty wild to walk out on the Stanley stage in front of people.”

Not only is the event an opportunity for musicians to give back to the venue that gave them an avenue for their art, but it’s also a chance to start something new, Hobin said.

“I want to see it as the beginning,” he said. “It’s reacquainting ourselves with our music of the past and this beautiful theater, but the concert is really about the future. The concert is about remembering that we’re all part of this community, and it’s a community that we treasure.”

In the footsteps of Dickens’: Re-tracing the author’s visit to Utica

“I am an old-fashioned man in an old-fashioned shop, in a street that is not the same as I remember it. I have fallen behind the time, and am too old to catch it again.”

Charles Dickens wrote those words in “Dombey and Son,” a novel first published in its entirety in the mid-1800s. Twenty years later, they could just as easily have described his trip to Utica on March 17, 1868.

This excellent article was written by  Rob Roth  the Observer-Dispatch

Baggs Hotel in Utica, NY from eBay
Baggs Hotel in Utica, NY from eBay

On that St. Patrick’s Day, he was a 56-year-old accidental tourist, stuck in an unfamiliar city, wishing to be much farther down the line.

He was on his way to a reading in Albany, but the flooded Mohawk River dictated otherwise.

The events unfolded like a Dickensian plot: British subject, 3,500 miles from home, waylaid in a Victorian city where spirited adventure undoubtedly ensues.

Unfortunately after 150 years, there are few clues as to the rest of the plot.

I became intrigued by the author’s stopover when I started to work at the Observer-Dispatch in 2000. The newsroom, I was told by a veteran O-D editor, was a football field away from where the “A Tale of Two Cities” author had stayed at Bagg’s Hotel.

My appreciation of Dickens grew after I watched the 2007 PBS production of “Bleak House,” and later read the sublime book.

A holiday tradition with my daughters is watching the George C. Scott version of “A Christmas Carol.” Sharing my appreciation, my daughter Addie can recite lines before they’re delivered.

Imagine the words “I wear the chains I forged in life,” delivered in a sweet tween voice.

“An idea, like a ghost, must be spoken to a little before it will explain itself.”

A Christmas Carol

When I walk around the O-D building at Oriskany and John streets on my lunch break, perhaps in Dickens’ footsteps, there’s little left in the skyline to conjure up Victorian Utica.

The enormous Bagg’s Hotel that once dominated the scene was torn down in 1933.

But there are a few glimpses from St. Patrick’s Day 1868 to put some flesh on the famous author and his visit, however.

Dick Costa, who worked at the O-D and now lives in Preswick Glen, uncovered a letter from a rare book collection that Dickens wrote two days after his Utica visit. It describes the novelist’s impatience with the flooding, but also that he enjoyed the food and service.

Frank Tomaino’s well-researched “This Week in History” column in the O-D has provided other clues over the years.

“A reporter for the Utica Observer wrote that Dickens wore a brown suit, a little round top hat and ‘looked every inch an Englishman.’”

“Dickens dined at Bagg’s Banquet Room.”

In doing research at the Oneida County Historical Society, I found an excerpt from the next day’s Utica Morning Herald showing that the unplanned visit was a sore spot for Utica’s civic pride.

“Mr. Dickens arrived on the 1:55 train from the west, and being unable to proceed, put up at Bagg’s Hotel, contented to wait till something should ‘turn up.’ Toward evening he walked out with Mr. Dolby and took a brief view of Genesee St. No doubt he contemplated how much he had lost by so far under rating Utica as not to deem it worthy of a reading. He is advertised to read in Albany this evening, and will therefore, go east at the earliest opportunity this forenoon.”

You can still feel the bitterness that Utica didn’t rate a reading.

A 20th-century equivalent might be the Beatles having a layover at Griffiss on their way to a sold-out concert in Chicago.

Dickens was the rock star of his day. So close – yet so far.

One of the more interesting tales from that trip concerns the incredulous desk clerk at Bagg’s Hotel. He would only believe it was Dickens after seeing the famous man’s signature on his register, then ran around proudly showing it to everyone he could find.

You can only imagine the strangeness he must have felt with a famous person from a far-off land appearing there before him.

“Every human creature is constituted to be that profound secret and mystery to every other.”

A Tale of Two Cities

Just when I thought my Dickens’ odyssey had ended, a last find emerged.

Dickens stayed in Room 11.

I know that because I’ve seen the register that convinced the dubious attendant.

Historical Society Executive Director Brian Howard and I found a singular register in the “dungeon” of the Utica repository.

As he leafed through the pages, the clock hands began spinning back to a time of steam trains and smoky chimneys pouring out soot above the bustle of the city.

“Mr. Charles Dickens, England,” flows across the page in a rusty gray cursive, a small piece of Victorian Utica crossing over into the age of Facebook and Instagram.

Hockey History

Important to read if you follow the Utica Comets



Hockey History – A Small Slice From My Life Experiences

I followed ice hockey throughout the 1950’s and thought I would share a little about this older era.

National Hockey League

The history of the National Hockey League begins with the end of its predecessor league, the National Hockey Association (NHA), in 1917. The NHL’s first quarter-century saw the league compete against two rival major leagues—the Pacific Coast Hockey Association and Western Canada Hockey League—for players and the Stanley Cup. The NHL first expanded into the United States in 1924 with the founding of the Boston Bruins, and by 1926 consisted of ten teams in Ontario, Quebec, the Great Lakes region, and the Northeastern United States. At the same time, the NHL emerged as the only major league and the sole competitor for the Stanley Cup; in 1947, the NHL completed a deal with the Stanley Cup trustees to gain…

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Utica Comets 4 Run Over By San Antonio Rampage 8

The Utica Comets fell to the San Antonio Rampage 8-4 on New Year’s Day at The Utica Memorial Auditorium in their first regulation loss in 11 games. This also marks the first time the Comets have lost in regulation in front of a sell-out crowd at The AUD.

Despite offensive production from four different Comets players, San Antonio’s goaltender Dan Ellis bested Utica in net with a total of 28 saves on 32 shots on net. Rampage forward, Bobby Butler (1-2-3), helped record the most offensive production on the team while being awarded the second star of the game.

After a handful of saves on both ends of the ice, San Antonio found the first goal of the night with just under three minutes left in the first period. Following a puck battle along the boards, Brett Olson retrieved the puck from the chaos behind Jacob Markstrom’s net. Olson didn’t hang on the puck for long and opted for a quick pass back out to the blue line from in between the hashmarks. Shane O’Brien received Olson’s pass and immediately propelled the rubber over Markstrom’s glove hand for the 1-0 lead. Butler was credited with the secondary assist.

The second period left a bitter taste in everyone’s mouth except for San Antonio. In 11 minutes and 23 seconds, the Rampage scored six goals.

Their second of the game and first of the period came at 4:07 after Andrey Pedan took an interference penalty a minute prior. Drew Shore made a pass across the blue pain to Connor Brickley who then popped it past Markstrom’s left side to make it 2-0. Wade Megan was also tallied an assist on the play.

Before San Antonio could unleash another attack, the Comets answered back roughly two minutes later. After Cal O’Reilly rushed into the neutral zone, the puck made its way to Pedan who then left the puck with Alex Biega. To finish the play, O’Reilly was waiting to the right side of Ellis’ net to pop in the cross-ice pass from Biega to keep the score within one.

Despite the Comets efforts to fight back, Rampage continued on with their destruction. At 8:06 Butler forced the Comets to turn over the puck behind Markstrom’s net. Oncer Butler had possession, he pass the puck to Garrett Wilson who took a point blank shot that popped between Markstrom’s legs to make the two goal lead theirs once again with a score of 3-1.

The Comets next goal was the perfect definition of a give-and-go play. A minute and a half after San Antonio’s last goal, Brandon DeFazio and Dustin Jeffrey rushed into the offensive zone. With two consecutive passes, the puck made its way to Biega’s stick just above the center hashmarks. With a flick of the stick, Biega’s wrist shot was buried top shelf over Ellis’ glove hand for a shorthanded goal to make it 3-2.

San Antonio scored another at 10:45 on a 5-on-3 opportunity. With one slapshot from Rocco Grimaldi and a tip in front of the net by Jesse Blacker, the Rampage made the score 4-2 on the power-play goal. Mark Mancari took credit for the secondary assist.

Immediately one minute after, the Comets answered back for the last time of the period with a DeFazio wrist shot. After some board play by O’Reilly and Wacey Hamilton, the puck found its way to DeFazio who netted his 14th of the season to make it 4-3.

What followed was a burst of three goals from their southern foes.

Just 36 seconds after DeFazio’s goal, Butler sniped in a shot over Markstrom’s shoulder for another two-goal lead after his linemates Blacker and Grimaldi both contributed on the play.

After letting in four goals in during the second period alone, Markstrom was pulled from his duties and replace by Joacim Eriksson after playing 32:24 in the crease.

At 14:25 Shore received a pass across the crease from Mancari and tapped the puck in the backdoor for their sixth goal of the night. Brickley received the secondary assist. Moments later, the puck found its way past Eriksson for the second time. Megan gave a quick dish to Andrew Yogan who blasted in the one-timer top-shelf before Eriksson had time to react. Stephan Vigier also received an assist on San Antonio’s sixth goal of the period and seventh of the game.

And with the start of the third period, the game was evidently drawing to a close.

Even while trailing by four, the Comets still dug for some energy as they scored their fourth of the night directly off of a face-off in the attacking zone. At 7:15 Will Acton pushed the puck to Pedan for a hard slapshot from the point. On it’s way through, Jensen caught a piece of the puck to tip it in past Ellis to close the gap to three.

Rampage eventually sealed the deal at 14:21 after some board play behind Eriksson’s net. The puck popped out to the left of Eriksson as Alex Petrovic lifted the puck past Eriksson, to the post, and then into the net to make it a final score of 8-4. Logan Shaw received the only assist on the play.

The last time the Comets allowed eight goals in one game was on January 17, 2014 against the Albany Devils at The AUD.

With an early start to their weekend, the Comets will keep on trucking right on through Saturday. Tomorrow night, the Adirondack Flames will play host to Utica for a 7 p.m. puck drop at the Glens Falls Civic Center. The Comets have yet to drop a game to the Calgary Flames affiliate through five games this season. On Saturday, the Comets will return to The AUD for their first of two match-ups against the Iowa Wild this season.

Find out about Goals and Fair Promise


All Aboard for the Polar Express

As you know, we have been talking about the train to Lake Placid and the Adirondack Scenic Railroad a lot.


A blogger we enjoy is Phyllis Zimmerman.  She just published a great blog on a trip a few years ago on the Polar Express.
The Express runs between Utica’s Union Station and “The North Pole,” otherwise known as Holland Patent. At the North Pole, Santa comes aboard and listens to the wish list of every little girl and boy on the way back to Utica.
Read more:


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Rome native Tom Sestito is coming home – for a little while, anyway.

The Vancouver Canucks on Sunday assigned the 27-year-old forward to the Utica Comets of the AHL for a conditioning assignment. Sestito has one assist in two games with the Canucks this season. 

The Comets are back home after a southwest road trip last week, in which they went 2-1 in three overtime games (at Oklahoma City, at Texas and at San Antonio). 


Utica hosts Rochester on Wednesday, Toronto on Friday and Syracuse on Saturday. All games start at 7 p.m.

Find out about Goals and Fair Promise

Utica Comets 3 over Hamilton Bulldogs 2 at the AUD

The Utica Comets extended their lead on the Western Conference’s North Division to seven points on Wednesday night in a 3-2 victory over the Hamilton Bulldogs at The Utica Memorial Auditorium.

It was a busy night for Nicklas Jensen (pictured at top) ; the first star of the game scored two of the Comets three goals which total’s to six on the season. Alex Friesen also had quite the return tallying two assists after suffering from a shoulder injury since the first game of the season. Joacim Eriksson recorded his fifth win on the season and stopped 19 of 21 shots taken by the Bulldogs which kept the Comets in first place with 26 points out of a possible 30.

Alex Frieson
Alex Frieson
Joacim Eriksson
Joacim Eriksson

Exactly half way through the opening period, Alexandre Grenier displayed some dirty dekes just before he scored his fifth goal of the year and the first of the game. After receiving a pass from Cal O’Reilly, Grenier carried the puck into the offensive zone for a 2-on-1 opportunity. A toe drag and a move to the backhand allowed Grenier to sneak the rubber underneath Mike Condon’s pads to make it 1-0.

Alex Grenier
Alex Grenier

The Comets will have one day of rest before they head into a potentially record breaking weekend. This Friday, they will head to Rochester for their second meeting of the season with the Americans at 7 p.m.

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