Utica NY Snow Emergency Light

Hello 2021. Been a long time in between posts. With the pandemic affecting my business, signal hording has come to a screeching halt. A couple things here and there, but for the most part, I’m not even looking for anything. Sucks but what can I do. Anyway………….

Snow Emergency Light Utica NY
A couple of wild Utica Snow Emergency Lights I tripped over

I’ve had my eye on these for a long time. Utica New York Snow Emergency Lights. Found 2 of them on a signal pickup this summer. I got 1 and my friend “The King” got the other. They are really cool.

Utica Snow Emergency Light
Snow Emergency Light still on a pole in Utica NY in 2019

The story on these lights was this:
In the late 1960’s I believe (about as far back as I remember traffic stuff) these were mounted on many streets in Utica. For the most part, they were at an entrance to the city from a neighboring town, and also along what were designated “Emergency Snow Emergency Routes” Genesee Street, Bleecker Street, Lafayette, Whitesboro and I believe Culver Ave. These were the streets that, in the event of a crippling snow storm, they were plowed first. It also meant, you could not park on those roads if there was a snow emergency.

These lights were a mish mosh or parts. The yellow pole mounts are some type of Marbelite pipe adapter. They either has a piece of metal pipe or plastic conduit that the sign would hang off of. The signs were 2 individual signs bolted together at the top and put back to back.

Crouse Hinds Explosion Proof Light

The flashing lights were a Crouse Hinds explosion proof light. They were used in some sort of industrial applications. If you know what they were for, let me know since I’m always curious about things like this.

Emergency Snow Route Sign

Later these signs were changed from Emergency Snow Routes to just Snow Emergency signs. Utica had it’s own sign shop and I believe still does so they just refaced these as you can see in this photo.

The way these were controlled was very interesting also. Utica Fire Department used to also have it’s own signal department and fire dispatching. The signal department took care of the 100’s of signals in the city. They were disbanded in the early 2010’s when the last signal tech retired.

If the mayor declared a snow emergency in the city, somewhere up in Central Fire Station on Bleecker Street, the dispatcher on duty would flip a switch and the snow emergency lights would begin flashing. There were miles and miles of signal wire that ran from the fire station all along Bleecker Street, Lafayette and Whitesboro Streets and most of the entire length of Genesee Street from Downtown Utica to the New Hartford village line. The wire was run and connected to what at the time were old mechanical controllers for the signals along those roads. The lights were wired to the flashing module in the controller and when they were turned on, used the flasher within the controller to flash. When the snow emergency was over, they’d flip a switch again and they would all turn off.

GS 4 Controller Flasher Switch

Some of the lights would be positioned at other areas in the city like this one in the photo below.

Lafayette and Washington Streets Utica, NY

Here’s one caught in the wild that is gone now. The controller is in my basement, the poles, signals and span is long gone, and not sure if this is one of the Snow Emergency lights we found. This was the corner of Washington and Lafayette Streets in Downtown Utica, NY. This had a (GS) controller along with a Snow Emergency Light. This one wasn’t wired directly into the city’s central fire station, so they wired this and others like it right into the flasher within the controller. The first photo below shows it wired directly into the signal flasher. As soon as I got this controller I just figured that was how the city had them wired. I’ve got another identical controller from this same street and it’s wired up exactly the same.

Here’s the inside of the controller shown in the Google Street view image. They had a toggle switch wired into the flasher unit and would manually control ones that were not directly connected to Central Fire. Pretty ingenious if you ask me. When I was a kid, I’d hear on the police scanner after snow emergencies were over the police dispatcher asking patrolmen first, if they have a key to the controllers and if so, to turn off the snow emergency lights.

Somewhere along the way, these were changed from Emergency Snow Route to just Snow Emergency beacons. They’d declare a snow emergency in the city and that meant all cars had to be off the streets, usually at 10 pm, so the city could plow all the roads if there was a lot of snow coming. This happened a lot when I was a kid. If you parked your car on the street, it was towed, no questions asked.

These lights, like everything else Utica signal related fell apart and into disrepair. I think these stopped working in the late 1990’s or early 2000’s. The fire department switched their dispatching responsibilities over the Oneida County 911 eventually also so even if they worked, there’s be nobody to “flip the switch” anymore, and eventually, all the old time mechanical controllers in the city were replaced and the new controllers were not wired to make these lights work anymore.

Lucky for me, we found these this past summer and I already had 2 of the old Crouse Hinds GS controllers that were wired up to run these lights. There are still many of the lights left sitting on poles unused. I’m trying my best to let the right people know I WANT THEM and am trying to save them from being scrapped. They of course, are from old Utica, and I love anything old from Utica, especially old traffic control equipment.

Here’s a video of it running off one of my GS Controllers. Enjoy it and thanks for reading!!


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