Saturday, April 28, 2012

It's All About Escalators

I was very much afraid of escalators when I was little, no doubt because I can at times be rather clumsy and the whole business of trying to get off of one without stumbling made me nervous. I still prefer to use the stairs but these days it's because taking the escalator makes me feel lazy. Still, there's no denying that they serve a useful purpose. I can definitely see it as one of those inventions where people kept saying, "wouldn't it be nice if..." and eventually the idea was born.

The Seattle Central Library Escalator
the green ascent

So how did the escalator come to be? Well, Nathan Ames of Saugus, Massachusetts is credited with the first patent for an escalator in 1859. He called his invention the Revolving Stairs. Unfortunately, his idea was rather vague regarding materials, power, and practical uses, and it was never built.

Caesar's Palace in Las Vegas with its curved escalators
Caesars Palace (#45)

The first actual patent for an escalator was issued to Leamon Souder in 1889, but nothing came of it as this escalator was never built, so it fell to Jesse Reno to produce the first actual escalator (which he called the "inclined elevator") in 1892, and in 1896 one was installed next to the Old Iron Pier on Coney Island in New York. From all descriptions, it sounds a bit like a conveyor belt moving along at a 25 degree incline.

Canary Wharf Station II in London
Canary Wharf Station II

Eventually, Charles Seeberger, using the designs of George Wheeler, developed an escalator with steps (although at first without the ridges to keep a person from slipping) and the first commercial elevator developed by Seeberger in conjunction with the Otis Elevator Company won a major prize, and the rest is history. Otis Elevator had the monopoly on the escalator, at least for awhile.

Of course, nowadays there are even escalators for your shopping carts, like this on in a Target store.
The magical wonderland of Target

Or inclined moving walkways with no stairs at all.
09/07/2009 - the little things one notices.

Lastly, here's a very short video of the world's shortest escalator (certified by Guinness in 1989). 

And here's a fast-forward through what claims to the longest escalator system (not single elevator but an astonishing series of escalators connected by very short distances). Why go to the amusement park when you can do this all day for free? (Note: This didn't make me dizzy but if you have a tendency toward dizziness, you might want to skip this one).

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