Sunday, 17 November 2019
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Celebrating 125 years of the escalator

The world’s first escalator was put into operation on January 16th, 1893 in New York – as a so-called “incline elevator”. The escalator’s 125th birthday is a great occasion for thyssenkrupp to celebrate.

(Photo: © thyssenkrupp Elevator)

Imagine a world where dreams of being transported upwards via a moving staircase was simply that, a dream. Urban mobility would look significantly different today, and be far more complicated, had it not been for a man who, while attempting to create New York City’s first double-decker subway, created something even more important.

HandwerkOver one hundred and twenty-five years ago, Jesse Reno invented the first working escalator, which was patented on March 15, 1892. The first escalator, then known as an incline elevator, was installed at the Old Iron Pier at Coney Island in New York City on January 16, 1893. The moving stairway elevated passengers on a conveyor belt at a 25- degree angle and traveled only seven feet.

The escalator ran for two weeks at Old Iron Pier before moving to the Brooklyn Bridge. It is estimated that it carried 75,000 passengers during its two weeks at the Old Iron Pier. Today, more than 100 billion people in the United States alone use escalators every year.

There are “Royal Mode“ escalators designed for kings

The technology that Jesse Reno first developed 125 years ago has been perfected over the years and decades by thyssenkrupp. Today, the company’s solutions are installed all around the globe in huge numbers. If all escalators installed by thyssenkrupp were joined together, they would be long enough to scale a mountain with a height of 500 kilometers.

HandwerkA huge variety are available – from an escalator that’s only 890 centimeters long up to one that measures 53.68 meters. There are “Royal Mode“ escalators designed for kings and queens to easily start and stop by simply pressing a button, and even mobile solutions that are a “to go” option and can be carried around the world in air planes. In Prague and some Russian cities people travel with high speed -- with some escalators moving their passengers at 0.9 meters/sec.

In Germany, escalators have only been manufactured in serial production since 1950. Before then they were built by hand on the construction site.

Securing jobs worldwide

thyssenkrupp Elevator solutions not only move people and goods, but also secure jobs: Today, around 155,000 people are in the elevator and escalator industry worldwide. In Germany alone there are around 18,000.

In Hamburg, thyssenkrupp runs Germany’s only factory for escalators. The company also maintains about 25,000 escalators in Europe. A mechanic cares for up to 40 escalators – per month! Today, in Europe there are more than 136,000 escalators installed, 35,600 of them in Germany. An average escalator’s lifespan is up to 30 years before it has to be modernized, but there’s still growth ahead – with some additional 5,500 new escalators every year.


The long
If you added together all the escalators thyssenkrupp has ever installed, you could climb a 500 kilometer high mountain or travel a distance of 1,000 kilometers.

Our longest escalator at 53.68 meters is being installed in the Okruzhnaya metro station in Russia. Europe’s current longest escalator is in the Prague metro, where thyssenkrupp has installed escalators 43.6 meters long.

Handwerk… and the short of it
Our shortest escalator measures just 890 centimeters. Installations like this spanning just three or four steps are often used in palaces or museums.

High up …
The highest place we ever installed an escalator is in the Alps and we fitted it out with anti-slip treads to prevent skiers from falling.

… and at fancy locations
Our most stylish escalator in the eyes of many enthusiasts is the one we installed in the London department store Harrods. With its spectacular Art Nouveau cladding it’s one of our favorites too. We even have installations under water. At Shanghai’s Ocean Aquarium visitors travel through a transparent underwater tunnel on two of our escalators so they can focus all their attention on the underwater world.

Escalators royale
We have built escalators for royalty with a “Royal Mode” that allows passengers to start and stop the escalator at the press of a button.

Escalators on the rocks
Some of the escalators we’ve built for hotter regions of the world feature cooling units for the handrails so passengers can hold tight without burning their fingers.

HandwerkEscalators-to-go and a few other very crazy relatives
We also build mobile escalators for boarding and disembarking aircraft. What’s different about them is that they are carried on board the aircraft for use by their owners at any airport in the world. With their own emergency generators they are completely self-sufficient and don’t need to be connected to the airport power supply system. The first mobile escalators were made by tkE back in 1983 for the ailing Soviet leader Chernenko.

Moving stairways can also be combined with moving walks to make a kind of up-over-up escalator. The longest horizontal centerpiece we’ve installed between escalators is ten meters long and can be found at Antwerp central station.

Escalators with just one balustrade, and therefore just one moving handrail, are permitted in restaurants because staff carrying trays only have one hand free. Pictured here in the Alster-Pavillon in Hamburg.

thyssenkrupp’s first suspended escalators were installed at Westminster Court in London. Mounted on connecting rods attached to the dome of the building, the escalators criss-cross the open space of the atrium.

HandwerkSpeed matters
Our fastest delivery was for a state visit in Riyadh. We had two escalators delivered and in operation within two weeks. Needless to say, the escalators were sent by air freight. At 0.9 m/s, the fastest escalator currently in operation can be found in some metro stations in Prague and Russia.

Precision is key, too
On long escalators the drive chains are subject to extremely close tolerance requirements. Any variances could compromise the safety of the moving step band, with the risk of passengers getting caught or trapped.

The world’s oldest escalator …
The oldest thyssenkrupp escalator was installed by Wimmel&Landgraf in the department store Wertheim in 1906. That makes it four years younger than the world’s oldest escalator, which is in Macy’s in New York City, but unfortunately that’s not one of ours. Congratulations, Otis, nice work!

The early years
Until 1950 all our escalators were fabricated from parts on the job site. After that we made the move into industrial production at our plant in Hamburg. The first escalators left the Hamburg plant in 1951. Nowadays no department store would be complete without an escalator. It’s escalators that turn a multi-story shop into a successful business.

HandwerkThe average service life of an escalator is 20-30 years before it needs modernization or repair. Modernization involves a state-of-the-art upgrade or sometimes an entire new escalator is fitted in the steel support structure. All escalators are tailor-made. There is a standard basic structure, but configurations such as height, width, angle of inclination, speed, motor, or energy efficiency can be varied according to customer requirements.

The global escalator market is experiencing moderate growth – in Europe approx. 5,500 new escalators are installed each year.

Harald Goessl, Senior Vice President Escalator Operations at thyssenkrupp Elevator. He’s 51 and has been in charge of escalators at thyssenkrupp for four years.

HandwerkStand on the right, walk on the left – that’s accepted escalator etiquette in nearly every major city of the world. How much time does it save really?
Goessl: None at all! I’m afraid that’s a myth I have to debunk. Much as I hate to break it to time-pressed commuters the world over, throughput actually drops when people stand on the right and walk on the left because it takes longer for people to board the escalator. Since fewer people can get on the escalator, an individual – even when walking – can’t go faster. Any time saved by walking is lost by having to queue to get on. It’s faster for everyone if everyone stands. Studies show that escalator capacity increases by approx. 30 percent when nobody walks.

To avoid accidents, you should never walk on a moving installation. True or false?
Goessl: You shouldn’t walk on an escalator because that increases the risk of accidents. That’s true. But on moving walkways or conveyors like those at airports that take you from one terminal to another, it’s fine to walk. And then you’ll really zip along because walking will increase the speed of your ride. A truly efficient mode of transport!

HandwerkIt makes your hair stand on end when you see people …
Goessl: … for example pushing a pram onto an escalator, or boarding an escalator with their shoelaces or a comfort blanket trailing on the ground, or taking a dog onto an escalator without carrying it, or people who can’t hold the handrail because they have both hands full, or who let children poke their shoes into the sides of the steps for fun. Paws, shoes, scarves, or anything that dangles can easily get trapped in the machinery and the result is nearly always a dreadful accident. Often when I see situations like this I can’t stop myself from asking parents or dog-owners to be more careful.

What should you do in an emergency?
Goessl: Every escalator has an emergency stop button and the best advice in critical situations, say when someone falls, is to use it. That can prevent serious injury.

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