The wondrous world of the escalator

Urbanization | Worth knowing | On royal buttons, speed and superlatives: celebrating its 125th anniversary, we present the most thrilling, interesting and curious facts about the escalator.

Imagine a world where the dream of being transported upwards was simply… 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 – the escalator.

First of its kind

Over 125 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. It elevated passengers on a conveyor belt at a 25-degree angle and traveled only seven feet. Eventually, 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 use escalators annually.

The earliest escalator models required the operator to crank by hand.The earliest escalator models required the operator to crank by hand.

The technology that Jesse Reno first developed 125 years ago has been perfected over the years and decades by thyssenkrupp. Today, our solutions are installed all around the globe in huge numbers. That’s a good reason enough to present the most interesting facts about the escalator.

The long and the short of it

If you add 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 in the world, at 53.68 meters, is being installed in the Okruzhnaya metro station in Russia. Currently, Europe’s longest escalator is located in the Prague metro, where thyssenkrupp has installed an escalator of 43.6 meters in length. In contrast, our shortest escalator measures only 890 centimeters. Installations like this, spanning just three or four steps, are often used in palaces or museums.

High up in the mountains or underwater

The highest place where we have ever installed an escalator is in the Alps. We fitted it out with anti-slip treads to prevent skiers from falling. As for the most stylish escalator in the eyes of many enthusiasts, it would have to be the one installed in London department store Harrods. With its spectacular Art Nouveau cladding, it’s definitely one of our favorites too. We even have installations underwater! At Shanghai’s Ocean Aquarium, visitors travel through a transparent underwater tunnel on two of our escalators while exploring the underwater world.

At the Shanghai Ocean Aquarium visitors can explore the underwater worlds comfortably on our escalators. At the Shanghai Ocean Aquarium visitors can explore the underwater worlds comfortably on our escalators.

Escalator royale

We have also built escalators for royalty with a “Royal Mode” that allows passengers to start and stop the escalator at the press of a button. And we’ve also got special escalators built for hotter regions of the world in which cooling units for the handrails are installed so passengers can hold on tight to them without burning their fingers. In addition, we build mobile escalators for boarding and disembarking aircrafts. What’s different about them is that they are carried on board of the aircraft and can be used by th passengers at any airport in the world. With their personal emergency generators, they are completely self-sufficient and don’t need to be connected to the airport power supply system.

Our first mobile escalator for airplanes.Our first mobile escalator for airplanes.

This escalator is bananas

In addition, moving stairways and walkways (like our ACCEL solution) can be combined to make a kind of up-over-up escalator. The longest horizontal centerpiece we’ve installed between escalators is 10 meters long and can be found at Antwerp Central Station. And there’s more! In restaurants, as seen in the Alster-Pavillon in Hamburg, escalators with just one moving handrail are permitted and this is to accommodate staff who carry trays and have only one free hand. Our first suspended escalators were installed at Westminster Court in London where they are mounted on connecting rods attached to the dome of the building and criss-cross the open space of the atrium.

If you combine moving stairways and walkways you make a kind of up-over-up escalator, as seen here at Antwerp Central Station.If you combine moving stairways and walkways you make a kind of up-over-up escalator, as seen here at Antwerp Central Station.

That escalated quickly

Our fastest delivery was done for a state visit in Riyadh. We had two escalators delivered and operating within two weeks. Needless to say, the escalators were sent by air freight. Not quite as fast as an airplane, but at 0.9 meters per second and considered the fastest of its kind, this unique escalator can be found in some metro stations in Prague and Russia.

Escalator – the early years

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! By the way, 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 plant in 1951. A cornerstone for today’s department stores which wouldn’t be complete without an escalator – after all, it’s the escalator that turns a multi-story shop into a successful business.

One at a time: in the times before the industrial production all escalators had to be fabricated from parts on the job site.One at a time: in the times before the industrial production all escalators had to be fabricated from parts on the job site.

An escalating business

thyssenkrupp Elevator is the only company still producing escalators in Germany. Or to put it another way: our escalator plant in Hamburg is the only escalator production plant in the whole of Germany. One single thyssenkrupp escalator mechanic attends to 30 to 40 escalators per month while the average service life of an escalator is 20-30 years before it needs modernization, repair or even a complete replacement. And that’s a real challenge because 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. Nevertheless, the global escalator market is experiencing moderate growth – in Europe approximately 5,500 new escalators are installed each year. And just another piece of fun fact: the employees and visitors of the One World Trade Center go up with our solutions too! Besides 71 elevators, which are the fastest in North and South America, thyssenkrupp had also installed 12 escalators inside the new landmark!

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