Unique Elevators and Hoists

Scaling the Heights Towers, Milestone Buildings / Plumbing Depths / Support for Other Transportation / Aiding the Less-Than-Able / Mini-Lifting / The March of Modernization

Through all power eras, the elevator industry maintained its focus upon several basic concerns. One was to lift materials, then people, ever higher. On the other hand, the first lifts made it possible for people to descend ever-deeper into mines and other underground habitat. The advent of sub-surface railroad systems brought escalators and accompanying elevators into wide usage, delivering passengers to and from mass transit. Although the deepest trips have remained to the mines, the greatest number of people have been lowered to other modes of underground transport, primarily the subway systems of the largest cities. In the early days of innercity commercial expansion, cellar (or sidewalk) lifts became important, assuring that cargo could be off-loaded at street level, then sorted out in the basement. The support of other transportation systems has ever been a concern of the elevator industry; first in storing wagons; then the earliest motor cars. When ground level parking threatened to absorb too much area within urban centers, mechanical devices moved automobiles up, sideways and into slots within multi-level storage. In addition, road and rail traffic could not have been as effective if the industry’s lifts had not accomplished the supplemental work of lifting vehicles and rolling stock for repairs. From the time of the first hand-powered lifts, a major use has been to elevate the handicapped and infirm within hospitals and retirement homes; later to assist the less-than-abled in their own residences. Still another continuity of industry effort has been to always make available an elevator of the greatest economy -- the hand-powered elevator and dumbwaiter. These early indoor lifts have been available to the present day. *And finally, the elevator industry has always been involved in the practice of modernization, upgrading installations, piece by piece, to advance efficiency and reliability. This segment of the business began when the water wheels and driving belts within British factories, were replaced with steam engines. The first electric motors drove the pumps in hydraulic systems, and steam power was just as effortlessly upgraded by slipping an electric motor hub under the drive belt! Modernization grew into a exacting science as elevator systems became more complex. History’s greatest retrofit was the replacement of the human car operators with fully automatic operatorless control systems.