Escalators, Moving Sidewalks, and People Movers

Paternosters Continuous Vertical Passenger Conveyors / Funiculars - Inclined Elevators / Moving Sidewalks and Ramps / Moving Stairways - Escalators / Horizontal People Movers

Funiculars - Inclined Elevators

Funiculars (hill-climbers) no doubt came into being before vertical lifts as a method of moving passengers. Obviously, it was much easier to transport a group of people along the side of an existing hill than construct a multistory building. However, the transport of materials came first. Early graphics depict sledges on rollers, then carts with rude wheels, moving building materials and goods. With castles and fortresses finding a natural location on hilltops, it was logical that a form of inclined device was developed to move stone and timber to the construction site. Secure a block with tackle to the cart and the task became easier for human muscle. Add a counterweight and smooth off a track, and a funicular was present -- in practice, if not in name. The laying of wooden, then iron rails on the leveled surface made the job still easier. Records indicate that a water-balance was an early assist -- a tank under the car or the counterweight. Emptying and filling the tank -- as the case might dictate -- would raise the car to the upper level, needed -- either a spring at the top, or a simple water pump at the bottom. In later years, when the times and small payment allowed leisure, the steam-driven funiculars became focal points, taking passengers to high places for a panoramic view. Why not counterweight one car with another? With this technique, the addition of a few more rails allowed a by-pass at mid-point while doubling the carrying capacity. In later years, the aerial ropeway replaced the funicular in many instances. Another Gallery will indicate how passenger ropeways were able to traverse ravines that would have halted funicular construction. When technology advanced to where exciting views could be obtained from an entertainment tower or the top floor of a skyscraper, the funicular gave way to the vertical high-speed elevator. The funiculars had a fine fallback position -- taking skiers to the mountaintop in comfort. The funiculars were also able to rebound in mini form, serving hillside homes. When land for living quarters became scarce, builders looked to the slopes for home sites. Small hill-climbers, with an average capacity of four persons, allowed access.