Beauty and the Beasts
Our focus topic this month is Escalators, Moving Walks and Components. Let me say right up front: I’m that lady you don’t want to be behind getting on the escalator! That’s me standing in front of it trying to decide when to put my foot out and commit to the ride. All the folks behind me who are late for their planes are crowding me and making me nervous. After being in this industry 50 years, I am still intimidated by these enormous “beasts.” Maybe it’s because we make them so quiet and attractive. We dress them up with glass and stainless steel to make them beautiful and elegant. They are simply part of the architectural landscape to most people. But not to me – I know what can go wrong, and I know what goes into building and maintaining these complicated machines.
About 20 years ago, when the Elevator Escalator Safety Foundation (EESF) was in its infancy, I was in a convention hospitality room talking about the new organization and its efforts to teach children how to be safe on elevators and escalators. We all agreed that for children, escalators should be the primary focus for safety education, because the very young and very old are those most often hurt. Davis Turner, a man who knows his escalators, said, “What do you expect? An escalator is like a six-ton Swiss clock” – meaning they are massive but intricate and must fit together perfectly. Those words always come back to me at the top step.
The subject of escalators and moving walks is sometimes a difficult one to work into our magazine, as the OEMs are mostly responsible for installing and maintaining them; however, we ended up with a wide range of material with which to work. We lead off with a fascinating article on Hallé’s Moving Way for Transporting Persons and Goods by our historian Dr. Lee Gray. The “moving way” was actually installed in a French department store a full year ahead of Jesse Wilford Reno’s first moving stairway at Bloomingdale’s. Next is Bigger Escalator Step for More Capacity by Dr. Ali Albadri of Tube Lines Lifts and Escalators Services. Albadri notes passenger behavior when on escalators: passengers do not object to standing side by side but are less tolerant of those riding directly in front of or behind them. He posits that increasing step depth from 0.4 m to 0.5 or 0.6 m potentially increases passenger capacity by 85%. Following this, KONE’s case study of the WMATA Escalator Replacement at Bethesda Station by Patrick O’Connell posed some very unusual situations. The three high-rise units reach an incredible height of 107 ft. and require a 944-ft.-long step chain that weighs 24,000 lb. To limit disruption of the passengers, crews worked around the clock to set one escalator over a weekend. Weatherproofing by Michelle S. Baratta of Syska Hennessy Group is another interesting case study. This examination by the consulting firm found that escalators with weatherproofing still require aggressive maintenance and, even when partially covered, wear out significantly earlier than interior ones. In Standard and Customized Safety Fixtures, PTL Equipment describes its solution for escalators existing in harsh weather conditions. What Are Your Escalator Handrails Telling You? by Patrick Bothwell of EHC Global made me smile. The subheads include “Old and Wrinkled?” “Bubbles and Bulges?” and “Cracked Lips?” He makes a great point with humor (and photos).
Much of this book is devoted to our annual Photo Contest Winners. Participation in it grows more amazing every year. This year, we had 227 entries and 4,074 votes. The 26 winners are the crème de la crème. My favorite is Mithra Weerakone’s Marina Bay Sands escalator picture (also appearing below). This is how I like to ride escalators – alone!