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Going Up and Down with DieselDucy

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YouTube personality Andrew Reams shares his passion for elevators with fans of all ages.

Once the doors open, he hurriedly steps inside the cabin, camera in hand. He hits the top floor button.

 “Going up,” he says excitedly. He checks the make and model of the elevator car, fixtures and emergency phone. The doors open.

“Top floor,” he says. “Look at this elevator; it is so fancy. We are going back to the basement. OK, here we go.” He hits the close-door button, then the basement button.

“Going down.”

Andrew Reams rode his first elevator at the West County Center shopping mall in Des Peres, Missouri, when he was about three years old. He felt like the elevator was a portal to another world. You push a button, the wall opens up, you step inside this room, press a button, then 30 seconds later, the doors open, and you arrive at a different place. The whole experience fascinated him – so much so that, years later, he would start filming himself going up and down elevators and posting the videos on his YouTube channel, elevaTOURS by DieselDucy. The popular video-sharing website would open up another world for him: thousands of fans who share his fascination with elevators. 

A community of elevator enthusiasts has grown up around him off and online, bonding over their shared interest.

DieselDucy has received more than 50 million views in eight years. At least 15,447 fans have subscribed to his channel on YouTube. Reams has been particularly popular among children on the autism spectrum. Reams himself grew up with Asperger’s, a form of autism. “One of the traits of Asperger’s is a fixation on certain things. Well, mine happens to be elevators,” he explains. Reams enjoys learning about the elevators’ mechanical aspects and engineering marvels. He likes elevators that are new and fast or old and beautiful – particularly vintage units. But, more than that, he says he enjoys the social aspect of the hobby. A community of elevator enthusiasts has grown up around him off and online, bonding over their shared interest.

For the past several years, parents have been taking their children to meet Reams in his hometown of Roanoke, Virginia. They go around town riding the elevators now famous within the elevator photography community. The meetings are reminiscent of a child meeting Mickey Mouse for the first time. One young fan, Daniel, recently visited his hero, DieselDucy, after discovering elevaTOURS while watching crane videos posted by a YouTube user from the U.K. His mother, Karen, says her son is drawn by the visually stimulating and mechanically oriented nature of the videos, and Reams’ happy personality makes them fun. As a mother, she appreciates the fact that all the videos are G-rated, and she does not have to worry about what her son is watching. Since they were in the area on a family trip, she decided to contact Reams via Facebook. He was more than willing to take Daniel on his very own Roanoke adventure.

“Push the up button,” Reams tells Daniel. He pushes the hall button; the elevator doors open and Reams, Daniel and his family enter the cabin.

“Hold the door-open button. Send it up to six,” Reams tells Daniel.

Reams says excitedly, “It’s an Otis,” as the elevator car starts to travel up. “See, up there’s the number.”

Everyone looks at the position indicator, and Daniel’s father, Patrick, repeats each floor number as the car goes past them, “Two, three, four, five, six.”

The car stops, the doors open, and the attendant control announces, “Sixth floor.” Reams tells Daniel’s family they will go back to the lobby. Daniel hits the “S” and close-door buttons.

“He just sent us down to the basement,” Reams says as the elevator doors close.

Once they get to the service floor, he has Daniel press the lobby button. They ride up one floor, and as everyone except Daniel exits the cabin, Reams turns back and says,

“He’s going to hold the door for everyone. Look at him!”

Daniel loved every second of the experience. His father, Patrick, likes to call this “Finding your tribe.”

A number of incidents have helped keep Reams’ interest in elevators alive all these years. He remembers reading a National Geographic article about the elevators in the new Marriott Marquis hotel in Atlanta in his fifth-grade class. Their beauty captivated him so much that he decided right there that he would film himself riding elevators – the only problem was, he did not have a camcorder. He bugged his parents for one, but camcorders were very expensive and bulky back then. In the meantime, Reams’ father would take him to office buildings around town to ride the elevators. Five years later, in 1993, his father arranged for him to borrow his secretary’s sister’s Sony HandyCam to film the elevators he saw in National Geographic. His interest continued on into college at Murray State University in Murray, Kentucky, where he watched an elevator modernization project on campus in 1997. One of the mechanics remarked that while most college students skip class to go drinking, Reams skipped class to watch them work on an elevator! They gave him parts of the old elevator, which he keeps alongside other elevator memorabilia in his “elevaTOURS Museum” at home.

He posted one of his first elevator videos on YouTube in 2007 while he was training in Atlanta for a job as a train conductor for Norfolk Southern. Since he was in town and had his own Sony camcorder that he purchased in 2000, he decided to go back and visit the Marriot Marquis again. He filmed himself going up and down the elevators, then uploaded the videos on YouTube later that evening. The next day, he was surprised to see the videos had received 20 views. Months later, they would receive hundreds of views and comments from viewers asking for more. He started filming all the elevators in Roanoke. Now he takes one to two trips a year filming elevators in cities like Austin, Texas; Charlotte, North Carolina; Dallas; Louisville, Kentucky; New York City; Raleigh, North Carolina; Rochester, New York; San Antonio; San Francisco; and St. Louis.

But there are challenges to DieselDucy’s elevaTOURS. For one, it takes time and money to make these videos. Currently, his YouTube commission from advertisements enables him to keep traveling and filming. Reams also has difficulty getting into some buildings in post-9/11 America. In the filming of 2,000 videos, however, he has only had to deal with the police twice. He makes a point to get permission to enter buildings not open to the public, because, as he says, “I don’t want to be a rebel, but a role model.”

His elevator videos and interaction with his mostly autistic fans have opened doors for him with a number of companies. A ThyssenKrupp Elevator office based in Texas took him to New York City, where he was able to tour a few buildings. The company’s service contract enabled him to go behind the scenes in the machine rooms. This increased notoriety has enabled him to gain more and more access.

When Reams is not riding elevators, he is looking after his family and working. He was also recently elected as the sixth administrator of the “Elevatorpedia” site on www.wikia.com. He hopes to turn his hobby into a full-time job, perhaps within the PR department of an elevator company. But, if you ask him why he continues to make these videos, he will say he does it for his fans, because their feedback is so rewarding. He gets two to four emails a week from parents thanking him for the joy and happiness he brings into their children’s lives. He remarks proudly, “I look at my YouTube channel as more of an autism outreach, and the elevators are simply a vehicle.”

Visit Andrew Reams at his home on the web, www.dieselducy.com.

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