Elevators in the Military

Aircraft carriers have traditionally used high-speed, aluminum hydraulic elevators. They are big and strong enough to lift two 74,000-lb. (33,566-kg) fighter jets. Here is a video of one in action:

However, the U.S. Navy has found hydraulic, pneumatic, steam and mechanically driven systems to be inefficient, inadequate and high maintenance. For that reason, it has pursued the use of Linear Synchronous-Motor (LSM) technology in its shipborne elevators. According to James G. Wieler and Dr. Richard D. Thornton, the LSM system is “faster, safer, environmentally friendly and more efficient, and has a higher lift capacity than existing Navy munitions elevators.” Dubbed the Advanced Weapons Elevator (AWD), you can see it in action on NOVA, featuring Federal Equipment Co. president Doug Ridenour.

We may see AWEs installed on aircraft carriers as early as next year.

“Linear Synchronous Motor Elevators Become a Reality,” ELEVATOR WORLD, May 2012, pp. 140-143 is available in print and digital format from the Elevator World online bookstore.


Chinese shopping mall reveals world’s largest spiral escalator


In March 2015, Mitsubishi Electric manufactured and installed this glamorous spiral escalator at the New World Daimaru Department Store in Shanghai, China.  The shopping mall’s main atrium features two spiral escalators which are composed of 12 curved escalators all together—making Shanghai’s the largest order for such a project yet, according to Gizmodo.  Only 103 such flights of electric stairs currently exist in the world, including one at Caesars Palace Forum Shops in Las Vegas. Pretty amazing!


Tall Buildings in Mexico


Mexico has 16 completed tall buildings, most of them office buildings. They range in height from 492 ft. (150 m) to 738 ft. (225 m), with 31 to 55 floors. The tallest building, Torre Mayor, in Mexico City, has 55 floors above and four floors below ground. It has 29 Schindler elevators, traveling at a maximum speed of 6 mps.

Nine tall buildings are currently under construction, four of which will be taller than Torre Mayor when they are completed over the next three years: Torre Koi in Monterrey and Torre Reforma, Punto Chapultepec and Torre Paradox in Mexico City. Torre Koi will be 906 ft. (276 m) tall with 67 floors when it is completed next year. Schindler is outfitting Torre Reforma with 27 elevators, traveling at a maximum of 5 mps.

But Mexico is not content with the height of Torre Mayor or Torre Koi. Another tall building has been proposed for Monterrey, the Torre Insignia, which will stand at a height of 1,083 ft. (330 m) with 77 floors. It is projected to be completed in 2019. Not to be overshadowed, Mexico City has envisioned the Barrio Capital, also at 1,083 ft. (330 m) with 26 floors for a museum, library or something else.

Visit “The Skyscraper Center: The Global Tall Building Database of the CTBUH” for more information: www.skyscrapercenter.com. Also, see the market trends article, “North America and Mexico” by Kaija Wilkinson, published in ELEVATOR WORLD, October 2013, available in digital or print.


$300-Million Robbery Began in Elevator Shaft

Distractify recently reported on a London jewel theft began when “The robbers disabled the elevator on the second floor and climbed down the shaft to the basement where the vault is located.” It also involved drilling through 20-in.-thick concrete to access safety deposit boxes while bypassing a high-security vault door. Helped by local police dismissing Hatton Garden Safe Deposit’s alarm, the crooks got away and are still at large.


Friday Funny

Here is a great clip from stand-up comedian and actor Kevin James (you know, Paul Blart:  Mall Cop and King of Queens) related to elevators.  Have a great weekend!


A Fish Takes an Elevator Ride


Orange Beach, Alabama, Sunday, April 5, 2015

With the surf rolling in late in the afternoon, my 14-year-old son was eager to fish as we were at the beach for Spring Break. Although, I was not nearly as interested in this work, er I mean fun, I agreed to help get his rods set up. We walked out on the sandbar, cast out the lines as far as we could and walked them back to the shore. After a couple of hours of nothing but catfish, I said I was going in to eat dinner and get cleaned up. He begged me to stay but I was tired from a long day on the beach with over-energetic kids.

After about 20 minutes, I get a call from my son saying that he had caught a huge red fish. Huge to me was maybe 12 inches, but, boy, I was wrong. This fish was nearly 36 inches and 40 pounds. And did it ever gain him a crowd, which I think he liked.

Staying at a condo we had no choice but to take the fish into the building and up the elevator. There was no sign that said, “No fish allowed.” So, we took it in. It seemed really crazy to have that big fish in an elevator.

Needless to say, we ate fish for the rest of the week.

Give a boy a fish and he will eat for a day, but teach him to fish and he will eat for a lifetime.

T.Bruce MacKinnon
Vice President, COO
Elevator World, Inc.


Fantastic Funicular (Füniküler) in Istanbul

During my recent visit to Istanbul, Turkey for the Asansor Istanbul Exhibition, held March 26-29, I had the opportunity to spend four additional days in this beautiful and historic city.  This was my fourth time to visit Istanbul but each time I discover new and exciting places to visit. Istanbul’s terrain reminds me of the U.S. city of San Francisco, with its steep hills and unique architecture.  My stay the last fews days were spent in the Taksim Square area (European side) that includes lots of shopping, restaurants and nightlife.  Because of my recent visits to Istanbul I had pretty much mastered the Metro (subway/tram) and found it to be the most economical and fastest way to get around the city.  As I headed to the Metro to reach Kabataş, the first stop before I reached my final destination, I quickly found out that my trip first began with a Funicular (or Füniküler in Turkish) ride.  

The Kabataş-Taksim Funicular opened in 2006 and serves about 30,000 passengers a day according to Wikipedia.  I took a little time to video and snap some photos while on my way as it is a really fascinating design that lets the average “rider” see exactly how it works.  I hope you enjoy the video and photos, and will post some additional photos from the city soon.  

In addition, here are a few photos I snapped of the workers building of this project (they were posters hung on the walls near the funicular) and a few more snapshots of the cable system:









The Dumbwaiter and Free Speech: Vertical Transportation at Monticello

by Hanno van der Bijl


Thomas Jefferson spent a great deal of time, money and energy designing, building and cultivating his dream home, Monticello in Charlottesville, Virginia. You can see it proudly depicted on the nickel. If you’ve ever visited what the third president of the U.S. called home, you will remember seeing all kinds of inventions and little tweaks he made or used for the sake of convenience. For example, he was extremely impressed with his polygraph, a machine that would transcribe an exact copy of whatever he was writing at the time. Since he kept up a lively correspondence with friends and colleagues, this invention enabled him to check what he had written in a previous letter when he received a response. Were he alive today, Jefferson would probably be one of the first to adopt every — and maybe invent some — Internet of Things technology that comes along.

Monticello - Dining Room with dumbwaiter in the Fireplace to Wine Cellar

Another invention that this Virginian relished was a dumbwaiter installed in the side of the fireplace in the dining room. The wine cellar lay directly below. A family member or Burwell Colbert, the slave butler, would place a wine bottle in the dumbwaiter at dinner time and hoist it up to the dining room.

Now, it is common knowledge that while Jefferson, the principle architect and a signer of the Declaration of Independence, was against slavery per se, he himself had about 600 slaves over the course of his lifetime and fathered a number of children with his slave, Sally Hemings. So, why install a dumbwaiter in his plantation home? For one, Jefferson enjoyed good company and the life of the mind. Food and wine helped encourage conversation beyond the trivial to the bliss of literature and philosophy. One of the three major accomplishments he had engraved on his tombstone was that he was the “Father of the University of Virginia.” So, he did not want anything to hinder the free flow of ideas at the dinner table. The other reason was to protect his own freedom of speech. While waiters are “dumb,” Jefferson knew they are not deaf.

Remarking on her experiences at Monticello, Margaret Bayard Smith wrote that instead of slaves, Jefferson used the wine-cellar dumbwaiter and portable dumbwaiters for each guest, because he believed:

“that much of the domestic and even public discord was produced by the mutilated and misconstructed repetition of free conversation at dinner tables, by these mute but not inattentive listeners.”

Perhaps Mitt Romney should have given his May 17, 2012 fundraising speech at Monticello.


On Escalator Safety Videos and Bizarre Usage

The Elevator Escalator Safety Foundation (EESF) Annual General Membership Meeting took place in Tampa on March 4-5. A comprehensive report on its proceedings will be published in May issue of ELEVATOR WORLD by Editorial Assistant. While your humble blogger has no intention of spoiling its contents, he would like to point out that the EESF has something very different in mind for its new educational safety video. While this “1970’s Escalator Safety Public Information Film” is the “Scared Straight” version of what the Foundation sets out to achieve, its message is still important.

The above video was found at TNT Magazine‘s website, where a lighter-hearted video poking fun at inexperienced escalator users is also featured.


Elevator Women

by Hanno van der Bijl

This blog post briefly (and imperfectly) outlines the work and lives of three elevator women who have made, or continue to make, valuable contributions to the elevator industry. Their example can help curb the misogyny that continues to be a problem to varying degrees throughout the world, and inspire women to be brave in pursuing their vocational pursuits.

The Part-Time Inventor


Harriet Ruth Brisbane Tracy was born in Charleston, South Carolina in 1834. Her father, William Brisbane moved the family to New England before the Civil War. Tracy married Cadwallader Colden Tracy in 1860, and lived in New York during the 1860s-1890s. She and her family moved to Paris and then on to London, where she lived until she died in 1918.

Tracy’s obituary, written by her son-in-law, credits her with no less than 11 patents for inventions involving elevators, sewing machine and folding beds. We have a letter recognizing her elevator design, with features from her 1882 and 1889 patents and automatic hatchway guards, that was on display at the 1893 World’s Columbian Exposition. The letter was signed by five renowned engineers of the time: Lewis C. Grover, manager, Colt Firearms Company; John Thomason, inventor; William F. Durfee, sewing machine expert; and Frederick R. Hutton, professor of the Columbia School of Mines.

The Business Owner

Marie MacDonald was instrumental in forming what would become the first National Association of Women in Construction chapter on the U.S. West Coast in the 1950s. She was the first woman in California to receive an elevator contractor’s license in 1958, and she founded the elevator inspection firm, McDonald Elevator Co., in 1977. She has been recognized as the San Francisco Chamber of Commerce’s 1988 Entrepreneur of the Year, and she received the National Association of Elevator Contractors (NAEC) William C. Sturgeon Distinguished Service Award in 2001.


Before she became Mrs. Marie MacDonald, she became involved in the elevator industry when her father, Sherman Camp, owner of Dwan Elevator Co., asked her to install a new bookkeeping system at the family business. She later became office manager, and this led to an opportunity to sell the company’s products, such as the Hillavator, a hill-climbing system her father invented (ELEVATOR WORLD, October 1959). She earned QEI certification through NAESA International in 1976. After her father sold the company, she started her own — McDonald Elevator Co. — in August 1977. She sold the company after her husband, John McDonald, passed away in 1989. She then worked for Pacific Access, Contractors in Redwood City until 2013, when she retired. Pacific Access President Kurt Frietzche said: “As one of the first women to own and operate a business in this field, she showed great tenacity and gumption.” She remains active in organizations like the Vertical Initiative for Elevator Escalator Women (VIEEW).

The Otis Fellow

In 2006, Theresa Muenkel Christy, became the first woman to be named an Otis fellow. An ELEVATOR WORLD interview, published in March 2013, notes, “She is a named inventor of 14 patents (with several others pending).” In 2011, she was a finalist for the Connecticut Women of Innovation Award.


In 1986, she started her career as a software engineer at Otis simply because she wanted a job in Connecticut. She became more interested in the industry when she started working with the elevator dispatching group. She had double majored in Mathematics and Economics at Wellesley, Massachusetts in 1979, and then received an MBA from Babson College in 1987 after studying as a night student. Due to her interest in elevator dispatching, she also pursued and was awarded an MA in Mathematics/Statistics at Central Connecticut State University in New Britain in 2002. “During my studies at CCSU,” says Christy, “I was known as ‘the elevator lady’ because many of my projects had to do with elevator issues.”

Christy maintains that the biggest challenge in her career is “prioritizing all the work that comes my way….I have learned to be flexible enough to change direction and switch back and forth between multiple activities.” The strengths she brings to the table are her enjoyment of the subject matter, the relevant educational background, and her excellent communication skills, which she says “is important to my role at Otis, because I am frequently in training or customer situations where I am trying to explain something most people don’t think much about.” The most rewarding parts of her career, she says, are working on technical problems and working with customers.


Despite the highly technical nature of her work, she has kept her feet on the ground. During a work trip to New York City, she saw the impact on society that the elevator has: “I quickly learned that residents of NYC are very elevator savvy, and that elevators are a very real part of their lives — almost, but not quite, the way automobiles are to those of us living in the suburbs.” Another reality check, as it were, is that her husband of more than 30 years has sickle-cell disease: “This has added to the complexity of our lives but has also served as a frequent reminder of what’s really important in life.”

She continues to look forward to the future by setting goals. She says, “I want to continue influencing the way the industry looks at elevator metrics, both what they mean and what they don’t mean. I want to continue working in elevator dispatching as part of the team that develops world-class Otis dispatching products.”

Tracy, MacDonald and Christy — just three of many women in the elevator industry — are great examples to both women and men of the joy and power of service and success. In their respective arenas, they saw a need and faithfully served the interests of others. They bloomed where they were planted.

Dr. Lee Gray, “The Part-Time Inventor and the Industrialist”, Elevator World, February 2004, pp. 104-107.
Elizabeth Pate, “Otis Fellow Theresa Muenkel Christy Tells EW about Her Role in the Industry,” Elevator World, March 2013, pp. 50-53.
Kaija Wilkinson, “Having a Say: Marie MacDonald looks back on blazing a path for fellow women in the elevator industry.” Elevator World, May 2014, pp. 32-36.