How do escalators work?


The first types of escalator were patened by Americans Leamon Souder and Nathan Ames in the mid 19th century but both types never made it past the drawing board stage. The world had to wait four more decades until a fully working model appeared that was designed by Charles Seeberger and Jesse Reno. The idea was a hit and was first installed in department stores in New York City. Seeberger and Reno sold their invention to the Otis Elevator Company in 1910 and a new industry was born.


Escalators are essentially a simple conyer belt, with interlocking and moving stairs mounted on a chain and pulled around in a loop. At the top of every escalator is a truss which contains the drive and return gears. These cogs have the chains around them which run down the side and complete the mechanism.


How do escalators work?


The power comes from an electric motor that turns the gears that make the steps move as well as moving the handrail. Both the steps and the handrail are designed to move at the same time as eachother, making the ride as comfortable and as stable as possible. The engine only has the same power as three small lawnmowers but that’s all it needs to be the effective short haul people mover that is popular the world round!

How do the steps flatten?

Each step rests against the next as they move along the chain. One set of wheels pulls the steps along while another set keep the steps level. This allows the escalator to flatten out at the top so users can disembark that little bit easier. Below the escalator, the steps are recycled and travel down again to begin the process anew.


A way out sign at the bottom of an escalator leading from the underground tube train.

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