Elevator Repair and Replacement The Ups and Downs of Elevators

 Any building in New York City taller than, say, five stories usually has an  elevator—and often, new buildings of even three stories have one. If you live in a New  York-area co-op or condo apartment building, chances are that you use an  elevator every day.

 Chances also are that you don’t give much thought to it, and when you look at the inspection report posted  inside the elevator cab, you don’t spend much time analyzing it. Yet, elevators are essential to any mid-rise or  high-rise apartment building. See how upset people are when their elevator is  out of service for even a few hours!  

 In the Beginning

 There have been elevator-like hoist devices throughout history, but in 1853,  American inventor Elisha Otis invented a freight elevator equipped with a  safety device to prevent the elevator from falling in case a cable broke. This  increased the use of elevators. Other improvements followed, such as telephone  communications between the operator and an “elevator supervisor” and signal-controlled elevators.  

 Before World War I, elevators were still fairly rare and confined by upscale  apartment houses in neighborhoods like the Upper West Side, prestigious office  buildings and fancy department stores. Many of the elevators of that period  resembled luxurious, miniature drawing rooms, with small couches, wood paneling  and uniformed operators. When New York City finally allowed the use of self-service elevators in  apartment buildings in the 1920s, as opposed to those run by elevator  operators, the number of apartment houses built with elevators grew  dramatically. It wasn’t only luxury buildings anymore.  

 How They Work

 Today, there are basically two types of elevators in use—hydraulic and “rope-driven.” Chains or cables loop through the bottom of the counterweight to the underside  of the car to help maintain balance by offsetting the weight of the suspension  ropes. Guide rails that run the length of the shaft keep the car and  counterweight from swaying or twisting during travel. Rollers are attached to  the car and the counterweight to provide a smooth ride along the guide rails.  An electric motor then turns the sheave. These motors are able to control speed  and allow for the elevator's smooth acceleration and deceleration. Signal  switches also stop the cab at each floor level.  


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  • We are putting new controllers and new motors on our 9 story bldg. elevators. Present old motors go at 200 feet per minute and take about a minute to travel the 9 floors, should new motors go faster and if so how much faster
  • It's interesting to learn a bit about the his on Tuesday, May 26, 2015 1:02 PM
    It's interesting to learn a bit about the history of elevators. It's true that people do rely on them pretty heavily. If people couldn't count on elevators, moving up floors of apartment buildings would be a pretty tough challenge. Thanks for the article!