What the Fish?

Summer is definitely in full swing here in Mobile, Ala. If the temperatures rising above 90°F didn’t give you a clue, the masses of people flocking to the water would also give it away.

Fishing is a favorite pastime of many here on the Gulf Coast – – myself included, although it has been several years since I’ve had an opportunity to do so.

Many people may not know, but fish and elevators have a unique connection with each other. (Just go with it for now)

This past Spring Break, Elevator World’s own T.Bruce MacKinnon and his son pushed the limits of elevator riding regulations by bringing a fish on an elevator:


I believe after being caught, the fish was ‘invited’ up for dinner.

On display at the 2015 Asansör Istanbul Exposition in March 2015 was this fish-elevator:



It certainly appears quite useful… if you’re a fish… seeking a better view.

Also on display was this fish tank that just happens to serve as a Car Operating Panel:

IMG_3539 2


However, elevators are for us humans too, as they can provide us with an incredible view of these under-water dwellers, with no special diving gear required.

The Deep, an education and conservation charity in Hull, England, features a (human sized) elevator that takes visitors under the water, which is where fish tend to be when they’re not inside panels. The cab pauses halfway through its 33 foot (10 meter) journey, allowing riders to take in the view.



The AquaDom in Berlin, Germany, is a tall cylindrical acrylic glass aquarium with a built-in transparent elevator. It takes riders into about 237,755 gallons (900,000 liters) of seawater for a view of the 2600 fish of 56 different species.



I’m thinking seafood for lunch. Who’s with me?

Thanks for reading,

– Caleb


Nikola Tesla

Today marks the 157th year of Nikola Tesla’s birth. Here is a short biography of his life from our Elevator Museum website.

Tesla_circa_1890_slideshowNikola Tesla was born on July 10, 1856, in Smiljan, in the military border zone of the Austro-Hungarian Empire, now in the Repulic of Croatia. He passed away on January 7, 1943, in New York City. He was an inventor and researcher who discovered the rotating magnetic field, the basis of most alternating-current machinery. He emigrated to the United States in 1884, and sold the patent rights to his system of alternating-current dynamos, transformers, and motors to George Westinghouse the following year. In 1891, he invented the Tesla coil, an induction coil widely used in radio technology.

Training for an engineering career, he attended the Technical University at Graz, Austria, and the University of Prague. At Graz he first saw the Gramme dynamo, which operated as a generator and, when reversed, became an electric motor, and he conceived a way to use alternating current to advantage. Later, at Budapest, he visualized the principle of the rotating magnetic field and developed plans for an induction motor that would become his first step toward the successful utilization of alternating current. In 1882 Tesla went to work in Paris for the Continental Edison Company, and, while on assignment to Strassburg in 1883, he constructed, in after-work hours, his first induction motor. Tesla sailed for America in 1884, arriving in New York, with four cents in his pocket and calculations for a flying machine. He first found employment with Thomas Edison, but the two inventors were far apart in background and methods, and their separation was inevitable.

In May 1885, George Westinghouse, head of the Westinghouse Electric Company in Pittsburgh, bought the patent rights to Tesla’s polyphase system of alternating-current dynamos, transformers, and motors. The transaction precipitated a titanic power struggle between Edison’s direct-current systems and the Tesla-Westinghouse alternating-current approach, which eventually won out.

Tesla soon established his own laboratory where he experimented with shadowgraphs similar to those later used by Wilhelm Röntgen when he discovered X-rays in 1895. Tesla’s countless experiments included work on a carbon button lamp, on the power of electrical resonance, and on various types of lighting.

Tesla gave exhibitions in his laboratory in which he lighted lamps without wires by allowing electricity to flow through his body, to allay fears of alternating current. The Tesla coil, which he invented in 1891, is widely used today in radio and television sets and other electronic equipment. That year also marked the date of Tesla’s United States citizenship.

Westinghouse used Tesla’s system to light the World’s Columbian Exposition at Chicago in 1893. His success was a factor in winning him the contract to install the first power machinery at Niagara Falls, which bore Tesla’s name and patent numbers. The project carried power to Buffalo by 1896.

In Colorado Springs, Colo., where he stayed from May 1899 until early 1900, Tesla made what he regarded as his most important discovery– terrestrial stationary waves. By this discovery he proved that the Earth could be used as a conductor and would be as responsive as a tuning fork to electrical vibrations of a certain frequency. He also lighted 200 lamps without wires from a distance of 25 miles (40 kilometres) and created man-made lightning, producing flashes measuring 135 feet (41 metres).

Returning to New York in 1900, Tesla began construction on Long Island of a wireless world broadcasting tower, with $150,000 capital from the American financier J. Pierpont Morgan. Tesla claimed he secured the loan by assigning 51 percent of his patent rights of telephony and telegraphy to Morgan. He expected to provide worldwide communication and to furnish facilities for sending pictures, messages, weather warnings, and stock reports. The project was abandoned because of a financial panic, labour troubles, and Morgan’s withdrawal of support. It was Tesla’s greatest defeat.

Tesla’s work then shifted to turbines and other projects. Lacking funds, his ideas remained in notebooks, which are still examined by engineers for unexploited clues. Tesla was the recipient of the Edison Medal in 1917, the highest honour that the American Institute of Electrical Engineers could bestow.

After Tesla’s death his papers, diplomas and other honours, letters, and laboratory notes were eventually inherited by Tesla’s nephew, Sava Kosanovich, and housed in the Nikola Tesla Museum in Belgrade. Hundreds filed into New York City’s Cathedral of St. John the Divine for his funeral services, and a flood of messages acknowledged the loss of a great genius. Three Nobel Prize recipients addressed their tribute to “one of the outstanding intellects of the world who paved the way for many of the technological developments of modern times.”

For more information on Tesla see:


Elevator U 2015

Screen Shot 2015-07-08 at 13.21.53

The 18th annual Elevator U (EU) Conference took place June 22 – 25 at The Ohio State University in Columbus, Ohio.

Elevator U supports and encourages the exchange of ideas and information relative to vertical transportation in academic facilities. Membership includes university facility mangers, consultants, vendors and others with ties to the elevator industry. Visit to find out more.

This was my first industry conference and I must say it was awesome! I was able to finally meet in person many people who I previously only knew their names. The conference itself was well received by everyone. The educational and technical presentations were well attended and met with enthusiasm. On Wednesday was a round table discussion on in-house versus contract maintenance on academic campuses. This session really proved why Elevator U is such a valuable event, as attendees were able to see how other universities handle this issue. This led to new ideas that they could bring back to their workplace to incorporate.


One of the main events was the opportunity to tour OSU’s massive renovation project of the North Residential District, which includes several new elevator installations and modernizations. Their goal is to expand on-campus residential capacity to ensure availability for all first and second year students.

This year’s social event was Casino Night (play money of course!) and featured several game tables along with entertainment provided by Cincinnati Circus. In addition, the evening’s winner of the 50/50 raffle returned his earnings back as a gift to the Elevator Escalator Safety Foundation (EESF).

The expo portion of the conference was constantly buzzing with discussions as well as everyone checking who was outbidding them for the Silent Auction (which would again, raise money for the EESF).

Some of the items were Fitbits, an Apple Watch and various Gift Cards to places like Lowe’s and Best Buy.


On the final evening of the expo, two prestigious awards were presented. The first was for the newest Honorary EU Member, which was awarded to Dave Flint from the University of Michigan. This award is for those who go above and beyond with their contributions to helping EU grow and succeed. The second was the John W. Blatt Memorial – President’s Choice Award. This year’s recipient was Elevator World’s own Brad O’Guynn. Through his skills in marketing, Brad has shown tremendous dedication to EU by continuing to spread the word and never missing an opportunity to make the organization more successful year after year.

Everyone is already looking forward to the 2016 Elevator U conference, which will be held in Quincy, IL and hosted by Illinois State University and Hollister-Whitney Elevator Corporation.

For the full event coverage of the 2015 Elevator U Conference which includes more photos, information on OSU’s project and an overview of the many informative presentations, just check out the September issue of ELEVATOR WORLD magazine. You can click here to subscribe today!

Thanks for reading,

– Caleb


The U.S. and the VTIP

Screen Shot 2015-07-02 at 12.42.15 PMElevator World’s Vertical Transportation Industry Profile (VTIP) is a semi-annual study on the global elevator industry. We gather as much data as we can on the number of elevators and escalators around the world, and publish our findings along with market reports and analyses. Collecting data for the project afforded me the opportunity to go on a virtual tour of the U.S. In recognition of Independence Day this week, I thought it appropriate to share some of my experiences in the world of U.S. elevator inspectors with you.


Like many aspects of American private and public life, the elevator industry is marked by fragmentation. Different laws governing elevator inspections reflect different cultural mores and political ideologies. For some areas of the country, it is a matter of public versus private regulation. States like Delaware, Kansas, New Mexico, North and South Dakota and Virginia could not provide any data, because they don’t have a law mandating statewide elevator inspections. In those cases, I had to go county by county or city by city, trying to contact a fire marshall or other building inspector who might have information on elevators in their jurisdiction. It was fascinating to see how different the websites were for different cities, counties and states. Some midwestern cities would list the population on their website. It is true that there are towns that have just a handful of people living in them!

To further complicate matters, inspectors in states such as Ohio, Oklahoma and Washington will inspect all the elevators except those of its large cities. So, Oklahoma City and Tulsa, for example, have their own inspectors. Interestingly enough, New York state does not have a state elevator inspector but New York City and Buffalo do. Mississippi had just got on board last year with statewide inspection, and was eager to participate in the survey. Different states adhere to different versions of the American Society of Mechanical Engineers (ASME) elevator codes. In a couple cases, states follow very old versions of the code.

Bureaucrazy and Personalities

Some states function on a highly bureaucratic scale. In many cases, this is understandable due to their population size, governmental system and political climate. The only challenge is that the point person may be virtually inaccessible or extremely busy. Or, if you are unsure who the point person is, you may go from person to person, trying to find the right contact with the information. You may be sent to a records keeper. Talking to that person often provides the opportunity to give and receive empathy. You realize that departments suffer limitations in staff, and are affected by the state of the industry in their jurisdiction. Some inspectors face a backlog, because the man power to service and repair broken elevators is lacking.

Inspectors may have the records in front of them but it is a challenge for them to extract the kind of data we are looking for. Their own system may be inadequate or ill-equipped to tell you, for example, how many moving walks there are in their jurisdiction. In compiling and maintaining their records, they give priority to tracking certain aspects of the units, while we are simply looking for their total number. Some states were happy just to send their excel spreadsheets with the data for me to process. In some cases, extracting data from reports off and online was arduous work, explaining why state agents were not eager to provide the information I was looking for.

The personalities of the state elevator inspectors are predictably representative of each area of the country. In most cases, this is an enjoyable part of the research. In those cases where it is not, you simply have to find the humor in it. With regards to my interactions with them, you could map an inspector’s personality in one of four quadrants:

friendly and compliant
friendly but noncompliant
unfriendly but compliant
unfriendly and noncompliant

Washington state was friendly and compliant. It was an absolute pleasure talking to Jack Day. There was at least one state that was friendly but noncompliant. My brother, who lives there, simply told me that it is the state’s “way.” A few states were unfriendly but compliant. That was okay, I thanked them and simply moved on. As for the unfriendly and noncompliant states, I had to figure out a workaround. Anything else would have been a waste of time.

What was that workaround? Sometimes, persistence paid off, other times it called for submitting a Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) request. But at the end of the day, it all comes down to who you know. I received data for one state that I had completely given up on after a contact in the industry who lives in that state got the information from the right person.

See For Yourself

Some states take pride in efficiency. Indiana’s state website claims that it is, “A State That Works.” When it comes to inspecting elevators, they are not kidding around. The states below make their records publicly available online:

And, if you haven’t done so already, you can purchase a copy of the VTIP 2014 in our online bookstore.


Vulcan Park’s Unique Elevator

Just four hours north of our EW offices here in beautiful Mobile is Alabama’s largest city, Birmingham. One of the main attractions is Vulcan Park, which features the largest cast iron statue ever produced in the United States – The Vulcan. Over-looking the city, the Vulcan, which is the Roman god of fire and forge, was chosen in 1903 to represent the city. It was showcased at the 1904 World’s Fair in St. Louis, Missouri, by its Italian sculptor Giuseppe Moretti.

In 1936, Vulcan was finally installed at its current perch atop Red Mountain in Birmingham.

He stands 56 feet (17.1 meters) tall on top of a 124 foot (37.8 meter) pedestal for a total height of 180 feet (55 meters).

Being in the elevator industry the first thing I noticed when I visited the park a couple of weeks ago, was of course the exterior elevator!


The elevator to the observation deck was added in 1971 as part of a modernization project for the entire park. Between 1999 and 2004, it was decided that the park should return to its original 1930’s design. In addition to a major restoration on the statue itself, the elevator was completely modernized.

The shaft was specifically positioned so that it would not be visible when viewing Vulcan from the front. But Vulcan can’t have just any ordinary elevator. It had to be unique. The shaft is glass on two sides allowing for visitors and riders to see the rope and pulley system at work. The mechanisms for which are placed below ground level.

IMG_0005 IMG_0004

The elevator takes riders to the top for a stunning view of the city:


As President & CEO of Vulcan Park and Museum, Darlene Negrotto noted: “While many younger visitors enjoy running up the 159 steps in the observation tower, well over a million visitors have enjoyed the comfort of the elevator since the park reopened in 2004.”

Thanks to Darlene Negrotto, President & CEO and Morgan Berney, Director of Marketing and PR, for helping out with the historical information.

You can visit the park’s website at


Thanks for reading,



Restored ‘Lion Elevator’ at Work in Rome’s Gladiator Colosseum

Between the 1st and 3rd centuries A.D. events at the world-famous amphitheater in Rome used 24 man-powered elevators to raise wild animals into the arena.

Restoration of the device took 15 months.  It took eight men to operate each of the 24 lifts plus several more to keep the ropes in working order.  Thats over 200 people used to lift animals into the arena.

Among the animals lifted into the site were lions, leopards, bears, wolves, ostriches and deer. Bones and skulls of these animals were found in the basement of the Colosseum by archaeologists.

Pretty amazing.  Check out the video below to see how the system actually operated:


Curious George in the Big City

Reading to a toddler every evening will expose you to a wide range of children’s literature, some of which relates to the elevator industry at times. One of my son’s favorite books is a collection of Curious George’s “New Adventures” published by Houghton Mifflin Company Boston, A Treasury of Curious George. In this collection, Curious George in the Big City tells the story of how George gets lost in New York City during the holiday season, and how he is later reunited with his friend, the man with the yellow hat.

In the scene below, George is trying to get away from an angry department-store clerk who is trying to catch him, because he upset a display of gift boxes. Unfortunately, George could never serve as the Elevator Escalator Safety Foundation’s mascot for obvious reasons.

2008 01008

As George goes around the city trying to find the man with the yellow hat, he hears a tour guide telling a group of people that they were going “up.” Someone at the Empire State Building must have had a generous heart that day.

2008 01009

George gets a breathtaking view of the city once he is on top of the building. It was a little bit of a shock the first time I read this story and saw the Twin Towers featured prominently in the city skyline. That’s because this book was published on August 27, 2001, days away from the 9/11 attacks.

2008 01010Curious George continues to look for his friend while riding a bus around the city. Finally, he sees the department store where the story began. The man had been there the whole time, looking for him. May we all have such luck in being found in the place we originally got lost.



Photos of the Elevator World Contest 2015

This was the best year yet for our Third Annual “Photos of the Elevator World” contest! Thank you to everyone who participated. A team of EW judges has narrowed each category down to the finalists. Now the power is in YOUR hands – click here (or paste in your browser) to vote for your favorites. Voting ends June 19 so start today!

Here is a small sample of some of the amazing photographs we received:

New World; Shanghai, China

New World; Shanghai, China

Customized residential elevator; Sydney, Australia

Customized residential elevator; Sydney, Australia

Custom elevator call station; elevaTOURS Elevator Museum, Roanoke, VA

Custom elevator call station; elevaTOURS Elevator Museum, Roanoke, VA

Inclined Lifts; Corfu, Greece

Inclined Lifts; Corfu, Greece

Futuristic elevator lobby at 1st floor; Hotel Puerta America, Madrid, Spain

Futuristic elevator lobby at 1st floor; Hotel Puerta America, Madrid, Spain

1 WTC with the American flag in the foreground; New York City

1 WTC with the American flag in the foreground; New York City


Unique Work by Transport for London

CityA.M. recently reported on the measures Transport for London takes when maintaining the many heavy-duty escalators and elevators in the London Tube network. As is so often the case in Europe, meticulous work is often required to blend the old with the new. EW encourages its readers to read the article linked to here for insights into how such constant work is performed.