A Visit to the Elevator Museum in Massachusetts

Text and Photos by Caleb Givens

The International Union of Elevator Constructors Local 4 Union Hall is tucked behind a few industrial facilities in Dorchester, Massachusetts. Housed in this building, in a large, open conference room, is the Elevator Museum. It is the shining physical presence of the Elevator Historical Society’s efforts to preserve the history of the elevator and escalator industry.

Your author visited Steve Comley, who is truly taking the museum from good to great. Comley is a longtime elevator man, getting his taste of the industry at an early age, thanks to his father, James, who purchased Embree and White Elevator in Lynn, Massachusetts, in 1972. “I loved the dirty old elevator machine shop,” recalls Comley. “It was fascinating to me as a kid — the noise from the flat-belt pulleys running across the ceiling, the smell of the cutting oils on the machines and the smoke from the welding. They used to cast and completely build elevator machines there.”

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IoT is Useful For So Much More Than Ordering a Pizza

Thanks to IoT, elevators can tell their repair technicians when maintenance is needed.

I have to admit, when I first started hearing about the Internet of Things (IoT), I was skeptical about the usefulness of having a thermostat or a refrigerator online. It sounded silly, kind of like the TV commercial in which a teenager walks into the kitchen and begins barking commands at appliances: “Computer, order pizza! Fridge, weather! Trash can, turn on the TV!”

We’re all aware of smart-home technology, so the commercial’s scenario isn’t really all that outlandish. And, being able to remotely operate your thermostat really does offer an advantage over old-school, manual pressing of buttons. But, the area where IoT is perhaps making its biggest splash is in industrial maintenance — specifically, predictive maintenance. With that in mind, buildings.com recently published an article, “Predictive Maintenance: Top 10 Ways IoT is Changing Elevators.” We list them here:

  1. Monitoring Operating Conditions
  2. Predictive Maintenance
  3. Remote Diagnostics and Troubleshooting
  4. Real-Time Notifications
  5. Behavioral Insights
  6. Avoided Downtime
  7. Increased Product Reliability
  8. Flexible Communication Standards
  9. Less Frequent Replacement
  10. Enabling Better Facilities Management

For details about each point, click, tap or command your phone to take you to the link above.

Nuclear Powered, Five-Deck Elevators: Frank Lloyd Wright’s Mile-High Tower

Double-deck elevators in Midland Square, Japan. Wright’s proposed skyscraper would have had 76 five-deck elevators; photo by Chris 73.

At a press conference in Chicago in 1956, when he was 87 years old, architect Frank Lloyd Wright unveiled his plan for what would come to be known as The Mile High Illinois, a skyscraper four times the height of the Empire State Building that would dwarf the world’s current tallest building, the 2,717-ft.-tall Burj Khalifa in Dubai, at 5,280 ft. The never-realized Mile High would have had more than 500 floors and be powered by 76, nuclear-powered, five-deck elevators. Even at that, a modern-day elevator consultant told The New Yorker this would have fallen far short. James Fortune said up to 225 elevators would have been needed. The architect’s “lost masterpiece” had a lot of other technical issues, which you can read all about in The Daily Beast.