Looking Back at a Megaproject


Structural bracing near the portal just north of WMATA’s Grosvenor station; image courtesy of GWU Archives via Greater Greater Washington

Subways and commuter rail systems are important transportation options in most of the large cities in the U.S. They help reduce roadway congestion and the pollution produced by automobiles and, because they are either underground or elevated, they provide quick and efficient travel throughout metro areas. And, as we all know, thanks to the Americans With Disabilities Act, their stations and platforms are equipped with vertical transportation: large-capacity elevators and heavy-duty escalators that keep people on the move. In a nostalgic look back at the genesis of one of the nation’s best-known metro systems, website Greater Greater Washington has posted photographs documenting the construction of the Washington Metropolitan Area Transit Authority (WMATA) Metrorail system serving the Washington, D.C., area, the first segment of which opened in 1976. The digitized photographs were released by the George Washington University (GWU) Archives, and include a rendering of the Wheaton Station escalators, the longest single-span escalators in the Western Hemisphere. If you’re into construction photographs, these will give you a fascinating look behind the scenes at the work involved in creating the nation’s second-busiest metro system.

Geometric Greatness

photo by Trond Joelson, Byggeindustrien

The unique architecture in the Deichman Bjørvika (New Deichmanske Main Library) in Oslo, Norway, is complemented by custom escalator installations. “Significant parts of the architectural expression consists of exposed concrete surfaces,” a translation of the source reads. “The three shafts for elevators, stairs and technical guides have special geometric designs. Two of the shafts have hexagonal outer shapes, while one is eleven-square. The slide casing began in early 2017 and was carried out by 60 people over a 12-day period.”

In addition to its main purpose as a library, the enormous (19,260 m²) facility is meant to be “a vibrant meeting place and a charging station for cultural experiences.” See many more photos of the beautiful building (next door to the Oslo Opera House) in this article by Byggeindustrien.

Back to the Future? Elevator Operator Loves Life in a Gilded Cage

A 1912 gold birdcage Otis elevator in a five-story office building in downtown Colorado Springs, Colorado, has been operated for the past 12 years by 60-year-old Gary Wallace, office manager. The elevator, built the same year as the office building, has become an attraction in itself, The Gazette reports. Wallace, who says the unit “always passes its inspections with flying colors,” loves his “elevator jockey” job, perhaps as much — if not more — than his regular one cutting hair. Over the years, Wallace has acquired the skills to deliver a smooth, quiet ride to visitors as they make their 13-second trip up or down. He calls the elevator his “baby,” and himself, “the last of a dying breed.”

If he had to guess, Wallace estimates the elevator reaches speeds of 10 mph, at the most.

Or is he? Among the interesting trends borne of the coronavirus pandemic is the return of the elevator operator. Your author has seen numerous reports of property managers bringing in elevator operators to help keep people safer. Just this week, Los Angeles-based attorney Guy Gruppie told her he was at a business meeting that day and, “for the rest of the COVID crisis, they are using an elevator operator to make sure only he touches the buttons and that the occupants stand on X’s in the car, six feet apart.” So, is Wallace the last of a dying breed? Maybe not.

Be sure to check out The Gazette’s picture gallery of the elevator and a video of Wallace operating it.