Old Elevator Stuff Is Cool!

I love Steampunk, but this is Electro-Mechanical Punk.

These are some of the top parts of an elevator in an apartment building built in the 1950’s in Philadelphia. I’m not an elevator expert, but I’ve spent a lot of time on top of buildings and I’ve seen lots of elevator parts that most people never see.

This is speed governor:

Elevator Governor

This is the elevator motor. It’s DC, powered from a DC generator which is driven by an AC motor. You can see the brushes and the commutator on the right of the motor. The cables on the big wheel attach to the elevator car and the counterweight. The governor is between the motor and the relay panel at the top of the photo. This elevator is controlled by electro-mechanical relays. It’s a beautiful example of pre-electronics state-of-the-art.

elevator motor

This is the floor index. It tracks what floor the elevator car is on and is the sensor that tells the motor when to stop.

Elevator Floor Index

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0 Responses to Old Elevator Stuff Is Cool!

  1. VXO says:

    Does the contact arm thing on the floor selector move up and down as the elevator cab moves? I’m puzzled trying to figure out how it would work otherwise. It kinda looks like the switch contacts are mounted on some kind of helicoid, at least.

    I’ve seen this referred to as a “meat chopper” style selector.

    Also, that open-frame fly ball governor is awesome! I love it!

    Please tell me you got to see this thing running to fully enjoy the sparks from the motor commutators and all the relays! šŸ˜€

    I’ve seen an old hydraulic elevator with relay controls in operation at a hotel in Naples (build date unknown, assumed to be 1960s). It’s possible to cause a race condition with it by pressing the call button or the floor select button for the floor it’s already at with its door open… which causes an eerie, bright bluish-white light to flood from beneath the machine room door, accompanied by a great buzz of relays! I’d love to see what it looks like inside the room when this is happening. Chances are that it may just be a light bulb or two used as a current limiting device, but it might just be a heck of a lot of arcing…

  2. alan says:

    It was running the whole time. When a call button gets pushed the DC generator spins up to power the system, then everything stars moving. You don’t really want to be standing next to it either.

  3. VXO says:

    Yeah, I can imagine an arc flash would ruin your whole day.

    My grandfather used to have this old “Casco” knockoff of the Dremel rotary tools. It had a really bad habit of throwing sparks from the commutator, which would ionize a pathway through the air, right out through the cooling vents and to your hand. If you were touching anything grounded at the time, you’d get a rather painful ZAP for about 1/120 second and throw it and whatever poor innocent object you were milling with it at that moment across the room.

    Ahh, good times.

  4. Yuuki Eiyu says:

    ive been around elevator equiptment since i was five it is pretty dangerous in the machine room so i was always told to sit by the door my dad works on this stuff every day it is pretty amazing to watch but it does get noisey the governor is the coolest part i think and the design really hasn’t changed much over the past few decades