The Elevator of Death ( Paternoster Elevator )
21 September 2018
Every department store in Germany used to have a paternoster, but that was the late 1960s, and now the idea of a passenger standing by an open elevator shaft and hopping into a box at exactly the right moment sounds risky.
The paternoster consists of two elevator shafts side-by-side, with no doors. Within them, a chain of compartments—also without doors—moves continuously on an endless belt, like a weirdly efficient Ferris wheel. In one open shaft the compartments go up, and in the other they come back down. If a person stays in their small cabinet after the last floor of a building, the box they’re standing in just keeps going up or down and around again, like a Ferris wheel, plunging them briefly into darkness until they again reach an open floor.
The name paternoster ("Our Father", the first two words of the Lord's Prayer in Latin), was originally applied to the device because the elevator is in the form of a loop and is thus similar to rosary beads used as an aid in reciting prayers.
This odd elevator was once somewhat common. It was invented in the 1860s by Peter Ellis, an architect from Liverpool.
Paternosters were popular throughout the first half of the 20th century because they could carry more passengers than ordinary elevators. They were more common in continental Europe, especially in public buildings, than in the United Kingdom. They are relatively slow elevators, typically traveling at about 30 cm per second (approx. 1 ft per second), to facilitate getting on and off.
The paternoster was designed for speed and efficiency; no longer would riders have to wait in a lobby while a single lift climbs to the top of a building and back. They’re a little redundant today, when lifts are much larger and much faster than ever before. The design of the paternoster lift is also a little counter-intuitive given the fact that passenger lifts are most often installed to improve accessibility for those with disabilities.
The construction of paternosters across the EU was suspended for good in the mid-1970s owing to disability access regulations and further safety concerns.
There are 231 surviving examples of paternoster passenger lifts in Germany alone, where there was a significant wave of resistance to a Government attempt to ban the conveyor belt-style systems in 1994. At that time, a dedicated Paternoster Association was founded in Munich with a mandate to protect the paternoster from extinction, but they’re still the target of government officials concerned over their safety: In 2010, Germany’s labor minister Andrea Nahles proposed only trained employees be allowed to use the elevators.
REFERENCES: Hitachi, nu.nl, Wikipedia
|Written by: Laura Cozzo|