A paternoster elevator lacks most of the essential qualities that we associate with elevators: it never stops for passengers and has no doors or buttons inside or in the different floors it serves. In fact, their cabins do not even slow down to allow passengers to enter or leave.
Despite their curious characteristics and for many unlikely, the paternosters have a large base of defenders, which largely explains why these unusual elevators continue to exist today in some countries. This elevator has a great history and from Astarlifts we have it in great detail.
How these lifts work
The compartments of a paternoster elevator are wrapped like a chain, with two openings side by side on each level. Passengers enter and leave the "up" or "down" side of a given floor.
These infinite loop elevators are slower than conventional elevators, generally moving around one meter per second, allowing you to go up and down quickly. Its slow but continuous movement is the key ingredient for its efficiency: with so many compartments and no need to stop, passengers should never wait for them to take them.
The paternoster design dates back to an elevator installed in Liverpool by Peter Ellis in 1868 (just five years after a great engineer solved a major braking problem in standard elevators). Initially they were called "cyclic elevators", the name "paternoster" arose from the resemblance of the system with a rosary rotating in the hands of a Catholic reciting prayers ("Pater Noster" from "Our Father", the first words of the Lord's Prayer in Latin) .
They are most commonly found in institutional spaces such as universities or government buildings. It is expected that passengers in such places are suitable adults who, in case of carrying loads, are light, such as backpacks or purses, on their way to the university or other work.
While they became popular in Europe, design was not widely adopted around the world. In recent decades, many have also withdrawn, but there are still a few hundred, mainly in Germany, Great Britain and other countries of the Old Continent.
In Germany, they have been used in large theater performances, circus shows, films of all kinds and for political campaigns (voters ask candidates on each floor as they pass). They have also appeared in films like Berlin Express.
Concerns about usability and security can help explain why the design did not spread to other countries. Some people who pass a paternoster beyond their official endpoints have received numerous criticisms for its malfunction. There have also been accidents when passengers enter and leave. In some cases, people have also fallen between the elevator shaft.
Some systematic hurdles have been implemented to help protect passengers, but may not be enough. Differences, especially in the elevator shaft, often come with warnings or barriers to entry. In many paternosters, there are also sensitive plates in the upper part, which are activated when an object (or limb) is caught between an elevator and a floor. Even so, it is known that these security systems fail, and when they do, there have been serious injuries, such as severe damage to the limbs of the affected people or even accidents resulting in death.
Today, most countries have banned the construction of new elevators of this type, although there is public support for those that currently exist, which have helped keep a few hundred in operation.
There are many risks involved. Surely for this reason, they are becoming increasingly smaller and only in some countries, especially in the Czech Republic. In the case of the German country with 200 of these elevators still working, there is a law that prohibits its installation if there is no specific and trained use.
Main experience in this type of elevator
If we think that there are people with real fear of elevators, we can imagine what they feel when they experience the experience of entering one of these elevator models, which exist in scarce and very concrete places at present. It is perhaps fun for those of us who think that an elevator is the safest place in the world, but what is certain is that on the Internet we can find a lot of blogs and comments from people who were mounted for the first time in one of these elevators and They have related their experience.
Most of the people were unaware that this type of lifts existed and decided to have their impressions on the web when they got on one of them and saw its curious operation. Each trip that is related, began like this:
- You've never ridden in a paternoster?
- Sure, not! and if I know, I'm downstairs. Anyway, the name comes to him that I have not painted, because I have been about to pray so as not to die crushed!
Up and beyond the Paternoster elevator
Although public access paternoster lifts are no longer being built, other cyclic movement systems have been developed more recently for environments such as large factories.
There is a similar and long-running elevator at the Marina City Tower in Chicago. This type of variant may persist, in part, because it is designed to be used only by paid and physically trained personnel who, presumably, also show how it works.
More recently, other companies have developed a system that borrows some of its characteristics from many of the paternoster elevators. That is, it includes those three missing ingredients that are usually found in normal elevators: stops, buttons and doors.
The designers of a large Asian company that created this elevator claim that their new system will use half of the square meters of conventional equivalents and will be able to move twice as many people at the same time. The trap: traffic jams can occur, as in normal elevators, since a stopped lift can hold the rest. Worse yet, an immobile elevator can hold both the up and down movements.
Leap in engineering
The MULTI omnidirectional elevator system represents an even greater leap in elevator engineering, facilitated by magnetic levitation technology (maglev). In fact, changing ropes to magnets could have implications not only for intra- and intercommunal transit. To begin with, like a traditional paternoster (or the new Hitachi system), more than one magnetic levitation car can occupy a single axis at any given time.
However, the real trick that takes them to the next level is that MULTI cars can travel not only vertically, but also horizontally. It's like jumping into an elevator, climbing a few dozen floors, then through an air route to an adjacent structure. For now, a large company is scheduled to open its first prototype of MULTI completely for research and testing later this year in Germany.