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Paternoster (wikipedia.org)
127 points by empressplay on March 29, 2015 | hide | past | favorite | 72 comments

Hitachi's proposed updated solution https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=mnX5WZhvzZY

The video does not comment on the situation which arises when a car stops for a prolonged period, blocking the cars behind it. What would or should happen in this scenario?

Given that the cars can't overtake each other, and that it's unthinkable to move a car when its safety door is blocked open, then inevitably the pair of cars behind the stopped pair will have to reverse direction until they come to the first available exit/entrance and stop there with doors open until the blocked safety door is cleared and the original stopped pair can move again. Obviously a parked car-pair will also impede the car-pair behind that, so in fact the whole system will have to come to a stop. But the operation of a conventional elevator shaft is likewise completely blocked for as long as the safety doors are blocked open: probably the major difference is that the result is less waiting inside a blocked elevator and more waiting for a blocked elevator. A normal two-elevator system will at least have one elevator working as normal while the other is stopped by a long-blocked car, but OTOH short blockages should delay the Hitachi paternoster system less thanks to its element of parallelism. Also, long door blockages could get sticky on a Hitachi paternoster without a stop on every floor, but I assume that the intended common-case solution for this is "don't do that, then". (For similar reasons, implementing restricted-access floors on a Hitachi paternoster would be problematic.)

Hopefully everyone realizes that there will always be a free car, so there is no need to block the door to wait for passengers/cargo.

A gentle voice, later reinforced by a siren, could remind people of this simple fact.

I'd assume that the cars stack up, and then a following car skips a stop in order to re-distribute, like a bus or subway line. The an elevator is a more concentrated system with more easily collected data, so whatever algorithm is controlling it would more easily detect patterns. So the stacked cars might not skip, in the case of say, a horde of people heading from the ground-floor of a hotel to a keynote on the ballroom floor, but might skip in the case of an anomalous delay like someone with lots of packages.

The parliament in Copenhagen has them:


Unfortunately no politicians have been killed in them yet.

Parliament in Helsinki also has a paternoster elevator in use still today. This film from (I think) before Second World War shows also other contemporary elevators, and making of them: https://youtu.be/Cddo-ifmUsA?t=75 Audio track is in Finnish and there is a ruinous VCR time code on top right, but still, a nostalgic piece.

The film says no year of production but I think it is from around 1938-1939 because the Olympic Stadium is there, and the general tone is optimistic in the pre-war style.

It features prominently Kone Oy (still a major Finnish elevator and escalator manufacturer) so it might be produced for or by it.

Ah, they had one of these in the Viscount House building at British Airways in London when I was working there back in the late 90s. I don't know if it's still in use.

I recall someone trying to take a ladder that was slightly too long for the compartment up a floor in it; I didn't see it but everybody on our floor heard the noise of what it did to the ladder.

I'm told that it was traditional when showing the apprentices the lift to let them have a go and then hit the emergency stop button once they were in the pit at the bottom.

It was very unnerving the first few times I used it but one became blasé about it rather quickly. Probably too quickly and definitely too blasé.

These are even more fun to ride: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Man_engine

We ran an event about a month ago with a funny twist on elevator pitching in probably the oldest [1] one of these in the world in the Vienna's House of Industry:


Good fun, more time than your classic elevator pitch and no one got hurt :)

[1] https://translate.google.com/translate?hl=en&sl=auto&tl=en&u...

In Budapest, HU there are still many in operation -- even in modern (mostly public) buildings, see this, for example: http://www.flickr.com/photos/norcisuti/997156315/ (obviously because their historical value).

It's great fun to guess who's arriving -- a bit like the old 56k modem days when downloading a JPEG took minutes. :)

In motion: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=m5HrUGiFDeg

There is one at Essex University library, with the splendidly enigmatic sign:

Overtravel In Lift Is Not Dangerous, But Not Recommended

Also in one of the Leicester University buildings. I seem to remember signs changing from 'do not overtravel', to 'overtravel is not dangerous' if you chose to ignore the former...

Wasn't it something like "travel through the loft and the sump is not dangerous, but not recommended"? I remember there being a sump involved.

Either way, i never went round either end of that lift. But i still got stuck in it once, when it broke down. Now i regret not having overtravelled.

Also in Birmingham University Library I recollect from some decades ago. Not the sign though.

I'm sure there was one in the Aston Webb building too, however it's far too long ago for me to remember.

Interestingly, the removal of the paternoster lift from the main library was cited as a reason not to give it listed status: http://list.historicengland.org.uk/resultsingle_print.aspx?u...

I have heard that the Muirhead Tower (at the University of Birmingham) was originally designed for paternoster lifts, but due to legislative changes was built with two regular lift shafts - which were totally inadequate for the volume of students trying to get up and down for every class. They had added a third lift by the time I was there (1997-2002) but it still wasn't enough. I hear it's been thoroughly refurbished since, though.

The Dental Hospital in Birmingham also had paternosters around that time, but only staff were allowed to use them.

When I was about 15 I had a work experience placement at a local hospital that had a paternoster for staff use.

I remember the first time I rode the thing all the way - a complete revolution, and the trepidation I felt, not really knowing what would happen when the lift got to the top.

Not to mention the exhilaration of jumping on and off the thing and wondering what would happen if I tripped and my legs got caught.

Very interesting bit of Victorian engineering, thank you! I'm surprised that some scifi fan hasn't added at least a small link on that Wikipedia page to the ground-breaking film "Metropolis", as the "Paternoster Machine" was an recurring symbol there. Its imagined parts forming a lot of the scenes http://www.script-o-rama.com/movie_scripts/m/metropolis-scri...

While vacationing last year in New Orleans, they had a Belt Manlift used by the parking attendants at the Omni Hotel garage. It was scary as heck looking, but the valets seemed quite confident on it.

It's basically a continual ladder running through holes in the floor in a continual loop. The best picture I can find is something like this: http://www.americanbeltmanlift.com/main.png

There are several mentions of "safety concerns" and "risk", but unless I missed something there is only one recorded fatality mentioned in the article, and it occurred in 2012.

I'd be really interested to find out how many people have been injured or killed using typical elevators versus paternoster (obviously taking into account how many more people have used the former).

I assume insurance companies have already done the math on this and that's why they were phased out.

For some people, a regular lift (elevator) is always going to be more convenient e.g. someone in a wheelchair, someone on crutches, someone with a mobility impairment, someone who's blind or has a guide dog. Even someone with luggage or carrying a box who can't see the floor in front of him.

A Paternoster is probably fine as long as there is also a regular lift somewhere in the building for people who can't use the Paternoster easily.

In Prague's CTU main campus there are two paternosters and I had heard about two fatalities in them, one of them involved somebody who wedged pair of skis between cabin and platform other one was IIRC also about transporting something obviously impractical.

If I understand it correctly, paternosters are so rare that current elevator safety standards ignore them as a separate category and lump paternosters together with normal elevators without cabin doors. Probably every paternoster currently in use not only has safety sensors preventing (reasonably sized) objects being caught between cabin and platform but has had them since it was installed. Similar mechanisms are being retrofitted onto elevators without cabin doors but the implementation is different (as elevator-style proximity sensor that interlocks cabin movement would obviously negate any benefits of paternoster)

Please explain how my arms or legs won't be easily cut off when using one of these? I've always wondered about the safety issues with these types of lifts.

I've been on the largest one, which is in the Arts Tower of Sheffield University, UK.


There are a few safety features that help you to not get chopped in half. The front of each platform flaps up on a hinge, so if you got a limb under it while its moving down it just flaps up (the red board on the photo). Also there's a sort of trip wire along the upper edge (you can just see it in the photo) so if a limb of a rider is protruding while they're riding up and touches the wire the whole thing emergency stops.

We felt quite safe on it, and even perfected some fancy dismounting techniques (backward rolls and such) :)

Yah for the Arts Tower paternoster! I was based in the Mappin building but still found time to lark about on that thing. Sadly the Arts Tower also had a reputation for jumpers.


Well, there's a video game that helps you practice avoiding something similar:


That's the main reason the lower-capacity 'normal' elevators replaced them.

Google gave me both a nice video showing a paternoster in action and a different way to (attempt to) improve safety: regulations. Apparently (https://youtu.be/1z7rp5OXFnU), in Frankfurt, Germany, they introduced rules such as 'one person in a cabin' and 'take your backpack off during a ride'.

They also require one to take an 'exam' that consists of reading a single-sheet of paper and deployed personnel checking that (I checked the date on the video; it's from nowhere near April, 1. Also, it's from a series called 'real lunacy')

A Paternosterschein, how German.

True, though they stopped the "Paternoster-Führerschein" in 2011.

  "Im November 2011 wurde der „Paternoster-Führerschein“ 
  allerdings wieder abgeschafft, da nun zusätzliche Warn- 
  und Hinweisschilder für die Sicherheit der Paternoster-
  Benutzer ausreichend sein sollen."

Paternosterführerschein, please.

Ich muss Ihren Paternosterführerschein sehen!

I just don't see how you can be the Führer of something that moves at constant speed along a fixed track.

Both cabin roof and the panel above entryway are not mounted rigidly, but free to move upwards. Such movement triggers emergency stop.

Edit: It's quite visible on this image if you know what to look for: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Paternoster#/media/File:Paterno... Notice the (large-ish) "micro-switch" in front of the perforated panel on the right and quite large gap between cabin roof and paneling between cabins on the left.

Because you're careful, that's how :)


When I was a student, me and a classmate went to a McDonalds for lunch. He buys some sort of jam filled hot pierog in a cardboard envelope which has "CAUTION HOT CONTENTS" inscribed over it.

He says, "see, that's how safety nuts try to undo natural seletion". Takes a good, contrarian bite, badly burning his chin, lips and tongue.

That's called a fried apple pie in the USA.

Creators assume you have enough self control to get on without hurting yourself and enough common sense to avoid getting your legs and hands cut off.

If you are one of those people that lack both of them - you should take the stairs.

People do manage to kill themselves on stairs all the time...

Which really drives home the point that we as a society have decided to accept a certain level of risk. That, at a certain point, we don't allow safety concerns to get in the way of getting shit done.

I mean, we could make stairs safer. We could install foam pits at every landing, cover the steps with tons of padding like at a climbing gym, then make everyone ascending or descending put on a harness and clip onto a guide wire. We have the technology to do all of those things, and it probably reduce the number of people who fall down the stairs and crack their skull on the concrete, but we don't. We don't because we accept that a few people dying on occasion is a better outcome than spending the time and money to completely sterilize our world.

It's more complex than that. Installing safety systems requires additional work, which adds additional risk of injury. Being risk free is not only prohibitively expensive, it's impossible.

And that's not even getting into the fact that people take fewer precautions when things seem safer...

Yeah, there's even many ways we could stop spending, and save lives:

- Slash military spending. (At least militant nations which send killers to other countries.)

- Use efficient transportation systems, not each person drives some clumsy car which is even mostly unused.

- More efficient healthcare system.

But there are a lot of accidental ways to get hurt. Backpack straps or loose clothing getting caught, or just simply tripping, or having impaired mobility (seniors and handicapped people).

Wheelchairs, prams, crutches etc.

Consider it an alternative to an escalator.

Bern Switzerland has one of these in a sporting good store.

Here's the address if someone wants to try: https://www.google.ch/maps/place/Vaucher+Sport+Specialist+AG...

Yes, and I remember having fun in those after school as a kid.

Sounds terribly unsafe now that I think about it :S

I also thought so. Then I just went there with my two girls (4 and 6) about half a year ago and it was (still) plain fun. Nothing to fear at all.

I have been in the one in The Hague in the old bank building, now owned by massive ISP.

It is a great elevator and you have to do some effort to kill yourself (someone has unfortunately). It had a tray with a cutout switch that when you would get stuck between floor and elevator would stop it and building security had to reset it.

I have done many a lap in the elevator for fun :).

There several of these in Bremen, mostly in public buildings, including the tax office, so anyone can walk in and use them. They are great fun to ride:


This site: http://www.flemming-hamburg.de/patlist.htm, also in German, is linked from the Sheffield Arts Tower wikipedia entry; it's got a bit more info for ubercompletists

I rode one of these in Frankfurt Germany in 1996 or so. I thought it was great but could understand why they might be considered a safety hazard (note that this was in an international bank and we rode it between the stock-trading floor and the server rooms in the basement.

This is great bucket list material, I have to make sure to get myself a ride before the last one closes. My father told me about them, and I was absolutely terrified of the idea.

This week's Lively Morgue features this picture:


I wonder if that's a car Paternoster...

These elevators are still present in older buildings of the Czech Technical University in Prague. Riding through the top and bottom is a pretty fun experience. And, honestly, they're often faster than "smart" elevators which can take a long time to arrive..

When I was in Stuttgart I made a point of visiting the one they have in the Rathaus. It's an interesting mechanical design, but definitely assumes some personal responsibility on the part of the user. Keep your hands to yourself as you go around the top and bottom...

Actually they have two in the Rathaus, a modern one in the front and an older one towards the back. One of the university buildings has one too.

There are several still acitve in Munich, if you are in town: http://www.muenchenwiki.de/wiki/Paternosteraufzug

The one in Ettstr is closed to public though (unless you're victim or witness in a crime and get to enter the building this way, or if you're related to a cop).

There's a working one in the Axel Springer building in Berlin. Great fun :) https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=mcGUCs879mQ

I'm a regular in the Sheffield Arts tower one. It's a slow way to travel but I find it soothing watching the world go up floor by floor.

It helps that the building has been refurbished and now looks like it came straight from Mad Men.

BBC One Show video of the paternoster in the Arts Tower: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=tAjYAfb_HPk

I .. failed to understand their 'speed test'.

Unless my English is way worse than I thought they're saying that they managed to get 50 students to the top floor by paternoster in ~10 minutes, while the elevator .. managed to bring up 10 persons in the same time?

1) That building seems to have 18 floors. Not 200. What kind of elevator is that..? Is it even moving?

2) The camera shows the inside of the elevator when the comparison begins. I count 13 heads.

(in the video at 4:00) "The paternoster got its 50 students to the 18th floor in 9 minutes, 20 seconds. In the same time the conventional lift only managed to transport 10 people to the top"

I like riding a paternoster. But this comparison seems a bit off. Or alternatively the elevator is really, really slow and happens to lose a couple of people on every ride..

My Alma mater in Brno, Czech Republic still have one https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=0t_1rqeQwOc

Back in 2006 I had an internship at Siemens. In that particular building where I worked they still had a Paternoster elevator running. Always made me feel a bit uneasy to jump on that moving thing.

I was always fascinated by the one in Newcastle University. As a child I used to see it when going to visit my dad who worked there. We never got to ride in it though.

I know of 2 in Prague. One in Těšnov 5 and the other in Komerční bank on Václavské Náměstí. Surprising how many people are scared to ride the whole loop.

There's at least one on Vodičková near the Lucerna, and one in the Poliklinika in Břevnov, too.

2-3 more at czech technical university. faculty of electrical and mechanical engineering.

According to this site http://paternoster.archii.cz/seznam-paternosteru.html there are almost 30 of them in Prague.

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