What happens if the elevator cables break?
What does happen…
Thanks to a man named Otis and an axe, we now know.
I’m sure you can imagine the very worst kind of disaster movie of a tower block in flames, people desperately trying to escape almost certain death in the fiery furnace raging above them.
But wait! there’s the elevator, that will get us out of the building faster than anything else… won’t it?
Except those people have forgotten that the winding gear for the lift mechanism is on the roof, which is completely covered in dancing flames devouring the elevator lift gear.
As the terrified escapees huddle in the gondola as it descends, the flames eat through the hoisting cables and suddenly the elevator is free falling.
But as if by magic the fall is arrested the occupants crawl to safety and those movie goers anticipating the fiery plunge of death are left devastated.
Ta Da! introducing the Otis Safety Locking Mechanism which is installed on every lift in the world today.
For good reason.
But Otis wasn’t an instant success, Elisha Otis was a very inventive man, and through several trials and disappointments found himself making elevators and almost broke.
In 1853 there weren’t many elevators in existence, in fact the ones that did, regularly crashed in a crushing mess just carrying goods, you couldn’t get anyone sane to ride in one.
Sales were bad for Otis’s company and in desperation He decided to conduct a dramatic demonstration. So for the world’s fair in 1853 he had himself hoisted on an elevator platform high above the crowd and ordered the rope be cut with an axe.
The crowd gasped and the platform dropped a few inches and then stopped. Strangely, we aren’t told how Otis got himself back down again.
This dramatic demonstration paved the way for the passenger elevator to be accepted by the masses and so changed the skyline across the world.
So, the next time you get in an elevator and you trust that it won’t free fall to the basement and kill you, you can thank Elisha Otis.