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Double Helix Escalators

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Normal escalators in tube stations require a substantial amount of linear space. A great saving could be achieved were the escalators to be arranged in a double helix, one strand going up, the other down. The apparatus would fit neatly into a suitable vertical shaft.

There used to be (maybe still is) a double helical staircase at Finsbury Park tube station. I am surprised that this idea has never been taken further by London Transport, as a replacement for lifts where space is tight.

An especially elegant feature would be to turn over the treads on one strand for reuse on the other, but I've not quite worked out the mechanical details yet.

Mickey the Fish, Nov 22 2000

Vibrating Spiral Elevators http://www.carmanin...ges/spiralelev.html
Just scale this up to human proportions, and you've got it. [hippo, Nov 22 2000, last modified Oct 04 2004]

(???) Helical conveyer belt http://www.netaxs.com/~horizon/spsch.htm
This is pretty cool actually. [hippo, Nov 22 2000, last modified Oct 04 2004]

(???) London Underground http://www.users.gl...y/l/company_lup.htm
An experimental escalator on a double spiral system was installed at Holloway Road in 1906, but never put into service [st3f, Nov 22 2000, last modified Oct 04 2004]

London Underground2 http://underground-...o.uk/hiddenbits.php
"The second lift shaft was fitted with an experimental spiral escalator, constructed by the by the Reno Company of America..." [st3f, Nov 22 2000, last modified Oct 04 2004]

(???) Triple helix staircase http://www.dover.go...eum/press/shaft.htm
Not an escalator, but it is a genine triple helix which I just happened across. [vincebowdren, Mar 07 2002, last modified Oct 04 2004]

(???) Mitsubishi Spiral Elevators http://www.mitsubis...al/spiral_typ_6.htm
fascinating. [magnificat, Jun 01 2002, last modified Oct 04 2004]

Some blue prints http://www.theeleva...useum.org/f/f_4.htm
[Ling, Oct 04 2004]

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       Sounds complex.   

       To reuse the treads, how would you transfer them from one helix to the other without intersecting the people in the middle?
egnor, Nov 22 2000

       you could reuse the treads by moving them under the floor at the top and bottom of the escalator. Instead of going under and back up underneath, they could go around and back up on the up escalator. Not only would it work, you'd only need half the number of treads, as treads would always be in use, and not have a period of unusable time going back to the top. It is a double helix staircase solution!
djhotsauce, Nov 22 2000

       Yes.. thats the idea. One problem is that the treads are not rectangular, but wider at the outside. The crossover mechanism is key to the whole business. I have a gut feeling that there will be an extremely elegant and simply solution, but it has eluded me so far.
Mickey the Fish, Nov 23 2000

       Well, Mickey, presuming that the radius of the turn would stay consistent, each step could be a fixed non-rectangular shape, and the only variation in the helix for the crossover would be the above-the-ceiling/below-the-floor degree of inclination and the whole thing would be a closed loop... right? < : | (me in my dunce cap)   

       (wow, hippo. points for Goldbergosity in that pic!)
absterge, Dec 29 2000

       They could figure out a system similar to the luggage conveyors. Thos turn corners without too much trouble, but they don't have to form steps.   

       My other thought is that the steps only have to straighten out when they are under the floor between the up and down (and maybe not even then). Go for it.
centauri, Dec 29 2000

       On a double-helical escalator (which does sound like a cool concept) the problem would be the turn-arounds at the top and bottom. I have a crude idea about how this might be accomplished, except that I doubt that it would merit approval by the safety regulators. Too bad, since otherwise it'd be sorta cool.
supercat, Dec 30 2000

       I not sure if I've followed the Geometry of the above in all its precision, but could we attach something like inversion boots and make it a really cool ride? Or am I missing crush points? I envision upright one way, inverted the other, sort of Escherish. Loose change must be stored.
rfalv, Jan 02 2001

       Look at the links!
hippo, Jan 03 2001

       Wouldn't the people get dizzy?
futurebird, Feb 17 2001

       Assuming constant angle (circular plan) the bottom crossover is easy, but the top one is impossible, I think. Still thinking ... Still ... Yes, I'm pretty sure now. Can't do it. Nooo. There <is> a way! I can't quite explain it without a drawing, though.
Dano, Jul 25 2001

       I love the IDEA!!!! PLEASE PLEASE PLEASE WRITE TO SOMEONE ABOUT IT!!! I think you should write to Tony Blair and then get him to push it through commons and the house of Lords and make it a law!!!
Monkeyboy2, Jul 26 2001

       I think that [Monkeyboy2] may have had one too many bananas. I'm sure he'll be OK soon.
st3f, Jul 26 2001

       I've done a quick back of envelope sketch of the crossovers and don't think they'll be a problem. (Imagine the same steps flipping over and being used upside down in the other spiral).
The pitch of the elevator might be a problem, though. To make sure the steps aren't too steep the spiral would have to have quite a large radius making it possibly bigger than two entirely separate spiral elevators.

       Nonetheless I would love to see this happen as an architectural showcase in the atrium of a large glassy building.
st3f, Jul 26 2001

       London Underground rejected this on the grounds of it being a "good idea".
Redbrickterrace, Jul 26 2001

       I wondered about the spiral escalator thing ages ago, and found out the following on the LT website:   

       "The earliest parts of the Tube network were not built with escalators, but had only lifts, which ran in circular iron shafts. A spiral escalator was installed experimentally by the Reno Company of America, in one of the shafts at Holloway Road station. However, it was not a success and was never used. The remains were recovered from the bottom of the lift shaft and are on display... [in the transport museum i think]."   

       The Mitsubishi company currently makes spiral escalators, along with everything else that exists. There are several in a high-rise "mall" in San Francisco, apparently.   

       If you stick "spiral escalators" into a search engine, pretty much all you get is tourist descriptions of how amazing these are. ("Hey, honey, jump in the SUV, let's have our vacation at the mall this year")
sssss, Jul 26 2001

       Redbrickterrace has the right idea. I hadn't had too many bananas st3f, it is just an absolutely fantastic idea
Monkeyboy2, Jul 27 2001

       I completely retract my earlier statement. [Monkeyboy2] has not had too many bananas. No change is expected in his condition.   

       I like this idea but before anyone else raves about it remember that when fitting two excalators in the space of one spiral staircase (even without the workings) you reduce ceiling height to about 4ft because you have two spirals going around the stairwell instead of one.   

       You can solve this by:
1) Crouching
2) increasing the pitch of the spiral so that the escalator takes on the appearance of a climbing wall.
3) widening the radius of the turn. This means that it's no longer a space saving solution for access to the underground but can still be used as an architechtural folly (as per my earlier posting)

       Point 3 is what makes me part with my croissant.
st3f, Jul 27 2001

       Found London Underground link. I'll try to find out if the experiamental escalator (see link) is still there and report back.   

       OK now found another link photographs of the remains of the escalator. See London Underground2 link.
st3f, Jul 27 2001

       [st3f], there are some terrific photographs on that second site that you linked; Victorian excess at its finest.
angel, Jul 27 2001

       Definately interesting...Ought to help kill some time at work...Thanks, Saint Threef...
StarChaser, Jul 28 2001

       The remains of the double helix escalator originally installed in Holloway Road can be found in the London Transport Museum's depot at Acton. (I know because I took the photos on the web site!). It's usually closed to the public but opens on special weekends a few times a year. The whole concept of the escalator has intreagued me for ages - nobody I spoke to at the Museum had a clue how the thing worked and there was even some speculation that it never did... There's very little of it left unfortunately and what is left has coroded quite badly. from what I saw of the remains, it seemed was more a spiral convayor belt with wooden slats rather than a stair case. The slats were small enough to be able to flip over at the top and come back down underneath.
hywelw, Aug 31 2001

       Hey [hywel(w)] - good to see you. As you're probably the only person here that who has seen the the remains of the Holloway Road escaltor hopefully you can answer the following:   

       Did the escalator carry people in both directions or was the double helix of the structure just used for recovering the slats?
st3f, Aug 31 2001

       I want a NEDCO spiral conveyor
kaz, Aug 31 2001

       The escalator as it was explained to me had two separate helixes - one for up and one for down. The slats were recovered neatly underneath the helix (obviously) In the opposite direction.   

       It's hard to visualise this though having seen the shaft it was installed in - for two helixes the escalator would have to be awfully steep... Holloway Road has quite a short lift shaft, being 10.5m deep.   

       It's my understanding that there are no pictures of the escalator when it was built- next time I'm at the Museum's photographic archive I'll make a point of checking.   

       The sign on the remains that can be seen in my picture suggests that it's there awaiting reconstruction... I'm reasonably confident that this would prove virtually impossible as not enough of it remains - just three pallets of wood, metal and assorted wheels.
hywelw, Sep 02 2001, last modified Sep 03 2001

       Re: resuse of treads. If you just twisted each one round and joined it to itself, Mobius strip style, then you wouldn't need to swap them around. Better, just have the one Mobius strip going up one helix and down the other. Or maybe I'm getting confused.
mkirksmith, Dec 11 2001

       And why are you annotating all of [Mickey the Fish]'s ideas? Is there something we should know?
angel, Dec 12 2001

       angel: since MickeyTheFish and mkirksmith both have email addresses at different British academic institutions, which seem to incorporate their initials (m.gahan and mks), I don't think they're the same person. I guess there's no rule against annotating your friend's ideas, if they know each other in Real Life, or even finding someone's ideas interesting and wanting to check out everything they've posted.
pottedstu, Dec 12 2001

       I wasn't suggesting anything sinister. It was just very noticeable, and we haven't seen [Mickey the Fish] for a while. Maybe it's a way of seeing 'random' ideas when the 'random' button doesn't seem to be random - pick a user and look at all of his ideas.
angel, Dec 12 2001

       But [UnaBubba]! Surely you don't mean to ignore the elegant simplicity of "Shag My Bird" and "What's That Hill?"?
hippo, Dec 12 2001

       which leads to the elegant possibility of having a new category name... Halfbakery: Classics
lewisgirl, Dec 12 2001

       BTW. the first time I was in London the escalators in one of the stations (Victoria Station maybe?) didn't have normal steps, but instead was more like a conveyor with little bumps. I wonder if the old spiral escalator used such a design?
supercat, Feb 09 2002

       A continuous lift would take less space than a helixical escalator. Think of a vertical revolving door.
blainez, Mar 03 2002

       Even if we can't have a double-helix escalator, we should have some double-helix stairs.. they'd look really cool. We could call them DNA stairs.   

       And why not have them outside the building (in a glass tube)? They can go round the outside of a tall tower or building (not necessarily cylindrical) and give people a good view.
baboo, Mar 06 2002

       I've done some research on the Holloway Road escalator. The two spirals were one inside the other - the "up" one was inside the "down" one. At the top and bottom the slats just skewed across from one spiral to the other; they didn't turn over or anything like that. Looking from above, people went clockwise whether going up or down.   

       I've seen a drawing of at least one other design. The two spirals were side-by-side, with long straight bits linking them at top and bottom.   

       In both designs someone could make a never-ending journey up and down and up and down and up and ...
clivefeather, Mar 07 2002

       Thank you cf. If the escalator were as described, I can certainly see how it would be a bit nerve-wracking for anyone who was supposed to use it. If such a thing were large enough it wouldn't be too bad, but judging from the photo of the 'remains' it isn't.   

       Additionally, if the escalator went clockwise, it would require all users to use their right hand to grip the motorized rail (assuming it had one--it it didn't that would be cause for its rejection right there). Perhaps left-handed people didn't count in 1906, but certainly they'd make themselves heard today.
supercat, Mar 08 2002

       I don't know about that... I'm right-handed and I would prefer to put my left hand on the rails. It leaves my right for other business, like holding a brief-case.   

       Having one spiral in another sounds like a great idea. You can also stack spirals together, so that the two spirals sort of alternate on the way up. For the two side-by-side spirals, you can actually join the spirals at each level, forming a sort of figure of 8. Then people moving up or down can just skip over to the other spiral and go the opposite way.
baboo, Mar 08 2002

       In Pamphlet Architecture 21 by Steven Holl, they have an experimental architecture project about the double helical staircase and revolving door idea. The staircase is placed within the central shaft of the revolving door. Users enter the staircase and continue to occupy the same point in plan while the staircase actually revolves. All the user has to do is step in place and the counteractive motion of the stairs does all the work. Think Archimedian screw. Although, this is just an experimental project, it sounds positively wonderful.
kaybyrd, Mar 13 2002

       I don't like it , a lot of people would barf before getting off . Might get messy. Fishbone.
Sulla 's Ghost, Mar 13 2002

       re: churning, this is probably one of my all time favourites - with the most amazing links : so apologies to no-one.
po, Jun 01 2002

       blainez: While a "revolving door" style continuous lift would certainly take less space, it would also tend to forcibly separate its less nimble riders from various parts of their anatomy.
magnificat, Jun 01 2002

       I wonder how many people have fallen down escalators. OUCH!   

       I don't really think this elevator will save space unless the floors are a huge distance apart. It definately needs a very large radius.
jamesxi, Sep 20 2002

       I like it +
nomadic_wonderer, Dec 23 2003

       Yes this is a brilliant idea, however there is just one problem - i believe that it would be nearly impossible to get the steps at the top of the escalator back down to the bottom because of their triangular shape.   

       A really cool idea though - hope someone works out a way to do it.
anon52, Apr 22 2004

       Oh sorry - i really shoudlread all of these before coming a conclusion - i didn't read the ideas in order to solve this problem. They seem plausible however there is one thing everyone is forgetting about - health and safety issues. The solution has to be safe.
anon52, Apr 22 2004

       I think it would be kinda nauceous for someting like a public elevator. But, you can build an observation deck on top and use it as a theme park ride. Still, we could always use another theme park ride. Bun. Oh yeah, about the turn around problem- just make it 1 elevator by making the 1 car go in a circle- just make it turn upside down. make it so that it can hold people on it's celling and floor. Get it? Like a twisted figure 8.
croissantz, Aug 22 2004

DesertFox, Feb 07 2005

       Wonderful idea, bun to you. I don't know if anyone noticed, but [Monkeyboy2], who has NOT had too many bananas, signed up to the halfbakery solely to annotate this post. He never had any ideas, and I doubt that he ever annotated again.
dbmag9, Oct 26 2005

       Interestingly, even though Mitsubish has only created a *curved* escalator, they still call it a spiral.   

       Does there currently exist any functioning, people carrying, escalator which makes a full 360 degree spiral turn?
goldbb, Apr 28 2009

       The picture looks cool, and it's sort-of a double helix, but notice that each escalator only makes a 180 degree turn. So it's just a series of "C" shaped escalators with landings in between. I want to see a helical (or double helical) escalator which makes a full 360 degree turn when going from one floor to the next.
goldbb, May 04 2009

       this is my favourite idea ever!   

       frowns & scowls at anyone who says its baked.
po, May 04 2009

       I also do not see the "new idea" here.... what am I missing?
xenzag, May 04 2009


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