The elevators at the Eiffel Tower in Paris
Even though elevators are taken for granted these days, the technical feats of engineering to tackle not just the height but also the loads that these undergo, was a major technological advancement back in the 1800s.
And even when the Eiffel Tower first opened to the public back in 1889, there were elevators in place, which was a major technical achievement through the genius, forward thinking and expertise of the designer and engineer Gustave Eiffel.
So lets take a look at the elevators in 1889, and as they are now within this famous tourist attraction in Paris, which transport millions of visitors every year up and down this iconic monument.
At the time of construction, there were elevators installed into the four pillars and in the June of 1889 there were a total of five hydraulic elevators that were in operation between the ground floor and the second floor of the Eiffel Tower, even though at the time it was thought that most people would only wish to go to the first floor and experience the Eiffel Tower restaurants.
However, Gustave Eiffel was never satisfied and always looking to improve things, so the initial elevator technology was modernised ten years later, ready for the Universal Exhibition in 1900.
Although, the two Roux-Combaluzier elevators in the East and West pillars were only in operation until 1897, they then got upgraded and replaced with Fives-Lille hydraulic elevators in 1899, which was done in collaboration with Gustave Eiffel utilising his simple, yet very effective ideas.
These two elevators were modernised in 1986 and 1987, then they were revised again in 1995 and 2005. However, by 2008, the Eiffel Tower company decided on a major project to replace the West pillar elevators with the intention of going back to the roots of the simple and effective design that Gustave Eiffel thought of with the Fives-Lille company.
The North and South pillars of the Eiffel Tower both originally had Otis elevators that carried people up and down from the ground floor to the second floor, until they were dismantled in 1910. However, a Schneider electric elevator was installed in 1965 and modernised in 1995, then again revised again in 1997.
The South pillar still has an Otis elevator, which is electric and was installed in 1983 purely for the exclusive use of customers dining at the fabulous Jules Verne restaurant in Paris. But this pillar is also now home to a four ton goods elevator that was built in 1989 and then updated in 2007.
The fifth elevator went into operation the first year the Eiffel Tower was open and was installed to carry people up and down between the second and third floors.
Now this particular hydraulic elevator at the Eiffel Tower was in itself a major feat of engineering and the only one of its type in the world as this elevator had jacks that were an impressive 80 metres long. And it was produced by the Edoux Company, who had already been producing elevators like one at the Trocadero that had already been in service for ten years prior.
Unfortunately though, the Edoux hydraulic elevator did not function in winter due to the fact that the gel stopped the machinery from working, yet incredibly, this particular elevator was only dismantled in 1983. However, you can still see the hydraulic pump that fed the machine with water, as it is on display on the first floor along with many other exhibits that relate to the history of the Eiffel Tower.
But in place of this, they decided to installed two double cabin electric elevators in the same year, but then they were replaced by new ones in 1994 and 1995 and then revised again in 2007.
Obviously, the elevators are a very important part of the day to day functioning of the Eiffel Tower and safety is always of paramount importance, especially when you consider that each year the combined journeys equate to travelling around the world approximately two and a half times!
Therefore, there is a whole team of technicians and surveillance teams that monitor the elevators through state of the art computer systems, provide maintenance such as replacing parts, oiling machinery, monitoring the historical machinery, etc. And every morning, even before this famous tourist attraction in Paris is opened to the public, all of the elevators are started and run, to check the operation of these, and ensure the smooth running plus safety of all its visitors.
Oh, one other point that may be of interest to those who like engineering..
The public have the opportunity to discover the historical elevator equipment in a guided visit when the Eiffel Tower holds its yearly open house event that celebrates European Heritage Days, and this way you can enter the centre of the tower where these incredible machines are in action.