Which came first, Escalators or Elevators?


Hey, parents! Trust your narrator here, and I’m super excited to tell you about a brand new podcast from the creators of Who’s Smarted, called Mysteries About True Histories. It’s full of adventure, riddles, jokes.

We even snuck some secret math into each episode, including the title of the show. If your kid likes to laugh and learn, then they’re going to love Mysteries About True Histories, out now wherever you listen to podcasts.

And now it’s time for Who’s Smarted. Hey, smarty pants, today I’m coming to you from a place everybody loves and hates, but mostly loves, except it can be pretty annoying and crowded and frustrating sometimes when it’s not being totally awesome.

Why, of course, I’m talking about the mall. Ugh, I can’t believe they put the video arcade on the 14th floor. Yeah, but hey, at least we don’t have to walk up 14 flights of stairs to get there. Instead, we get to ride a remarkable invention that I’m sure most smarty pants have used, but might not have thought too much about.

Why, of course, I’m talking about an escalator. In just a few minutes, we’ll be playing that new video game everybody’s talking about. Ooh. And we won’t even have broken a sweat. Except me, I can sweat anywhere.

Uh -huh, whatever you say, Vision. Vision? Uh, Wendy, it’s me, the trusty narrator. Oh, right, sorry. Quick! Follow me. Dr. Bazaar, how strange! What are you doing here? I must take you to another dimension.

Uh, what? Now? Why? To save you from her. My neighbor Wendy? Also known as the Burgundy Sorceress. You’re going down, Dr. Bazaar. Not if I could help it. But Wendy, I thought you were a good neighbor.

So did I. Quick trusty, let’s go! Now! Oh, okay, I… Where are we? What happened to the escalator? We’ve gone to a dimension without escalators. She said I was going down, but not this time. At least, not nearly as easily.

You mean now we have to walk up to the 14th floor to get my video game? I’m gonna drown in my own sweat. No, no, we don’t have to walk. Phew. You’ll have to walk. I’ll just levitate with my magic cape.

Can we go to a dimension with escalators, please? Stop. The exercise will be good for you. True, but escalators are awesome and change the world in many ways. And to suddenly go without them… Hurts.

Smarty pants, how did we come to rely so much on escalators? How do they work? And why might escalators be dangerous for some people? Especially superheroes. Not as dangerous as me. Hey, Dad. She found us.

Oh, boy. It’s time for another whiff of history and science on… Hey, Smarty. Who’s smarted? Who’s smart? Is it you? Is it me? Is it science? Or history? Listen up. Everyone, we make smarting lots of fun on who’s smarted.

Hey, buddy, move it. I’m moving. I’m moving. Hey, Smarty pants. I’m still walking up to the 14th floor. Thanks to the powerful and strange Dr. Bazaar, I find myself stuck here in a dimension without escalators.

Equally odd is that my neighbor Wendy has turned out to be Dr. Bazaar’s arch enemy, the Burgundy sorceress. I lost her. She must be a few floors up. I’ll be back. And he just flew away again. Excuse me, sir.

What did you say about these contraptions you call escalators? Well, they’re, uh, wait, you’re Dr. Bazaar. Me? A doctor? Ah! Get a load of this guy! Hoo -hoo! That’s a hoot, Bobby! For you to become a doctor, you’d really have to step you up.

But stepping up is all we do in this corner of the multiverse. Get it? Lots of steps? Ain’t that right, Wilma? That’s right, Bobby. I see. So you two must be my friends in this dimension. Sorry, pal.

Tell us about this escalator thingy. It sounds fun. It’s a set of moving stairs. Ah! Moving stairs? My job, I’ve never heard of such a thing. Is this new? Smarty Pants, what do you think? How long have people in our dimension been using escalators?

Is it A, for about 75 years? B, about 125 years? or C, about 160 years. If you said B, 125 years, you’re right. Inventor Nathan Ames is credited with coming up with a moving stair design, and engineer Jesse Reno built the first working one in the 1890s.

It was a conveyor belt that moved people up a slope. Can you guess where this invention first made an appearance? Was it at the airport? You fool! There were no airplanes in 1890. The first escalator was at a store.

Store! Are you nuts? Everyone knows they were made for subway stations. Store! Subway? Store! Subway. You’re both wrong. The escalator made its first appearance at the beach. The beach? That’s right.

Reno’s so -called inclined elevator was designed for New York’s brand -new subway station. Aha! But it was introduced at the city’s Coney Island Beach in 1896. 75 ,000 people wrote it. Shortly after, a newer version, created by inventors George Wheeler and Charles Seaburger, appeared at the Paris World’s Fair.

Seaburger even came up with a new name for it, the escalator. Soon, department stores and subway stations featured both the Reno and Seaburger escalators. Aha! I was close. Oh, please. I had a better answer.

There they go again. Hey, I got a question. This here escalator. Why do people use it? Ain’t you got elevators in your dimension? We do. Smarty pants. or false, the elevator came before the escalator.

The answer is true. So you all got elevators in your dimension? Why not use them instead? Hey, why are you using the stairs? Uh, because we like stairs. Really? Is that it? Yeah, uh, okay. Did you see the lines for the elevators?

They wrap around the whole store. Aha! And that’s why escalators are needed. While elevators help move people from one floor to the next, they can carry only so many, which creates long lines. Escalators don’t create lines?

They do, but the lines are constantly moving because the escalator is constantly moving. Smarty Pants, how many people can an average escalator move each hour? 500, 5 ,000, or 10 ,000? The answer is as many as 10 ,000 people every hour.

A regular elevator doesn’t come close. Whoa. And that’s how escalators changed the shopping experience. Stores could be as tall as they want, and thousands of customers can move from one floor to the next with little to no waiting or sweating.

Other places use escalators for the same reason. Offices, hotels, airports, and of course, subway systems. The deepest stations would be hard to reach without escalators. Okay. But how do they work? With dark magic.

Not quite. It’s pretty simple mechanics, which hasn’t changed much since the World’s Fair over 100 years ago. Each step of the escalator is a separate piece, connected to a pair of chains that run along each side of the escalator.

A step has two sets of wheels, one at the top and one below. These wheels move on hidden tracks, up or down the escalator slope, keeping the steps level. A large hidden motor at the top of the escalator is connected to gears, which move the chains and steps.

When the steps reach the top, the tracks make them slide together to create a flat surface for getting on and off. Smarty pants. You might notice the steps have grooves in them. These lock them together when they become flat.

They also lock with the floor at the top and bottom to prevent a gap that would cause things to get caught. And like these steps go poof under the floor? Nope. After the steps go under the floor, the chain and track flips them around and takes them back to the start.

So when you’re going up an escalator, there’s another set of steps you don’t see underneath you, going down. Once they get to the start, the steps flip around again, ready to move another person. We better move.

She’s up to something. Okay, but I… Whoa! Where am I? Hi, Joe. We’re on an escalator thingy. She will, kids. I like it. You brought them to our dimension? For now, I had to move fast. But why are we here?

It’s one of the longest escalators in the world, in a deep tunnel, a good hiding spot. So you’re going to ride it, too? Is that a problem? Well, it could be dangerous for you. Because of me. Ha, ha, ha, ha, ha, ha, ha, ha.

Ikad, she found us again. Don’t worry about her. She’s not the reason an escalator could be dangerous for you or any superhero. Huh? What else could it be? I’ll tell you right after this quick break.

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I also put the link in the show notes. Happy summer, happy Father’s Day and happy eating. Now back to who smarted. Yikes! Do all escalators move this fast? I’m getting warbly. It feels fast because you’ve never been on one before.

Hold the rail. It’s purposely moving at the same speed. as the escalator so you can keep your balance. How fast your feet were going? Smarty pants, do you know? How many meters to escalator steps move every minute?

27, 42, or 55? Actually, all those answers are correct. Escalator speeds vary from place to place. Some of the slowest ones are in New York City, and they move at about 27 meters or 90 feet per minute, while escalators in Hong Kong might go twice as fast.

The rest fall somewhere in the middle. They tend to move close to the average speed people in that location would walk upstairs. If escalators went much faster, people would lose their balance getting on or off, especially young children and older folks, and that could be dangerous.

Just how dangerous are these things? You mean, without being in the middle of a superhero battle? You’re going down, Dr. Bizar! Believe it or not, Thousands of escalator injuries occur each year, but when you consider millions of people ride escalators every single day, it’s not that much.

Most injuries are caused by people choosing not to ride the escalator the correct way. You mean there’s rules? Sure, basic stuff like don’t run or jump on an escalator. Be careful around the moving parts.

Hold the handrail. And always be careful you’re not wearing something that can get caught or jammed into the escalator. Certain rubbery shoes like crocs or flip flops aren’t great on escalators. And an untied shoelace or extra -long pants or a dress could be hazardous.

They could also pose a problem for superheroes. No offense, narrator, but if I can handle the burgundy sorceress, I can certainly manage an escalator. Are you sure? That cape you’re wearing could easily get caught in the stairs and could lead to your downfall or your fall down.

Aha! Perhaps we should levitate instead. Oh, good idea. Safety first. Fortunately, escalators do have emergency stop buttons. But if you follow the safety guidelines and keep aware while riding, you shouldn’t have a problem.

Escalators are fun, and they come in all different shapes and sizes. The famous Macy’s store in New York has one of the oldest, a wooden escalator that’s nearly 100 years old. And smarty pants, where do you think you can find the longest escalators?

Mount Everest! Uh, no. Subway stations! Right! The world’s longest single escalators are at subway stops in St. Petersburg, Russia. And many other subways worldwide have extra -long escalators to take people deep, deep down to the trains.

I think we’re on one of those now. But I’d rather be back at the store playing that video game. I can make that happen, trusty. First I’ll send these other versions of ourselves back to their dimension.

Wait, I want to ride the escalator. I want to see where it goes. Yeah, me too. Oh, boy. A double high -kicking shout -out to Bella and Hunter in Indian Trail, North Carolina, who let us know who smarted keeps you entertained on the way to karate class.

Well, that sounds like the perfect way to keep your mind and body super sharp. Great job, Smarties. This episode, Escalators, was written by Dave Baudry and voiced by Lee Kote, Sam and Trader, Adam Tex Davis, and Jerry Colbert.

Technical direction and sound design by Josh Hahn, who smarted is recorded and mixed at the Relic Room Studios, our associate producers Max Kamaski. The theme song is by Brian Suarez with lyrics written and performed by Adam Tex Davis, who smarted was created and produced by Adam Tex Davis and Jerry Colbert.

This has been an Atomic Entertainment Production. Who’s smarted?