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The History of Moving Walkways

Author: Site Editor Publish Time: Origin: Site

When it comes to hitching a ride, it doesn't get easier than moving walkways. Around for over 130 years, they have evolved from simple conveyor belts to sophisticated systems that move people along horizontal and inclined planes.


Now the crowd regulator of choice, moving walkways, often partner with escalators to manage the day-to-day flow of vast quantities of people in public areas such as airports, tourist attractions, and exhibition centers.


Backtrack to the 19th Century -Big Ideas Become Reality


America lives up to its Land of Dreams reputation with New Jersey inventor and wine merchant Albert Speer, patenting his 'endless traveling sidewalk' in 1871. Though never built, in the 1890 issue of Scientific America, his system was explained thus

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"These belts were to be made up of a series of small platform railway cars strung together. The first line of belts was to run at a slow velocity, say 3 miles per hour, and upon this slow belt of moving pavement, passengers were expected to step without difficulty. The next adjoining belt was intended to have a velocity of 6 miles per hour, but its speed, in reference to the first belt, would be only 3 miles per hour. Each separate line of the belt was thus to have a different speed from the adjacent one, and thus the passenger might, by stepping from one platform to another, increase or diminish his rate of transit at will. Seats were to be placed at convenient points on the traveling platforms."


Around the same time, in 1867, Stannah was founded in London, making hoists and cranes for city dockyards.


World's First Moving Walkway


In 1893, America debuted the world's first moving walkway at the World's Columbia Exposition in Chicago. The 1,310-meter brainchild of architect Joseph L. Silsbee and engineer Max E. Schmidt, the device comprised a multiple-speed system using two contiguous platforms operating at three and six mph, with the slow platform being used solely for access to the faster one.

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A Wooden Serpent with Its Tail in Its Mouth


Seven years later, this design-duo showcased their Trottoir Roulant (moving pavement) at the Paris Exposition Universelle -a three-kilometer loop with articulated wooden segments' gliding around like a wooden serpent with its tail in its mouth', according to one reporter. Nearly seven million visitors hopped on, with a Madame Benoit giving birth in transit to an eponymously christened child, Trottoir Roulant Benoit.


Retrofittable Moving Walkways


As moving walkways proliferated throughout the world, in 1990, John Loder's' retro-fittable moving walkways' made installation easier in existing buildings.

In the 1900s, Stannah was busy expanding its product range into passenger lifts, goods lifts, and car lifts, offering an innovative, complete range of lift products.


First Commercial Speed-walk


Ideas for high-speed walkways abounded, but they all came to nothing, that is until the 1954 arrival of the world's first speed-walk at the Hudson and Manhattan Railroad's Erie station, Jersey City -courtesy of the Goodyear and Stephenson-Adamson companies.

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Moving Walkways Today


Once the stuff of science fiction, moving walkways are now science fact, in use in highly demanding public areas around the world.


In 2010, Stannah welcomed moving walkways to its flourishing lift product portfolio.


Nowadays, high speed, high capacity moving walkways using maglev technology accelerate from walking to 7.5 mph top speed. And urban visionaries, working towards car-free cities, envisage moving walkways carrying 7,000 passengers apiece per hour more energy efficient than buses. Also known as moving sidewalks, auto walks, and travelators. 

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