Escalators and the Flow of Human Movement

Like all great ideas, the thought of mechanical stairs occurred to many people around the same time in history. The escalator made its official debut at the Paris Exposition in 1900. Despite fears that the Eiffel Tower of 1889 would overshadow the moving stairs, people grasped the elegant simplicity offered by this new invention, and large retailers immediately began to install them.

Unlike elevators and stairs, escalators require less commitment, are less defined. Escalators allow people to rise gently into the air, directing where they will place their steps, in a ceaseless flow of movement. The presence of escalators completely revolutionized the retail world, and they also changed the way that we came to see the built environment in which we live.

More than one hundred years later, we are all so accustomed to escalators, elevators, and moving sidewalks, we pay them little notice. However, when an escalator falls into disrepair, it can quickly become a safety hazard if it is not removed correctly.

At Milburn, we invest time to learn about the spaces we are working on to amplify their value and not destroy things unnecessarily. When it comes to specialty demolition, escalator removal is an example of a demolition service that may add value to your space.

What is an Escalator?

By definition, an escalator is a moving staircase that carries people between floors of a building or structure. An escalator is made up of a motor-driven chain of individually linked steps on a track which cycle on a pair of tracks that keeps them horizontal. A large metal truss encases the entire mechanism to connect the floors, and the steps move like a conveyor belt, sliding into a level platform at each end to create a safe place for passengers to enter and exit. 

Escalators can be used in conjunction with or instead of elevators when they are the more practical solution. Even if a building loses power, escalators can still function as non-mechanical staircases, and they can also be designed to withstand outdoor weather conditions.

How Fast Does an Escalator Move?

When functioning properly, escalators move at a constant speed of around 1-2 feet per second. They are powered by alternating current motors, angled at a standard rise of 30 degrees, averaging 60 feet in length. Modern escalators incorporate a single aluminum or steel piece that moves along a continuous loop.

The direction of an escalator can be programmed for a variety of outcomes. The escalator can be set to move permanently in one direction; it can be programmed to change depending on the time of day; or it can be designed to respond to the person who approaches it first, whether from the bottom or the top of the escalator. 

Who Makes Escalators?

The top-ranking escalators are built and sold by Schindler, Kone, Otis, and Mitsubishi. These four companies also service the escalators they make. While most escalator companies are based in Finland, Switzerland, The United States, and Germany, the greatest number of escalators are sold to the most densely populated countries. At the top of that list are China and India. 

What are the benefits of an escalator?

As mentioned initially, escalators changed the way we think about movement. Instead of strictly horizontal or vertical, people could move gradually “through space.” This removed the barriers of floor and ceiling. Because escalators are profoundly effective at manipulating the flow of foot traffic, store owners have utilized them as a way to woo customers. By strategic placement of escalators, shoppers can be subtly required to spend more time in a designated retail space.

Practically speaking, there are several primary advantages of escalators:

  • No waiting interval for people moving between floors
  • Weatherproof options available
  • Controlled flow and direction of traffic between ingress and egress
  • Replacement for staircases
  • Escalators can move large numbers of people

Why Remove an Escalator?

Escalators could be as remarkable as landing on the moon, but as soon as your escalator becomes a safety hazard, it must be removed in order to protect the people utilizing your space. At Milburn, we recommend removing your escalator if it is outdated, suffers from reliability issues, or no longer meets the needs of the way people move through your building.

Sometimes, an escalator will be taken out along with the removal of a building or wing. More often, when Milburn removes an existing escalator, it’s because the owners or tenants of the buildings have plans to renovate their space completely. 

What are the parts of an escalator?

Whether renovating a space for tenant improvements or demolishing an entire structure, escalator removal requires understanding the moving stairwell’s design and functional elements.

Escalator Safety Mechanisms

  • Inlet guards
  • Operating panel
  • Safety switches
  • Step switches

Top and Bottom Pits

  • Control panel
  • Drive unit
  • Main Gear
  • Drive chain
  • Sprocket (top)
  • Safety switches


  • Main track
  • Trailing track
  • Moving handrail drive unit
  • Sprocket (bottom)
  • Moving handrail drive chain
  • Inlet guard


  • Moving handrail
  • Interior panel
  • Deck board
  • Skirt guard


  • Step tread
  • Riser
  • Step demarcation line
  • Driving roller/trailing roller
  • Step chain

What does Milburn’s Escalator Removal Service Include?

  1. 1.

    A thorough understanding of the parts of the escalator listed above and its original installation specifications must be reviewed when the escalator is to be removed. Some of these considerations include:

    • Balustrade height
    • Overhead clearance
    • Any space restrictions
    • Dimensions
    • Velocity
    • Safety clearances
  2. 2.

    At Milburn, we equip our teams with structural engineering knowledge and experience when they arrive on a project. We ensure that the necessary equipment and tools are available to the project, and if necessary, we communicate with the manufacturer or designer of the escalator.

    Our removal of escalators includes:

    • Dismantling and removal of the escalator balustrade, truss, and steps
    • Complete removal of the control panel, drive unit, gears, sprockets, and switches
    • Removal of escalator safety mechanisms 
    • Provision of all lifting equipment for lifting and hoisting escalators
    • Supplying lift beams, scaffolding, or towers where necessary
    • Supplying all transport of materials
    • Supplying all cranes as necessary
    • Fitting lockable hoarding around escalators for protection when necessary
    • Providing the services of structural engineers 

Is it Time to Remove Your Escalator?

Is your escalator slowing? Are there notable signs of disrepair? If your escalator breaks down or shows signs of wear, it is time to remove it. If you are demolishing an area of your structure where an escalator is located, you’ll need to hire a demolition expert with specialty knowledge of escalator removal in order to get the job done correctly without additional damage to your space.

Not sure if it’s time to take the escalator out, and want an expert opinion? Contact us through our website at here. Headquartered in Chicago with offices in Tampa, Florida, we service a broad urban area.

We love demolition and have built our business taking on challenging jobs and specialty demolition projects. Check out our website to learn more about what we do, or connect with us to find out how Milburn can take care of your demolition needs!