Throwback Thursday: Elevator Jams, Two Stuck


Editor’s Note: This story originally ran Sept. 25, 1975 in The Rapp Street Journal, ACC’s student paper at the time. 

Elevator Jams, Two Stuck

The simplest ways are the healthiest ways, both physically and mentally. At least two of ACC’s students will agree with that statement, for on August 28th they were trapped in one of the elevators for half-an-hour during a minor power failure.  Half-an-hour is not really that long to be confined, yet undoubtedly it will be an experience that Joan O’Dell and Rose Saunders will think of whenever they ride an elevator.

The interesting aspect of this trauma is that the college does not possess an alternative power source for use in case of emergencies. When asked why not, Elmer Pogue, Director of the Physical Plant, stated there was indeed an independent power supply, but it was only capable of powering a smattering of lights throughout the building – just enough to evacuate. The elevators, he explained, are not really that simple a device.

They are run by a computer which directs separate control boxes for each elevator. Each of these control boxes runs an AC motor which runs a DC generator that powers a DC motor that lifts and lowers the counterweights which, in turn, raise the elevators. The reason for the conversion from AC to DC is simple. AC power is stronger nearest the source and becomes weaker farther away. The direct result of this would be a jerky elevator ride, unlike the barely perceptible start-stop action presently enjoyed.

Mr. Pogue was on vacation during the power failure and, as a result, the Littleton Paramedic Squad had to be called in to free the students. Actually the emancipation wasn’t very difficult. It merely involves the use of a long square key that opens the doors. The key fits into those seemingly ridiculous peep-holes about two-thirds of the way up the doors. Before inserting the key, however, the elevators must be turned off so that if the power were to return mid-rescue, the elevators would not respond to any button pushing.

Mr. Pogue further elaborated on the safety of the elevator system. If a fire were to break out in the shafts, two metal braces would emerge and lock the elevator to the guide tracks. The supporting cables could literally burn away and the car wouldn’t move, providing the weight in the car was less than the 2500 pound capacity.

I wonder if after their experience Joan or Rose will take the elevator or ride the stairs. I know one thing for sure, you cannot be trapped in a stairway during a power failure.