Eiffel Tower

The Eiffel Tower is one of the most recognized landmarks in the world. Otis Elevator Company was involved in installing the tower’s original equipment, and in modernizing it some 100 years later.

Originally built for the Universal Exposition in Paris in 1889, the Eiffel Tower is one of the top tourist attractions in the world and generates nearly US $1 million a month in ticket sales.

The tower’s two Otis Duo-lift elevators travel at speeds of 500 feet per minute (2.5 meters per second) and can carry 40 passengers up and 40 passengers down simultaneously.

The Eiffel Tower ranks as the one of the most recognized landmarks in the world. The 985-foot (300-meter) tower opened in 1889 as the centerpiece for the Universal Exposition that marked the 100th anniversary of the French Revolution. It was in these early days that Otis’ association with the Eiffel Tower began.

Although elevators were common by that time, no company had done anything quite like running them up an incline inside the tower’s curved legs. What’s more, the developers were adamant that only French products would be part of the Eiffel Tower. Ultimately, French elevators were installed in the higher stages of the tower and two of the legs, while Otis elevators served the other two legs. Power for all the elevators at this time came from steam systems; electricity did not replace them until about 1912. That same year Otis products were replaced by a staircase in one leg and a small electric elevator in the other.

For decades, Otis was not associated with the tower. But in the early 1980s, Otis was engaged to help with a major renovation, including all of the elevators. The new elevators included one from the ground to the first and second floors, and two Duo-lifts going from the second floor to the top. (Duo-lift elevators are two cabs connected by the hoist ropes and suspended over a 219 gearless machine. As one cab goes up, the other goes down.)

The run covered 524.9 feet (160 meters), the longest open-air run anywhere. Two Duo-lifts were put into service, so 40 people per elevator car could both ascend and descend simultaneously.

In 1998, Otis was awarded the contract to modernize the Duo-lifts serving the upper levels—an effort that presented engineering challenges not ordinarily found in an enclosed environment. Apart from wind, rain and snow, expansion of the steel tower itself imposed challenges to the leveling system. Taking these factors into account, Otis designed a special door control system that accommodates the door operators being on the hoistway doors and not the car doors as is customary. The elevators also travel on an incline.

Another challenge: Work had to be completed at night during the few hours the elevators were not in use. The job consumed 6,000 hours and involved the transport of 8 tons (7.26 metric tons) of components to the top of the tower. Work on the modernization was completed in 2001.