Department Store Escalators

Motivated by the nostalgia of the Greyhound Bus thread, that motivated me to show this video – another of my childhood fascinations – riding department store escalators (mostly in Pittsburgh, but not exclusively).

Before suburban shopping malls, people went downtown to shop.   Large cities typically had several large department stores that occupied an entire block, with maybe 10 or more stories of merchandise.   You typically had two ways to get to the upper floors – riding an elevator, with the operator calling out the merchandise on each floor as they stopped  (“Floor 6 – Women’s clothing, coats, blankets – please watch your step”) or riding a series of escalators.

For floors up higher, the elevator was faster, but the escalators had higher capacity.    Often, the elevators would be split into banks, so if you wanted to go to the 8th floor, you could take the 6-12’th floor elevator and not have to stop at every floor (This was before automated elevators)

As the comments note, these were decommissioned in 2004 – but extremely typical – the landings of each floor have the floor number, since it is easy to lose count.   The higher up in the store you got, typically the lower the capacity of the escalator, the older it was and the less maintained it was.

This youtube video was related to another one describing the “wonderful” new escalator in Columbia to take people up and down a hillside:


This entry was posted in Uncategorized. Bookmark the permalink.

2 Responses to Department Store Escalators

  1. prboylan says:

    Playing on department store escalators was fun, but nothing beat riding the Pink Pig monorail around the ceiling of the toy department at Rich’s in Atlanta. 🙂

    • Art Stone says:

      That was something I was thinking about as I wrote that, but figured it was too obscure and personal. The Department stores did special things at Christmas – one of them created an express elevator to the North Pole with all sorts of embellishments. I’m not positive if it was the same year, but the one of the downtown stores (I’m thinking Gimbels, but it could have been Kaufmanns) had the same thing – a monorailish thing that was attached to the ceiling and took little kids around the toy department. I don’t think the one in Pittsburgh was a pig, though.

      Sure enough, it was in Gimbels:

      Google also coughed up an ad from the newspaper to ride the Gimbels monorail in Pittsburgh – it was from 1965, which is close to the time period I would have guessed. I remember maybe being just a little too old to ride it. My memory is it was set up like it was a space rocket, which would have made sense with the Sputnik, race to the moon movement at the time.

Leave a Reply