Escalator working principle:

We always use escalator nowadays. Instead of a normal staircase, escalators bring ease while changing floors. We find them everywhere; in malls, train stations, hotels, airports, and stadiums.

escalator in action
escalator in action

Furthermore, escalators are very common in places where the lift is not a practical solution. Especially, in areas where a large number of people keep commuting. These have the capacity to move large amount of people.

The escalator is nothing but a moving staircase that carries people from one place to another. It consists of a motor-driven chain with individual linking of steps. These steps cycle on a track that keeps the stairs horizontal. In addition, escalators need the same space as a staircase. So, you don’t need extra space to accommodate the escalator. It can also work as a normal staircase in case of electricity failure.

Layout and design:

While designing an escalator, there are many factors to consider. These include elevation, safety, location, and traffic. One more important factor in today’s world is aesthetics. So, we need to take into consideration all these factors while designing.

In addition, designers must take into account traffic patterns and use. Some escalators are designed only for entry or exit. Hence, it needs more thinking about handling capacity. In some cases like a train station, the fluctuation of traffic is common. In this case, designers need to think about peak hour traffic. Thus, many factors play a role while designing the escalator.


The first and important component is the landing platform. Landing platforms are the two ends of the escalator. These have two plates – floor plate and comb plate. Floorplate is the plate where people stand before putting the foot on moving stairs. While the comb plate remains in between the floor plate and moving staircase. It has a comb-like structure that matches with combs on moving stairs. These combs help to minimize the gap in-between; improving safety.

In addition, the top landing platform has a motor and drive gear. While the bottom plate accommodates return gear. The truss is another hollow metallic structure that bridges upper and lower landing.

The balustrade is another component that supports handrails. It is made up of glass, plastic or metal. It provides safety to passengers & handrails. The track is located inside the truss. It pulls the stairs in a continuous fashion.

Furthermore, another important component is the stairs themselves. These are a solid one-piece structure made up of metal or aluminum. They have yellow markings to indicate edges. One more important component is handrail. Handrail moves at the same speed of stairs. They provide support to passengers.

Working of escalator:

The escalators generally move at the speed of 1-2 ft per second. The usual angle is 30 degrees from the ground. Most of the escalators have single-piece aluminum steps that move along the track by electric motors.

In addition, the escalators have different configurations. Parallel, multiple parallel, and criss-cross configuration. The moving handrails move along the escalator providing support to passengers. You can permanently set the direction of travel. Even you can control it manually according to the requirement or flow of the crowd. Sometimes even you have the option of automatic control.


Safety is a major concern in the case of escalators. The moving components can entangle with clothes. Especially children have more danger as the size of their feet is small. In a country like India, saris may cause injury to riders. So, in India, escalators are equipped with a sari guard.


Escalators are very helpful in this fast-paced world. They help to commute faster to save your time. They also help differentially abled or people having difficulty. Escalators can work as a normal stair during a power outage. It’s suitable in areas having large crowds. It can act as a mass mover. Helpfull on large airports as some times distances from the entrance to the boarding gate are too much.

In conclusion, the escalator is a modern staircase. It helps you to commute faster and with ease.

Image courtesy: Schindler

Watch working of the escalator in action:

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