Unsplash | Verne Ho

Online Conversation Starts When Reddit User Asks What Escalator Brushes Are For

Amy Pilkington 30 Oct 2019

There is so much cool and innovative stuff happening in the tech sector these days that we often ignore the awesomeness of engineering that we utilize on a day-to-day basis.

From elevators to automatic doors, these things just work and we don't really think about them unless they're broken.

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And besides the odd new safety feature or material, the underlying mechanisms of these everyday things haven't changed much since their invention.

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For example, escalators are simply a take on standard conveyor belt technology.

Reddit | youhavetoknowme

The whole thing runs on a motor that turns two sets of wheels. Chains link the top wheels together with the motor and turn the whole belt.

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What makes it different from a standard conveyor is the steps.

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They're designed to always be perfectly level, even when upside down and hidden during their route back to the start.

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It's pretty darn cool. Deceptively simple, but complicated to execute perfectly.

Encyclopedia Britannica, Inc.

The first working escalator was featured at Coney Island in 1896. The first commercial escalator was unveiled in 1899 and is very similar to the models we use today.

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There is one feature of the modern escalator that doesn't get mentioned very often in technical descriptions.

Reddit | kristhecadet

And it's that bit that Redditor kristhecadet was curious about.

They posted the question in the r/whatisthisthing subreddit, which is where these kinds of questions are guaranteed to be answered.

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Specifically, they were referring to the bit of fringe that many escalators have along the base of their walls.

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A lot of people said that they weren't sure of the exact purpose, but they usually took the opportunity to brush off their shoes on the fringe while riding.

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Which is a handy hack, except for one thing: it defeats the purpose of the fringe.

Unsplash | Aryan Dhiman

Think of that strip of bristles like your eyelashes. The fibers catch dust and detritus that could otherwise slip down the sides of the treads and muck up the mechanics inside.

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So basically, by using the bristles to clean the dirt from your shoes, you're probably sending more dirt into the gap.

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Just think about that next time you're annoyed that an escalator is shut down for maintenance.

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This isn't the first question people have had about escalators, either.

Reddit | gavatronication

User gavatronication asked what the green light you see between the treads is.

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You usually see the light at the top and bottom of the ride.

Unsplash | Jordan Sanchez

It's meant as a visual aid to warn passengers that they will need to step off soon.

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Even if you've never been told to watch for the light, you've probably subconsciously taken the cue.

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It's just a small addition and the bright green is meant to stand out between the grey and yellow of the tracks.

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Another thing that's been asked about is these metal bars sometimes seen along the metal sides of escalators.

Reddit | LeConstantinopolitan

When LeConstantinopolitan asked about them, they noted that the bars seemed to just be welded on.

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That's probably because the subway station they were at had an issue with people goofing off.

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Specifically, with people using it as a slide. By putting the bars in place, they probably hoped it would stop people.

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But if I know anything about the type of people who would attempt to slide, it's that this isn't a deterrent.

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You just turned the slide into an obstacle course. Congratulations.

h/t: How Stuff Works

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