Arch-eology

Renovation on St. Louis’ Gateway symbol includes new motors & generators

For the Gateway Arch to function in full effect, it requires power generation. Although the structure was built primarily as a monument to commemorate the vision of Thomas Jefferson and St. Louis’ role in the westward expansion of the United States, it also had to have the option of a view from the top as a tourist attraction. For that, it needed trams. Thus, for maintenance on the 630-foot tall structure (the equivalent of 63 stories) made of steel and concrete, it needed elevators on the inside. Motors and generators have been essential ever since the monument’s construction began in 1963. It being Thursday, we’re going with the “throwback” film history (Part 2 is available on YouTube):

MacDonald Construction Company of St. Louis was the prime contractor on the Gateway Arch project. Pittsburgh–Des Moines Steel Company supplied the steel, the final section of which was completed on October 28, 1965. The north tram was completed first and opened in July 1967, and the south tram followed in May 1968. Presently, the trams, which carry 240 passengers apiece, run on a fixed alternating schedule, with both running during peak hours. If one tram is running, they depart from the base every 10 minutes. If both trams are running, every 5 minutes. (If you were to walk to the top of the Arch, you’d cover 1,076 steps, but you’d have to have a uniform; stairs and elevators are used for maintenance and emergencies only.)

The Arch is a weighted catenary curve. Catenary means it is the shape a free-hanging chain takes when held at both ends. These trams were never intended to move fast (the tram capsules move at a speed of 340 feet per minute, approximately 3.86 miles per hour), but they obviously require optimum reliability. Much of the equipment used in the arch has remained the same for 50 years or more, according to an article written by Mike Faulk in the St. Louis Post-Dispatch October 4. This is the case with the soon-to-be-replaced motors and generators.

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