Wednesday, November 21, 2007


Spending the night at the top of the Needle Tower was surprisingly comfortable. The beacon salamander keeps the entire room quite warm - warmer than the hotel, in fact - and the aluminum floor wasn't as uncomfortable as I expected.

Sunrise was much earlier than usual.

Getting down was surprisingly easy as well. The elevators might reach less than halfway up the tower, but the ratchet baskets go almost to the top.

They're fairly simple little contraptions: a basket hung from a rope, much like the elevators, but with a weight on the other end. The pulley at the top has a ratchet mechanism attached to it. When the baskets are empty, the weights pull them up to the little platforms next to the pulleys; when someone gets in them (someone heavy enough, anyway), the ratchets let them down slowly and gently. It takes about thirty of these to get all the way to the ground.

Unlike the elevators, the ratchet baskets don't need anything but passengers to move them, so they can be built all the way up the tower. It would be impossible to bring waterwheel power up all three miles of it; salamander engines might work, but they're far too delicate to just leave three miles above the ground. The ratchet baskets hardly ever need repairs. Of the thirty or so I used on the way down, I only had to skip one. It was having its rope replaced. According to the repairman, who seemed glad to have someone to talk to, it had been six months since the last time he'd had to fix one of the baskets. They don't need much.

I wonder if some sort of hot-air balloon would work as an elevator? Maybe if it ran on a rail or something up the outside of the tower... It would probably take a while to get to the top, and the descent would have to be very carefully controlled, but it might work. I'll have to ask the repairman about that if I run into him again.

Until then, I have libraries to visit.

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