Historical Castle Lifts – Part 1

The following lines will be a continuation of the excursion to the history of lifts. In two articles we will visit beautiful castle areas.

The first lifts were used as early as in the Baroque period and were initially only for the benefit of kings. The oldest preserved lift relics in this country date back to 1720 and they are in Ploskovice Castle. The lift in Zákupy Castle originates from the same period. It was modified in 1870 for the needs of Ferdinand V the Good.


Ploskovice Castle

Grand-duchess Anna Maria Franziska of Tuscany had the castle built as a summer residence in the first quarter of the 18th century. And she had the first lift built in the castle in the Czech lands in the 1820s. Only its relics have been preserved up to the present. Visitors to the castle can look at this fragment in the main hall of the castle.


Zákupy Castle

Zákupy Castle is one of the eight castles that can be visited in the Liberec Region. And it is there where they boast of one of the first lifts in the Czech lands. It was built for Ferdinand V in 1870 by RINGHOFFER. The cabin is for two with two upholstered armchairs opposite to each other. It is moved by human force by means of two hand winches, on the ground floor and in the machine room. The lift was suspended on steel wire ropes through a huge pulley with four counterweights. In the machine room, the movement of the hand winches was assembled artfully by gears through gear sets so that heavy force does not need to be exerted for the movement of the lift alone. It moved from the ground floor to the second floor and the landing shafts are only on one side with a big window opposite with a view into the castle. The lift was last used in 1900 when the wedding of Archduke Franz Ferdinand d’Este and Countess Sophia Chotková took place at Zákupy Castle.

Nowadays, special tours of the lift are held occasionally at Zákupy Castle. It is possible to look into the lift shafts with the original weights suspended on steel wire ropes and during the tour visitors can see, apart from the cabins alone, the original hand winch and can visit the lift machine room.



Konopiště Castle

Konopiště Castle is situated near the town of Benešov and it is known mainly as the primary and final seat of Austrian Archduke Franz Ferdinand d’Este. It was him who gained recognition for equipping the castle with various technological conveniences such as a water-driven lift which provided transport between the ground floor and three above-ground floors of the castle.

Use of a water motor as a driving force source to drive a lift was nothing extraordinary in the period around the turn of the century. Piston water motors were spread in the last third of the 19th century as universal driving machines for lower outputs.

The lift installed at Konopiště Castle in 1896 was manufactured by the lift factory W. Philippi in Wiesbaden and installed into the lift shaft. Its protective steel cage was supplied by the Prague company Fanta & Jiresch. It is a STIGLER system lift driven by a single-acting piston water motor with a piston valve mechanism, driven by pressure water from the local water supply system.

The maximum speed that the lifts of this type achieved was 0.5 m/sec. Due to the space arrangement of the underground machine room, a motor with a horizontal working cylinder was used at Konopiště Castle.

The lift is arranged in such a way that the lift cabin covers the entire path from the lowest to the highest landing per one piston travel. This is achieved when the piston movement is transferred via the rack on the piston rod on a pinion with a low number of teeth and the pinion is keyed on the shaft along with the winding drum in a large diameter.

The lift cabin is balanced by a counterweight, so a lot of power was not necessary to move the lift up. The lift operating method is rather complicated. It worked on the ground floor (setting the target landing) and also in the lift cabin alone (starting the lift).

By pulling at the cable wire passing through the lift cabin it was possible to turn the control wheel of the operating valve by means of the guide pulley system.

The wheel is connected with the pinion which is engaged into the gearing on the valve bar. By moving the valve bar, the piston valve was changed over and the water from the supply pipe started to force the piston away and thus to lift the cabin.

The lift stopped at the selected landing automatically. The valve rod is the swivel type and its swivelling according to the selected floor was controlled from the entrance door of the ground floor landing. There are stops installed on the valve rod at the respective distances corresponding to individual floors. The stops passed through the hole in the slot link fixed to the piston rod.

At a certain swivel of the valve rod, the stop did not pass through the hole in the slot link and the piston rod movement moved the valve rod so much that the inlet was shut off and the lift stopped. If the valve was moved to the position in which the cylinder space was connected with the drain channel, the cabin moved down.

There is a lift position indicator on the ground floor along the left side of the shaft. It takes the form of a vertical rod coming from the machine room through a pipe terminated in the floor. There is a horizontal arrow on the rod pointing at the floor number on the plate attached to the wall.

The indicator position is dependent on the position of the piston rod of the lift motor. The lift was later supplemented with an electrical indication system which, however, now also looks antiquarian and represents a sort of technical monument itself. The lift cabin is suspended on four steel wire ropes by which it is connected with the counterweight through pulleys. The hauling rope of the lift is led from the machine room through the lift shaft along the right side to the pulley in the upper part of the shaft and from there down to the cabin ceiling where it is fixed. The lift is equipped with a safety system preventing the cabin from falling in case the carrying rope breaks.

With their design, both the cage of the lift shaft and the lift cabin follow the representative castle interiors. The entrance doors and the protective cage on the individual landings are richly decorated by wrought iron ornaments. The cage interior alone is designed very luxuriously in Art Nouveau and is decorated with mirrors and original framed graphics.

The lift is currently out of service. The cabin is blocked on one of the floors and it can be seen during a tour of the north wing of the castle.

Ovládání výtahu na zámku Konopiště



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