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IMAGINATION STATION SCIENCE & HISTORY MUSEUM

Elevator working after 2-month outage

Posted on April 30, 2022

Updated on May 1, 2022

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James Haire with Abell Elevator International works in the attic at the Imagination Station on the museum’s 50-year-old elevator.

Drew C. Wilson | Times

James Haire with Abell Elevator International works in the attic at the Imagination Station on the museum’s 50-year-old elevator.

For two months, the elevator at the Imagination Station has not been operating. The lift was fixed last week.

Drew C. Wilson | Times

For two months, the elevator at the Imagination Station has not been operating. The lift was fixed last week.

James Haire with Abell Elevator International works in the attic at the Imagination Station on the museum’s 50-year-old elevator.

Drew C. Wilson | Times

James Haire with Abell Elevator International works in the attic at the Imagination Station on the museum’s 50-year-old elevator.

For two months, the elevator at the Imagination Station has not been operating. The lift was fixed last week.

Drew C. Wilson | Times

For two months, the elevator at the Imagination Station has not been operating. The lift was fixed last week.

For two months, the elevator at the Imagination Station has not been operating. The lift was fixed last week.
James Haire with Abell Elevator International works in the attic at the Imagination Station on the museum’s 50-year-old elevator.

dwilson@wilsontimes.com | 252-265-7818

The Imagination Station’s elevator is lifting visitors again, but a $100,000 upgrade may be required.

Since February, the 50-year-old lift for the four-story science and history museum in downtown Wilson has been out of order.

James Haire, 70, an elevator mechanic from Abell Elevator International’s Garner office, said Wednesday that he had repaired the elevator, but that the North Carolina Department of Labor Elevator Bureau may require future upgrades if not a replacement in the future.

The 95-year-old former United States Post Office and Federal Courthouse on Nash Street has been home to the Imagination Station for 30 years.

Working in the building’s dusty, fifth-floor attic, Haire labored to get the machinery back in an operable condition.

“It’s running now,” Haire said. “All the safety circuits are working, but I don’t even know what tomorrow brings, especially with the corrosion and the age of it.”

Haire said as best he could tell, the elevator, made by the Westbrook Elevator Co. out of Danville, Virginia, was installed in the very early 1970s.

Haire said a limit switch at the top of the elevator shaft wasn’t making contact.

“I cleaned and adjusted that switch and got to going in high speed, so now the car is running in high speed in both directions,” Haire said.

Adjacent to the elevator’s hoist motor and governor is a wall of antiquated electrical circuits and relays.

“They call that relay logic, which they don’t even use anymore. Now it is serial communication or electronics. Like anything else, it’s gone,” Haire said. “I think the biggest problem that I see here is if you get closer to the controller, everything is green, which means that whatever moisture that was here over the decades completely destroyed the copper wiring.”

Green oxidation covers nearly all of the unit’s copper parts.

The elevator is so old that parts can’t be found for it and have to be made.

“You have to be innovative enough to replace it with something else,” Haire said.

Despite the machine’s oxidizing parts, it is in remarkable shape.

“It’s unbelievable. You don’t see too much of this anymore,” Haire said. “I work on them here and there. I am summoned to go help other people on the old equipment because I was born and raised with it. But it is getting to the point now that you are not going to be able to get parts for it anymore. You don’t even have a decent set of schematics for it anymore. So it’s time.”

It’s time for an upgrade.

Haire said that in spite of its age, the elevator is safe.

“They don’t have to fear getting on it because the worse that’s going to happen is they are just going to get stuck in it, and then somebody is going to have to come get them out,” Haire said. “As far as getting hurt or something like that, the safeties are still in place. I checked them to make sure that they are all working, and they are.”

Haire said in order to maintain code, upgrades to the push buttons in the car station, the telephone system in the car station and handicapped accessibility in the buttons will be necessary.

The machine room itself may have to be reworked in order to meet code in the future.

“I would say in my professional opinion that an upgrade is more important than most people think,” Haire said. “I know it’s expensive, but the reliability of this elevator is getting a little sketchy.”

Jennifer Byrd, executive director of the Imagination Station, said a renovation of the elevator will cost around $100,000.

Byrd said providing access for the handicapped is her No. 1 concern.

“When we have groups of kids come in or grandparents that want to bring their grandchildren in, I want to be able to have the elevator available,” Byrd said. “If it’s not available, I want to at least let visitors know before they come, through our website, social media or whatever, that our elevator is not accessible.”

Byrd said she is happy to hear that the lift is now accessible and operating.

“That’s wonderful news because we are a science and history museum that is geared toward all children and families,” Byrd said.

Families with strollers, handicapped people in wheelchairs, users of walkers and elderly visitors need the elevator.

“I would imagine even asthmatic children would have a hard time walking up,” Byrd said. “I want for them to be able to have the same experience.”

The museum’s staff has offices on the top floor, which is some 70 steps from the first floor, not including the basement.

“I have been walking up five flights of stairs for two months now, and I have a difficult time with that,” Byrd said.

“It has made a tremendous impact on our staff.”

Some visitors had passed on climbing the stairs to view the animal exhibits on the second floor and the new “Journey to Wilson” exhibit on the third floor.

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