Behind all that free-falling mania are the Tower of Terror’s elevator motors, the unsung and unseen heroes of the attraction. The Tower of Terror motors are unique, designed specifically for their use in the attraction. They are much bigger, faster, and more powerful than ordinary high-speed elevator motors.
Despite its peculiarities, the Tower of Terror is just a specialized version of the common traction elevator. A heavy duty steel cable creates a loop of cable attached both the top and the bottom of the elevator car. The counterweight is on the opposite side of the loop. The same motor and cable loop that pulls the elevator up also pulls it down.
According to the classic insider-look book, Walt Disney Imagineering: A Behind the Dreams Look at Making the Magic Real, the Tower of Terror’s motors are 12’ tall, 7’ wide, and 35’ long. This gives each motor a 245 sq ft footprint. To put that into perspective, each motor is about the size of a 1-car garage. They are three times larger than the world’s largest high-speed elevator motors.
Not only are the Tower of Terror motors huge, they’re heavy. Each lift shaft has its own motor which weighs 132,000 lbs. To get even more technical, this means the motors exert 432 pounds per square foot on the steel frame they rest on. And they’re at the TOP of the structure, supported by a strong steel frame. The pretty facade around it isn’t load-bearing, it’s just a decorative wrapper around the steel cage.
How Many Motors?
The Hollywood Studios Tower of Terror likely has six motors: one for each of the four lift shafts in the back,and one for each of the two drop shafts in the front. Newer versions of the ride take place in one shaft and require just three motors.
The motors accelerate 10 tons at 15 times faster than the world’s fastest elevators. And in case you were wondering, the torque generated to move the elevators is equivalent to about 275 Corvette engines.
The Tower of Terror is said to travel at a top speed of 39mph. This is faster than gravity’s own acceleration, so, in other words, when you’re descending you’re actually being pulled. (Keep in mind that some of the “wind” you experience on the descent is completely fake – it’s from fans located below the elevator car!)
More About Elevators
Elevators in general: http://www.popularmechanics.com/technology/engineering/1280851
Elevator motor pictures: https://www.google.com/search?q=elevator+motors&client=firefox-a&hs=ogd&rls=org.mozilla:en-US:official&channel=fflb&source=lnms&tbm=isch&sa=X&ei=KhpTUsmOJcT6igLSsIGYDg&ved=0CAcQ_AUoAQ&biw=1160&bih=934&dpr=1