On the occasion of our special morning from the Eiffel Tower on Wednesday September 16, Europe 1 went to visit the basements of the East pillar, where the operation of the elevator remained close to that of the first days of the Iron Lady.

A world of metal and colors is revealed, as well as a unique industrial heritage.


Facing the Eiffel Tower, we are all tempted to look up.

Yet there is also a lot going on under our feet.

On the occasion of our special morning from the first floor of the Eiffel Tower on Wednesday September 16, we went to visit a place full of surprises, forbidden to the public, but rich in history: the machinery of the elevator of the East pillar.

The Iron Lady has five elevators, but only one has retained a mechanism similar to that of 1899, while the others have switched to electric (North and South elevators) or thermal (West).

Europe 1 went to take a closer look.

Entering the bowels of this east elevator, the shock is first visual: a world of brightly colored metal is revealed before our eyes.

Huge cylinders, yellow and red, frame a network of pipes, blue, cables and equipment, rare living witnesses of a distant industrial heritage.

It feels like a Jules Verne novel, or even behind the scenes of Santa Claus' factory.

The driving force behind the elevator is water.

By means of a valve - "the tap", in the words of the technicians - water is sent at very high pressure through the pipes.

A "piston-carrier" trolley (yellow and red…) connected by cables to the elevator, then starts to move thanks to this pressure.

And when it moves, the elevator goes up (or down) and huge 190-ton cylinders act as a counterweight.

Carriage : 


Why the Eiffel Tower expands (a little) in the sun

This unique mechanism dates from 1899. But if water is still the main force of movement of the elevator, it has been modernized since.

In 1986, in particular, heat engines were installed to reinforce the hydraulics and help stabilize the mechanism.

Above all, on the same date, the "driver" of the elevator was replaced by an automaton, an electronic system that regulates the water pressure.

The cylinders: 

The water pressure was previously managed by man, by means of a….

steering wheel: by turning it, the driver could thus adjust the pressure.

In these iron bowels, one can also still imagine the workers of the beginning of the 20th century going to seek their bolts in one of the old green lockers lining the wall near the service staircase, or valiantly carrying the immense ones (and heavy, we tested!) keys still attached to the sides of the old "grease pumps", used to oil the mechanism.

Today, the secrets of the manufacture, maintenance and operation of the East elevator are in the hands of the Iron Lady technicians (44 in total, with different skills).

How long will this industrial heritage survive?

More profitable, less difficult to operate, maintain and secure, electrical and thermal mechanisms have come to dominate the other pillars.

But many are hoping that the old heart of the East Elevator will continue to beat for a long time to come.