A Paternoster, an Old-fashioned Elevator in the Ceylon Electricity Board Headquarters

Paternoster at CEB Headquarters, Colombo

I visited the headquarters of the Ceylon Electricity Board at Sir Chittampalam A. Gardiner Mawatha to meet an official there. This was my first visit to the institution and after the affairs at the reception I was asked to go to the 6th floor.

I went searching for the elevator but I found a strange elevator-like thing there instead of an easy to use elevator. (Later I heard from Mr. K. K. S. Dasanayake, the Deputy General Manager of CEB that this thing is called a “paternoster.” The paternoster had two rooms – one going up and one going down. One has to get into it while it is still moving. I am a guy who is very reluctant to get into an escalator. So, imagine the excitement I had while getting into a moving paternoster. Before getting into this, I studied how few people managed to get into it and asked a person how to go about it. He made me relaxed and said even small kids get into this easily (though it is not advisable for kids to use this.)

Paternoster at CEB Headquarters, Colombo

I got into it and the next problem was getting off of it in the 6th floor. I was more excited and someone in the paternoster told me to hold the handle well while getting off. Only two people can go in one cubicle at once and the paternoster has a chain of about 20 cubicles travelling one after the other. The same cubicles return to the downward travel once they go above the top-most floor (7th). Similarly they return to the upward travel once the come below the first floor.

With all the excitement I managed to go to the desired floor and met Mr. Bandula S. Tilakasena, the Additional General Manager of the CEB and the first thing I asked him was not about what I visited him for. I asked about the paternoster and both he and Mr. Dasanayake gave me a lot of information about it. According to them this is the only paternoster available in Sri Lanka and there are a few left in the whole world. You can read more about them in the Wikipedia page about paternoster by clicking this link. http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Paternoster. According to Wikipedia, a few people have died while using paternosters. (Few people have died while using elevators too.)

Since my phone batter was almost dead I could not take few pictures of the paternoster and when I asked the polite telephone operator Ms. Dilini Kariyawasam to get me a photograph or two, she promised to send me some pictures. She had emailed me the pictures you see in this page within few minutes. (Who did ever say that government servants are not efficient?)

I could get down after the meeting with no limbs broken and my problem now is that I have to go there once again to collect some videos from Mr. Tilakasena. I keep postponing this due to fear on using the paternoster but I have to do it within next couple of days.

8 thoughts on “A Paternoster, an Old-fashioned Elevator in the Ceylon Electricity Board Headquarters

  1. Dear Wanni it is knowledgeable post. Do you have a twitter account? If yes send me the username. Regards Methlal

    *Methlal Weerasooriya |* Journalist | *Lecturer |** Media Trainer* Tel: +94772990737 | Twitter: @Methlal |Web: http://www.livisari.org |Live Blog:http://www.wordfaire.com/livisari |skype:Methlal

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    On 5 November 2012 11:28, Nandasiri Wanninayaka wrote:

    > ** > Nandasiri Wanninayaka posted: ” Paternoster at CEB Headquarters, > Colombo I visited the headquarters of the Ceylon Electricity > Board at Sir Chittampalam A. Gardiner Mawatha to meet an official there. > Thi”


  2. No! I would not advise the young kids or elderly to take such an out of fashion elevator. There are too many horror accidents reported almost every day around the world to remind elevator safety cannot be taken for granted. Elevator safety is very important.

    Liked by 1 person

    • Those who don’t like it can use the elevator right next to the paternoster. In my day, GMs and AGMs didn’t use the paternoster, May be they had reservations about the ‘mortals’ with whom they had to share the paternoster. There is a stairway too, and I advise everyone to use it because there are only 7 stories to climb anyway.
      Paternoster had always been a curiosity and young undergraduates ( trainees ) would always dare to travel over the top to experience the dark chamber in which the whole thing gets shifted to the other side. However it is always funny and embarrassing to descend to the 7 th floor from above.
      There is also a moral aspect to this. “Don’t look up when a girl in a skirt is on her upward trip ! “. It is considered a cardinal sin.

      CEB paternoster had certainly not taken any lives or injured anyone to my knowledge. If something had happened definitely there would have been big protests with slogans such as “minimaru uththolakaya akulaa ganiw” . “Amathi gedahra pala ” and “lift eka minimarayi amathi mara ninde ” !

      Anyway Europeans have a way of getting killed in very awkward ways, no wonder a paternoster has taken a life or too.


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