It's a bird? It's a plane? It's a surfboard? No—it's an escalator over Manhattan.

There are only 11 escalators in the 102-story One World Trade Center—the replacement for the 110-story twin towers destroyed by terrorists on 9/11. But as the photos below tell the story, the runs that roost on the 101st floor sure had dramatic entries.

The 73 elevators that will serve the occupied floors of the supertower are not as photogenic. (The building, when complete, will rise 1,776 ft and rank as the tallest in the Western Hemisphere.)

But their "oh wow" numbers are impressive. The escalators will travel at a speed of 23 mph, which will make them the fastest in the Western Hemisphere, according to ThyssenKrupp, the supplier and installer of the vertical transportation system. It will take only 60 seconds travel time for visitors to the observation deck, says the firm.

The total length of the steel cables in the elevators is longer than the distance from New York City to Baltimore—198 miles. And elevator counterweights weigh more than one million pounds, which is equivalent to 250 cars of average size (I did not do the math). The largest elevator motors weigh 50,000 lb each, says ThyssenKrupp. 

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