Maybe it's not quite the stairway to heaven, but after getting on the Wheaton Metro station's escalator, you might start to wonder about the light at the end of the tunnel.
D.C.'s Metro system is home to the longest escalator in the Western Hemisphere - spanning 508 feet through a concrete tunnel. That's almost the length of two football fields.
It's a nearly three-and-a-half minute ride to get to the top of this red line stop in Maryland, without walking. Now, imagine taking that trip when the escalator isn't moving.
The Wheaton station has three escalators and, like all other Metro stops, the escalator mechanics can't always be relied on for continual motion.
"They do have mechanical issues," said Steven Taub, a Metro spokesman. "Let's put it this way. There will never be a single day when every single escalator and elevator is working because we have to take equipment down to do maintenance."
Try telling that to the 9,300 people who travel through the station on an average weekday. The station is 196 feet underground, but is not actually the deepest station in the system. Nearby Forest Glen stop, at 230 feet deep, does not have escalators because of its depth and operates instead with high-speed elevators.
Taub said his office gets some "trivia-type" phone calls from people wanting to verify the escalator's size and whether its rumored status holds true. The number of those calls, however, doesn't compare to the most common caller question: why do the Metro's escalators and elevators break down?
It might be the longest escalator on this side of the globe, but Hong Kong is home to the longest in the world. An escalator there is 745 feet long and ascends 377 feet, according to the Guinness Book of World Records. Don't be too surprised - other records and sources of size-based pride in Hong Kong include the largest neon advertising sign, the largest country line dance and the largest Chinese dumpling.
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