This house, like many older homes (and, for all I know, lots of newer homes) has a big huge attic, accessible by one of those trapdoor ladder things. The original ladder was installed by Don's grandfather, and, like many of the things in this house, was both very clever and very frightening. It was held up by a terrifyingly visible pulley that involved steel cable and a screw eye sunk into the guest room floor. Folding the trapdoor back up into the ceiling was a two-person job; one person had to stand on their tiptoes and push the unit up into the ceiling and hold it there while the other one pulled with all their weight on the pulley cable to get the hook to slip over the edge of the screw eye.
In addition to all that, the ladder itself was... shall we say... nonstandard. It was approximately one foot wide, ensuring that nobody with hips could get up into the attic; it was constructed -- possibly by hand -- entirely out of wood; and, mysteriously, it was blue.
Our HVAC contractor, on his very first trip out here (something like TWO YEARS AGO ARGH), told us flat out that there was no way he could install our upstairs HVAC unit without a new ladder. Aside from the safety issues, which didn't concern him overly much although they terrified me (did I mention that there was a LIVE WIRE crossing the opening, for no good reason?), the hole in the ceiling was simply too small to fit the unit through. So one of the things that had to be accomplished before we could have the last of the HVAC installed was to replace the ladder.
Fortunately, it turns out that you can just run over to your local home improvement superstore and buy attic trapdoor ladders. In boxes!
The original ladder was in the middle of the three upstairs bedrooms. We decided that if we were going to replace the darn thing anyway, we might as well put it in a much more convenient location so that our use of that room would be unfettered. The upstairs landing, as most of you know, is absolutely gigantic, so we decided that the landing was the place for the new ladder.
So Don and his dad framed in an appropriately sized hole, and installed the new ladder over a weekend in April, with much swearing. Like everything around here, it took longer than they expected and involved a lot of shimming. But it's in, and it works, as you can see.
We haven't taken down the old blue ladder yet -- it's bolted into the joists, and we just haven't gotten around to dealing with that. Just ignore it and admire the shininess of the new one.