Few of the funfair rides you see today are as iconic as Ferris Wheels, or Big Wheels as they are also known.
Taking its name from the wheel built for the World’s Columbian Exposition in Chicago, 1893 by George Washington Gale Ferris. Though William Somers installed three fifty foot wooden wheels in 1892 so perhaps they should be called Somers Wheels.
Then again Pietro Della Valle, a Roman traveller wrote of riding a Great Wheel in Constantinople in 1615, so should they be Constantinople wheels or Della Valle Wheels?
Whoever deserves the naming rights, it was George that actually ended up adding his name to one the enduring legacies of the funfair industry.
Lets take a look at some of the weird and wonderful wheels around the world.
The Original Ferris Wheel
The original ‘Ferris’ wheel pictured here was 80.4 metres high, 264ft if you are sticking to olde measures, not sure how many cubits that is if you are even older than Imperial measurements. It was intended to rival the Eiffel Tower which had formed the centre piece of the Paris Exposition. The axle weighing 71 tonne was the world’s largest forging at that time, and the ride had a carrying capacity of 2160 people, unrivalled today Indeed the world’s biggest wheel the Vegas High Roller managing a little over half that.
The Vegas High Roller
Currently the world’s highest wheel is the Vegas High Roller. At 550ft (158.5 metres, 366.67 cubits) high, this beats the Singapore Flyer by a scant 9ft. Rotating on two custom designed spherical bearings each weighing just under 9 tonnes. The passenger cabins are electrically rotated to maintain a smooth level ride and each weighs 20 tonnes. A wheel currently being built in Dubai should claim the crown as world’s tallest wheel if it ever opens, currently construction is 5 years behind schedule.
The Vienna Riesenrad
Located inside the Vienna Prater (the world’s oldest amusement park), the Riesenrad was constructed in 1897. This has unique old fashioned cabins, one of which can be hired complete with dining and a champagne meal.
It was designed by Harry Hitchins and Hubert Cecil Booth, a pair of British engineers, and constructed by Lieutenant Walter Bassett Bassett an English engineer. to celebrate the Golden Jubilee of Emperor Franz Josef I. At 212ft high it is nowhere near the ‘big’ wheels out there, but it adds a touch of class all its own.
The Tianjin Eye Observation Wheel
Also called the Tientsin Eye, this is a mid height wheel at 394ft, what makes it unusual, is that it is the only major wheel actually built on a bridge, in this case the Yongle Bridge, over the Hai River in Tianjin China.
The Osaka Wheel
This is an oddball in the wheel world. Rather than being round it is an oval shape. The main structure doesn’t move rather the cars move around a track.
The Big O
Situated in the Tokyo Dome City, Japan. This is not only the world’s largest centreless wheel at 200ft high (it has an actual roller coaster built through the middle), it also has a number of cars with karaoke machines fitted. We are not actually convinced that being stuck on a ride for 30 minutes with someone singing badly is a great move.
Baseball Ferris Wheels
Not particularly large, but certainly novel. Built in Comerica park, downtown Detroit. The location of the Detroit Tigers Major League Baseball Team.
The Waggon Wheel
No, not a biscuit, though legend has it that the biscuit was a similar size before inflation kicked in. This is located in Flamingo Land Amusement park here in the UK. Themed around the iconic plains wagons of old America. YeeeHaaa
The Golden Reel Figure 8
Located in Macau, this is one of the highest wheels in the world. Not due solely to its size, but to the fact that it is actually built to join two hotels together. You board on the 23rd floor, and what makes it even more unique is that fact that it is a figure 8 wheel, having 2 loops does that make it Ferris Wheels?
Royal Tyres Wheel
The Uniroyal giant tyre wheel created for the 1964 New York World’s Fair. Now located in Michigan this 80ft high wheel was designed by the same firm responsible for the Empire State Building, Shreve, Lamb & Harmon. Driven by a 100hp engine the wheel carries 96 passengers.
John Kormeling Wheel
Created by the artist John Kormeling, this is one wacky wheel. Instead of gondolas for the passengers, it has flat structures that you actually park you car on, yes, you don’t even have to leave your car to ride this wheel.
The Priyat Big Wheel
This wheel isn’t particularly tall, or have any unusual features. Oh, except for being quite close to a major nuclear disaster. The wheel is virtually brand new having hardly been used before Chernobyl went tits up. It isn’t one we would recommend visiting, although there are actually companies now running tours to the area around Chernobyl.
These are an uncommon version of the wheel. Instead of the cars being suspended on axles at the ends of the arms, they travel on a track that zig zags inside the main structure, so they slide towards the centre of the wheel then away from it. There was one built in 1920 at Coney Island, and another at one of the Disney parks.
Underground Ferris Wheels
A mere 65ft high and only 6 cars would make this a pretty poor example for Ferris Wheels. Until you consider it is actually underground inside a giant salt mine. Located in Turda, Romania, the mine dates back to the 13th century and is 368ft beneath below ground. I guess that technically makes this the world’s lowest wheel!