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A Ferris wheel (also known as an observation wheel or big wheel) is a nonbuilding structure, consisting of a rotating upright wheel with passenger cars (sometimes referred to as gondolas or capsules) attached to the rim.

The original Ferris Wheel was designed and constructed by George Washington Gale Ferris, Jr. as a landmark for the 1893 World's Columbian Exposition in Chicago. The term Ferris wheel later came to be used generically for all such structures.




17th Century Turkish Ups-and-Downs

Pietro Della Valle, a Roman traveller who sent letters from Constantinople, Persia, and India, attended a Ramadan festival in Constantinople in 1615. He describes the fireworks, floats, and great swings, then comments on riding the Great Wheel:

I was delighted to find myself swept upwards and downwards at such speed. But the wheel turned round so rapidly that a Greek who was sitting near me couldn't bear it any longer, and shouted out 'Soni! Soni!" (Enough! Enough!)

The Travels of Peter Mundy, 1608–1667, describes and illustrates "Several sorts of Swinginge used in their Publique rejoyceings att their feast of Biram" in the Ottoman Balkans. Among means "lesse dangerous and troublesome" only for children was a wheel "like a Craine wheele att Customhowse Key", where the passengers swing on short swings, sometimes sitting, sometimes hanging trapeze fashion. The illustration here (to the left) is of a different Turkish design, apparently for adults.

The original Ferris Wheel

The original Chicago Ferris Wheel, built for the 1893 World's Columbian Exposition

The original Ferris Wheel, sometimes also referred to as the Chicago Wheel,[1][2][3] opened to the public on June 21, 1893, at the World's Columbian Exposition in Chicago, Illinois. Intended to rival the 324-metre (1,060 ft) Eiffel Tower, the centerpiece of the 1889 Paris Exposition, it was the Columbian Exposition's largest attraction, with a height of 80.4 metres (264 ft).

It was designed and constructed by George Washington Gale Ferris, Jr., graduate of Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute and a Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania, bridge-builder. He began his career in the railroad industry and then pursued an interest in bridge building. Ferris understood the growing need for structural steel and founded G.W.G. Ferris & Co. in Pittsburgh, a firm that tested and inspected metals for railroads and bridge builders.

The wheel rotated on a 71-ton, 45.5-foot axle comprising what was at that time the world's largest hollow forging, manufactured in Pittsburgh by the Bethlehem Iron Company and weighing 89,320 pounds, together with two 16-foot diameter cast-iron spiders weighing 53,031 pounds.[2]

There were 36 cars, each fitted with 40 revolving chairs and able to accommodate up to 60 people, giving a total capacity of 2,160.[1] It took 20 minutes for the wheel to make two revolutions, the first involving six stops to allow passengers to exit and enter and the second a nine-minute non-stop rotation, for which the ticket holder paid 50 cents.

The Exposition ended in October 1893, and the wheel closed in April 1894 and was dismantled and stored until the following year. It was then rebuilt on Chicago's North Side, near Lincoln Park, next to an exclusive neighborhood. This prompted William D. Boyce, then a local resident, to file a Circuit Court action against the owners of the wheel to have it removed, but without success. It operated there from October 1895 until 1903, when it was again dismantled, then transported by rail to St. Louis for the 1904 World's Fair and finally destroyed by controlled demolition using dynamite on May 11, 1906.[4]

Later Ferris wheels

The Wiener Riesenrad is a surviving example of nineteenth century Ferris wheels, and is still in operation today. Erected in 1897 in the Prater park in the Leopoldstadt district of Vienna, Austria, it has a height of 64.75 metres (212 ft).[5] Following the demolition of the 100-metre (328 ft) Grande Roue de Paris in 1920,[1] the Riesenrad became the world's tallest extant Ferris wheel. In 1944 it burnt down, but was rebuilt the following year,[6] and remained the tallest extant Ferris wheel until the construction of the 85-metre (279 ft) Technocosmos for Expo '85, at Tsukuba, Ibaraki, Japan.

World's tallest Ferris wheels

The 165 m Singapore Flyer, world's tallest Ferris wheel since 2008
  • 1895: the Great Wheel was built for the Empire of India Exhibition at Earls Court, London, UK, and was 94 metres (308 ft) tall.[7] Construction began in March 1894[8] and it opened to the public on July 17, 1895.[9] It stayed in service until 1906 and was demolished in 1907, having carried over 2.5 million passengers.[10]
  • 1989: the Cosmo Clock 21 was built for the YES '89 Yokohama Exposition at Minato Mirai 21, Yokohama, Japan. Originally constructed with a height of 107.5 metres (353 ft),[11] it was dismantled in 1997 and then in 1999 relocated onto a taller base which increased its overall height to 112.5 metres (369 ft).[12]
  • 2000: the London Eye, in London, UK, is 135 metres (443 ft) tall. Although officially opened on December 31, 1999, it did not open to the public until March 2000, because of technical problems. It is still the tallest in Europe.
  • 2008: the Singapore Flyer, in Singapore, is 165 metres (541 ft) tall, and currently the world's tallest Ferris wheel. It started rotating on February 11 and officially opened to the public on March 1.
Height Completed
metres (feet)
Singapore Flyer
165 (541)
 Singapore Singapore World's tallest
Star of Nanchang
160 (525)
 China Nanchang World's tallest 2006-2008
London Eye
135 (443)
 UK London World's tallest 2000-2006; currently Europe's tallest
Suzhou Ferris Wheel [15]
120 (394)
 China Suzhou
The Southern Star
120 (394)
 Australia Melbourne Closed Jan.2009 & dismantled for major repairs
Tianjin Eye
120 (394)
 China Tianjin Tallest built over a bridge
Changsha Ferris Wheel [citation needed]
120 (394)
 China Changsha Picture
Zhengzhou Ferris Wheel [citation needed]
120 (394)
 China Zhengzhou
Sky Dream Fukuoka [16]
120 (394)
 Japan Fukuoka
Diamond and Flower Ferris Wheel [17]
117 (384)
 Japan Kasai Rinkai Park, Tokyo Picture
Star of Tai Lake [citation needed]
115 (377)
 China Wuxi, Jiangsu
Daikanransha [14]
115 (377)
 Japan Palette Town, Odaiba World's tallest 1999-2000
Cosmo Clock 21 (2nd installation) [12]
112.5 (369)
 Japan Minato Mirai 21, Yokohama Pictures
Tempozan Harbor Village Ferris wheel
112.5 (369)
 Japan Osaka World's tallest 1997-1999
Harbin Ferris Wheel [citation needed]
110 (361)
 China Harbin
Jinjiang Park Ferris Wheel [18]
108 (354)
 China Shanghai
Cosmo Clock 21 (1st installation) [11]
107.5 (353)
 Japan Minato Mirai 21, Yokohama World's tallest 1989-1997
Space Eye [19]
100 (328)
 Japan Space World, Kitakyushu
Grande Roue de Paris
100 (328)
 France Paris World's tallest 1900-1920; demolished 1920 [1]
Great Wheel [7] 094
94 (308)
 UK Earls Court, London World's tallest 1895-1900; demolished 1907
Aurora Wheel [20] 090
90 (295)
 Japan Nagashima Spa Land, Mie
Eurowheel [21] 090
90 (295)
 Italy Mirabilandia, Ravenna
Janfusun FancyWorld [citation needed] 088
88 (289)
 Taiwan Yunlin
Technocosmos [1] 085
85 (279)
 Japan Expo '85, Tsukuba World's tallest extant wheel 1985-1989
The original Ferris Wheel 080.40
80.4 (264)
 USA Chicago (1893-1903); St. Louis (1904-1906) World's tallest 1893-1894; demolished 1906
Mashhad Fun Fair [citation needed] 080
80 (262)
 Iran Mashhad Tallest in the Middle East
HEP Five [22] 075
75 (246)
 Japan Osaka 106 m tall including the building it stands on
Moscow-850 073
73[23]or 75[24]m
 Russia All-Russia Exhibition Centre, Moscow
Polaris Tower [citation needed] 072
72 (236)
 South Korea Daejon
Miramar Ferris Wheel [25] 070
70 (230)
 Taiwan Miramar Entertainment Park, Taipei 100 m tall including the building it stands on
World Carnival "Great Wheel" [26] 066
66 (217)
multiple locations World Carnival mobile amusement park Transportable wheel
Wiener Riesenrad 064.75
64.75 m
 Austria Prater, Vienna World's tallest extant wheel 1920-1985
Texas Star [27] 064.6
64.6 (212)
 USA Fair Park, Dallas Tallest in the Americas

Proposed, delayed, or not yet completed:

  • The 208-metre (682 ft) Beijing Great Wheel, under construction since 2007 and originally planned to open in 2008,[28] has been delayed until 2010.[29]
Artist's impression of the Beijing Great Wheel
  • The 175-metre (574 ft) Great Berlin Wheel was originally planned to open in 2008 but the project encountered financial obstacles.[34]
  • The 150-metre (492 ft) Jeddah Eye proposed for Saudi Arabia is part of a development begun in 2008 and is scheduled to open in 2012.[35]
  • The 122-metre (400 ft) Great Orlando Wheel was announced in June 2008[36] but then suspended in early 2009 after losing its funding.[34]

The Shanghai Star, initially planned as a 200-metre (656 ft) tall wheel to be built by 2005, was revised to 170 metres (558 ft), with a completion date set in 2007, but then cancelled in 2006 due to "political incorrectness"[38].

Rus-3000, a 170-metre (558 ft) wheel planned to open in 2004[39] in Moscow,[40] has since been reported cancelled.[41] More recently, an approximately 180-metre (591 ft)[42] wheel has been considered for Gorky Central Park of Culture and Leisure,[43][44] and a 150-metre (492 ft) wheel proposed for location near Sparrow Hills.[45]

Observation wheels

Southern Star, Melbourne

Observation wheel is an alternative name for Ferris wheel.[46][47] In 1892, when the incorporation papers for the Ferris Wheel Company were filed, the purpose of the company was stated as: [construction and operation of] "...wheels of the Ferris or other types for the purpose of observation or amusement".[1] Some larger wheels are marketed as observation wheels, any distinction between the two names being at the discretion of the operator, however the wheels whose operators reject the term Ferris wheel in many ways have the most in common with the original Chicago Ferris Wheel of 1893, particularly in terms of being an iconic landmark for a city or event.

The world's tallest wheel, the Singapore Flyer, is described as an observation wheel by its operators.[48]

The London Eye (world's tallest, 2000-2006) is also described as an observation wheel by its operators.[49]

The Star of Nanchang (world's tallest, 2006-2008) is usually referred to as a Ferris wheel, and less commonly as an observation wheel.

The Southern Star is described by its operators as "the only observation wheel in the southern hemisphere"[50] but also as a Ferris wheel by the media.[51][52]

Double and triple wheels

Illustration of a Ferris wheel with sliding cars, built at Coney Island in the 1920. It still operates at Deno's Wonder Wheel Park.[citation needed]

In the mid to late 1970s, coaster company Intamin AG invented a twist on the Ferris wheel. Using long arms to hold the wheels, they created a way to load and unload Ferris wheels more quickly.

Sky Whirl was the world's first triple Ferris wheel. A custom design by Intamin for Marriott, it debuted at both Marriott's Great America parks (now Six Flags Great America and California's Great America) in 1976. When loading/unloading passengers, the three arms suspending the three wheels from the top of the single central tower would rotate together to position one wheel directly above the landing area. That wheel would then be lowered onto its side, allowing for the simultaneous loading/unloading of all cabins on that wheel, while the other two wheels continued to spin at heights of up to around 34 metres (112 ft).[53]

A two-arm version, titled "Zodiac," was also installed at Kings Island in Ohio, as well as at Hersheypark in Pennsylvania, titled "Giant Wheel." The double wheels were attached to a long, straight arm. The arm was mounted in the center, on a central tower. When the hydraulics lowered one side, the other raised. The Kings Island Zodiac was relocated to Australia's Wonderland, but it closed there in 2004.

All models featured cages, holding eight to ten passengers. The cages were attached to the wheels by chains. When the wheel was in the loading position, it was horizontal and all cages could be loaded at once. As the arm raised or rotated, the wheel moved to a vertical position and provided a typical Ferris-wheel ride, only much higher from the ground.

Another version of this ride existed at Magic Mountain in California titled "Galaxy." This ride was similar to the Zodiac, except the arms did not raise as far off the ground. The arms on this ride were shaped more in a "V" than a straight line, and the central tower was shorter. On each wheel were four smaller wheels that also rotated, providing a double vertical rotating movement.

The Astrowheel, which operated from 1968 until 1980 at Six Flags Astroworld in Houston, Texas, had eight cages per arm[54] and was a fourth version of the ride. It was similar to the Zodiac model, but had the shorter tower/"V" arm configuration of the Galaxy.

The Pike in Long Beach, CA had a double Ferris wheel that was one wheel atop another wheel of equal size. The two moved on an axis making a large circle as big as the two wheels combined, while each wheel turned on its own axis at the same time as they were both moving on the larger axis. Each wheel was the size of a regular style Ferris wheel.[citation needed]


Texas Star, Dallas
Ferris wheel on the boardwalk in Ocean City, New Jersey
Drive-in Ferris wheel
Ferris wheel at Bürkliplatz, Zürich
Ferris wheel at the Canadian National Exhibition, Toronto
  • Chance Morgan
    • Astro Wheel: 16 cars (eight facing one way, eight facing the other way) with up to two people per car.
    • Century Wheel: 15 cars with up to four people per car.
    • Giant Wheel: 20 cars with up to six people per car. This is one of the biggest production Ferris wheels, and requires at least two 18-wheelers to transport it.
    • Sky Wheel: a double wheel. There is a wheel on top, and bottom of the ride. There are eight cars per each wheel with up to two people for each car.
  • Eli Bridge [1]
    • Eagle Wheel: 16 cars with up to three people per car.
    • Hy #5 Big Eli Wheel: some are cable driven, others are rim driven. Has 12 cars with up to three people per car.
    • Little Wheel: much smaller in dimensions, but it still has 12 cars with up to two people per car.
  • Intamin AG
    • Mickey's Fun Wheel: has eight cars fixed to the rim of the wheel in the conventional manner, and sixteen cars that slide inward and outward between the hub and the rim as the wheel rotates. Each car can carry six people.
  • Roger Wadkins (formerly Bob Childress—Expo Wheels LLC)
    • Expo Wheel: 20-metre (65.6 ft) transportable wheel, with 16 cars each carrying two people. The seating on this wheel is much like the Eli Bridge Hy #5, or Chance's Astro Wheel.
  • Ronald Bussink Professional Rides (formerly Nauta Bussink) [2]
    • R60: 60-metre (197 ft) transportable wheel using 40,000 litres (8,800 imperial gallons) of water ballast instead of fixed foundations. It weighs 365 tonnes, and can be erected in 72 hours, dismantled in 60 hours, and transported on seven 20-foot container lorries, ten open trailer lorries, and one closed trailer lorry. The 42 cars can be loaded either 3 or 6 at a time, and each can accommodate eight 75 kg passengers.[55] Examples have operated in Australia (Brisbane), France (Paris), Malaysia (Kuala Lumpur & Malacca), UK (Belfast, Birmingham, Sheffield), and elsewhere.

In popular culture

See also

Abandoned Ferris wheel, Fort Dodge, Iowa
A transportable Ferris wheel in England


  1. ^ a b c d e f g Ferris wheels - an illustrated history, Norman D. Anderson
  2. ^ a b Hyde Park Historical Society: Chicago's Great Ferris Wheel of 1893, Patrick Meehan
  3. ^ The Kensington Canal, railways and related developments
  4. ^ George Ferris
  5. ^ Wiener Riesenrad - technical data
  6. ^ Wiener Riesenrad - History
  7. ^ a b Great Wheel, Earls Court
  8. ^ The Great Wheel, Earl's Court Exhibition Ground
  9. ^ The Ferris Wheel's London Rival
  10. ^ The Great Wheel, London
  11. ^ a b Senyo Kogyo Co, Ltd. - company profile
  12. ^ a b Cosmo Clock 21
  13. ^ KIPPO NEWS Tuesday, June 24, 1997
  14. ^ a b Palette Town Daikanransha website date page Retrieved 15 January 2010. (Japanese)
  15. ^ The Ferris Wheel to Revolve Hopefully on May Day
  16. ^ Evergreen marinoa official website Retrieved 15 January 2010. (Japanese)
  17. ^ Diamond and Flower Ferris Wheel Retrieved 15 January 2010. (Japanese)
  18. ^ The wheel deal: Amusement park offers lofty view
  19. ^ Space World attractions information Retrieved 15 January 2010. (English)
  20. ^ Nagashima Resort Guide Book
  21. ^ Mirabilandia - Vivi il Divertimento! Novità 2009 - ISpeed, il nuovo Roller Coaster!
  22. ^ Hankyu REIT - HEP Five
  23. ^ В Москве остановилось "колесо обозрения" - Россия - Deutsche Welle - 09.08.2009
  24. ^ Мы на чертовом катались - В мире -
  25. ^ Miramar美麗華百樂園
  26. ^ 5 die in fall from Ferris wheel in South Korea
  27. ^ The Bigger Ferris Wheels Get, the More Cash Flows
  28. ^ Beijing begins construction of world's biggest wheel
  29. ^ Beijing Great Wheel may face more delays
  30. ^ Baghdad plans to build giant Ferris wheel
  31. ^ Ferris wheels grow to new heights to attract the daring
  32. ^ Voyager Entertainment International, Inc.
  33. ^ Voyager Las Vegas
  34. ^ a b Planned Great Wheel for I-Drive area of Orlando on hold - South Florida
  35. ^ Jeddah Eye
  36. ^ Developer to roll out plans for Great Orlando Wheel attraction
  37. ^ Opening delayed for Pepsi Globe Ferris wheel at Meadowlands Xanadu
  38. ^ Asia Times Online - China Business News - China's ill-conceived image projects
  39. ^ World's Tallest Ferris Wheel Proposed In Moscow -
  40. ^ Project has Muscovites going 'round and 'round -
  41. ^ Moscow Ferris Wheel, Moscow -
  42. ^ Moscow News - Local - Bringing back the big whee
  43. ^ Кризис закруглится в ЦПКиО - Мегаполис -
  44. ^ - В России - Для Парка Горького выберут новое колесо обозрения
  45. ^ Чертово колесо - разберут в московском ЦПКиО - газет
  46. ^ MSN Encarta - Ferris Wheel
  47. ^ Inventor of the Week - George Ferris
  48. ^ We don't use the F-word
  49. ^ Is it a Ferris wheel?
  50. ^ Welcome to the Southern Star
  51. ^ Work to spin Ferris wheel
  52. ^ Southern Star Observation Wheel profile
  53. ^ Sky Whirl at Marriott's Great America parks
  54. ^ | Rides | Astrowheel
  55. ^ RdP Technical Information

External links

External images
Axle of the original Ferris Wheel


Up to date as of January 15, 2010

Definition from Wiktionary, a free dictionary



Wikipedia has an article on:


Ferris wheel


Ferris wheel

Ferris wheels

Ferris wheel (plural Ferris wheels)

  1. A ride, at a fair, consisting of a large upright rotating wheel having suspended seats that remain in a horizontal position as the wheel revolves.



Simple English

Willenborgs Oktoberfest ferri wheel

Ferris wheels (sometimes called big wheels in the United Kingdom) are large, round, revolving structures with gondolas where people sit. They are popular at amusement parks and fairs. They are named after George Ferris, who made the first modern wheel for the World's Columbian Exposition in 1893.

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