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.
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, sometimes also referred to as the Chicago Wheel, 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.
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. 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.
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). Following the demolition of the 100-metre (328 ft) Grande Roue de Paris in 1920, the Riesenrad became the world's tallest extant Ferris wheel. In 1944 it burnt down, but was rebuilt the following year, and remained the tallest extant Ferris wheel until the construction of the 85-metre (279 ft) Technocosmos for Expo '85, at Tsukuba, Ibaraki, Japan.
|Star of Nanchang||
||China||Nanchang||World's tallest 2006-2008|
||UK||London||World's tallest 2000-2006; currently Europe's tallest|
|Suzhou Ferris Wheel ||
|The Southern Star||
||Australia||Melbourne||Closed Jan.2009 & dismantled for major repairs|
||China||Tianjin||Tallest built over a bridge|
|Changsha Ferris Wheel ||
|Zhengzhou Ferris Wheel ||
|Sky Dream Fukuoka ||
|Diamond and Flower Ferris Wheel ||
||Japan||Kasai Rinkai Park, Tokyo||Picture|
|Star of Tai Lake ||
||Japan||Palette Town, Odaiba||World's tallest 1999-2000|
|Cosmo Clock 21 (2nd installation) ||
||Japan||Minato Mirai 21, Yokohama||Pictures|
|Tempozan Harbor Village Ferris wheel||
||Japan||Osaka||World's tallest 1997-1999|
|Harbin Ferris Wheel ||
|Jinjiang Park Ferris Wheel ||
|Cosmo Clock 21 (1st installation) ||
||Japan||Minato Mirai 21, Yokohama||World's tallest 1989-1997|
|Space Eye ||
||Japan||Space World, Kitakyushu|
|Grande Roue de Paris||
||France||Paris||World's tallest 1900-1920; demolished 1920 |
|Great Wheel ||
||UK||Earls Court, London||World's tallest 1895-1900; demolished 1907|
|Aurora Wheel ||
||Japan||Nagashima Spa Land, Mie|
|Janfusun FancyWorld ||
||Japan||Expo '85, Tsukuba||World's tallest extant wheel 1985-1989|
|The original Ferris Wheel||
||USA||Chicago (1893-1903); St. Louis (1904-1906)||World's tallest 1893-1894; demolished 1906|
|Mashhad Fun Fair ||
||Iran||Mashhad||Tallest in the Middle East|
|HEP Five ||
||Japan||Osaka||106 m tall including the building it stands on|
||Russia||All-Russia Exhibition Centre, Moscow|
|Polaris Tower ||
|Miramar Ferris Wheel ||
||Taiwan||Miramar Entertainment Park, Taipei||100 m tall including the building it stands on|
|World Carnival "Great Wheel" ||
||multiple locations||World Carnival mobile amusement park||Transportable wheel|
||Austria||Prater, Vienna||World's tallest extant wheel 1920-1985|
|Texas Star ||
||USA||Fair Park, Dallas||Tallest in the Americas|
Proposed, delayed, or not yet completed:
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".
Rus-3000, a 170-metre (558 ft) wheel planned to open in 2004 in Moscow, has since been reported cancelled. More recently, an approximately 180-metre (591 ft) wheel has been considered for Gorky Central Park of Culture and Leisure, and a 150-metre (492 ft) wheel proposed for location near Sparrow Hills.
Observation wheel is an alternative name for Ferris wheel. 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". 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 Star of Nanchang (world's tallest, 2006-2008) is usually referred to as a Ferris wheel, and less commonly as an observation wheel.
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).
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 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.
|Axle of the original Ferris 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.