Who would have thought in 1893 when the first and original Ferris Wheel was built at 80.4 metres (264 ft) in height for the World's Columbian Exposition in Chicago, Illinois, that 122 years later its place at the fair has never faltered?
That same first construction was later moved to St. Louis, Missouri, in 1904 for the Louisiana Purchase Exposition, and it was sadly demolished there in 1906 but its symbolic status at the heart of every funfair was established and has remained so ever since.
Being a thrill seeker at heart, I have always had a passion for the fairground and the more imaginative and challenging, the better, but something about the Ferris Wheel's simple appeal has never worn thin though in recent years and in some nostalgia, I have started to feel a bit sorry for the Ferris Wheel seeing it go round often with half empty carriages while today's thrill seekers queue around the block for hours on end to try out the latest roller coaster.
I can't blame them when so often it has been me in those queues waiting eagerly without batting an eyelid in the direction of the almost forgotten Ferris Wheel, and my passion for these rides long spilt over into my Meccano modelling and over the years I have built many models though which I would love to see one day get taken up and built as a full size ride at the fairground.
But for as many new inventive fairground models I have designed and constructed, I have also built just as many differing takes on the Ferris Wheel, with the likes of Wheel Power in 2008, The Disc-Comforter and The Eclipser both in 2011, The Hypnotiser in 2012, and what I thought wouldbe my final one, The Orbiter in 2012. I never planned or saw myself ever constructing another wheel again, and yet when I thought of the Ferris Wheel being too old to be cool, I hit upon the idea of reviving its fortunes. If I was to make one final Wheel, it would have to make more of a statement than before, it would have to take back its rightful place as the centrepiece at the fair and win back the missing thrill-seekers to its queues.
With this revolutionary concept idea running in my mind, I started to build it immediately with one aim; it had to be a meaner beast than any wheel has been before. I imagined the wheel much wider than normal to accommodate long passenger cars instead of the traditional petite carriages,and all of a sudden after years of having gone cold on the Ferris Wheel, I could not believe that I had warmed up once more to the building of another Wheel yet again.
Having committed myself to the idea, the next morning sometime in mid-February 2015 I started putting bits together and by the same afternoon I had completed the two symmetrical supports. These then needed to be joined together with two hubs and eight of the longest angle girders, all in the colour green. I wanted the width to be as large as possible but made a concession in size thinking that the cars would be too big.
Adding 12½" angle girders all round to create the complete circumference I found that when fixing the eighth I was 1cm short, so I had to strip it back down again and find a better solution and the answer was to add two fishplates on each of the arms so the enlarged circle was created asdesired. The improvisation worked really well and likewise I then did the same to the other side. Some 9½" strips were employed to reinforce the whole structure and eight flanged sector plates were also added on both sides.
The base and towers came next which I built using 24½" angle girders to be able to support the wheel, adding extra height to allow for the hanging carriages that would follow later. Once I had done this I took measurements of the clearance space and after some further adjustments and the right configuration was achieved, I started to go about the design and build eight identical carriages which I was lucky to be able to do thanks to a purchase of a large bulk of parts the previous week. Each of the eight carriages contains over 50 parts without counting the nuts and bolts and all the washers.
The front canopy and support to the towers along with many other features then got all my attention. Two extra hubs were added in the central spindle so two heavy duty axles could be positioned at both ends.
With the wheel almost complete and rotating as smoothly as I could have hoped for, I then needed the motor and to find the right position for it to power the wheel, but as I was determining where I should place it, I suddenly got even more ambitious. If this Ferris Wheel was going to revolutionise its predecessors, it needed more than just eight carriages and spindle arms! I instantly decided to double its capacity and add to the visual impact of the model and over some unmeasured but long dedicated time, I added another eight arms on both sides of course so the finished ride would sport 16 carriages instead of just eight. Without hesitating for fear of wasting more time, I went about fitting another 16 flanged sectors and trunnions and it was soon ready for another eight carriages, but not having the extra amount of the same parts I decided to build the new eight slightly differently, offering two types of experience and ways to ride this wheel. Alternately double hanging seats where your legs hang free, separate each of the more enclosed passengers carriages and the combination of the two was something I was very pleased with.
A were used in other of my models so I did not have what was needed for the motor attachments whatever the design, so the only way out was to fit a large pulley at the end with elastic band going to the motor fitted inside the rear tower, a final decision of adding a second pulley so two bands will drive the model more efficiently.
Two steps were added at the front along with railings and odd embellishments and a ticket kiosk. For ease of transportation the steps are removable as are all of the carriages and seats, and by pulling one of the axles outwards, the heavy rotating wheel can also be transported separate to its carcass.
We've waited this long but now finally, 122 years after its first inception, the King of the Fair is courting attention and is back to take its crown. You can wait to see what you've been missing but the only way to find out is to line up and queue.
"The Revolution" - Changing the face of the Ferris Wheel forever!