Ferris wheel book
All you need to know about Ferris wheels!

Close up of lash-up

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4th January 2009
If George Ferris can build an observation wheel...

...so can we! Sue and I work for ourselves so any time off is unpaid. That means there is no throwing a ‘sickie’ and even if there is something minor we tend to work through it. Don’t get me wrong, I am not complaining, having worked for myself for 32 years I an hardly likely to give up on it… What really gets me going is the ‘I now have time to be ill’ routine.  It happens to me when I can see a break in the workload. These days the Christmas break is not two days but two weeks – whoopee! Work up ‘till the end of the week before Christmas, then do all the in-laws and out-laws by Boxing Day or the day after to give us a good week to do all the things we don’t get a chance to do the rest of the year… Guess who has got the worst dose of influenza he has had for 20 years.

It is so bad that I have even gone off food and what’s worse, alcohol! I haven’t had more than a couple of hours sleep in one stretch for over a week now and the cat thinks some grumpy gruff monster has moved in and has taken up legging-it every time I appear in his manor!

Getting there...

One good thing, I have been able to get some much needed work done on the Ferris wheel project. The geometry of the wheel has been worked out and lashed up to prove that it will work. It will fit in the van – just.

Mind your fingers Sue!

How many?
How many do we need Ralph?... 72?

Sue has spent a few hours straightening out a whole bunch of formed strips. These fit at the end of the 'spokes' of the outer cage where the steel rods connect it to the hub. The bending machines seem to get more use straightening things out rather than bending them. Not many to go Sue, we only need 72 of them!

The lash-up using pivot bolts and rubber pulleys to hold it all together

36 Cars… plus an extra one or two?

The big job is car building. Ferris’ original wheel had 36 cars. Meccano lends itself more favourably towards 2,4,6, 8 and so on. Dividing the wheel into 32 would have been easier but hey, we like a challenge. Thanks to some 12 hole discs and some large axle parts we have a hub. The next problem is one of numbers – numbers of parts that is.

Should we use black or silver bolts? - We chose silver...

If a car uses one part we will need 36 of them. That’s not too bad, but even that is a lot. If a car needs four parts then we are going to need 144! I decided that I would design and build one car. To get the cars somewhere near the correct proportion and scale they had to be no taller than two inches to the eves that meant using two inch long strips to hold the thing together. Now, I don’t know about you but we did not have any where near the amount we would need. For framing the cars we will need ten standard strips and for the doors we will need a further four narrow strips for each car. That’s 360 standard and 144 narrow strips. Some of these not so common small parts are dearer than the larger ones and finding them in these numbers was going to be a problem.

Searching our stock revealed a fair old stock of two inch standard strips in the Meccano Ferris wheel kit plus a good supply of 7½ inch strips and lots of nuts and bolts. We took a deep breath and over a few months collected a total of a dozen Ferris wheel sets. The narrow strips were supplied half from our existing stock and the rest purchased from ebay as they appeared.

The rest of the stuff we seem to have. The 360, 5½ inch perforated strips will be no problem we must have thousands of those, nor will the 720 ½ x ½ brackets cause any pain. 2,592 Allen socket head bolts and the 2736 square nuts will hold the cars together. Sue suggested today that we should build an extra car so that we can use it as a replacement if we need to service any of the cars at the shows… we'll be towing the 3 tonne plant trailer as well at this rate.

...Cars well on their way to 36

We managed to build a few cars over the past few days. They will be finished in three different colours, 12 red, 12 blue and 12 yellow. The ‘service cars’ will be silver if they get built. The first prototype was built using black finish bolts. The second car was built using zinc plated bolts – the zinc looks better so that is the way we will go and the one with black bolts will be ‘refitted’ to match the others.

There is a long way to go yet so come back soon to check progress.


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The hub takes shape

One of the 'formed' strips fitted to the lash-up