A Look at the Most Unique Ferris Wheels in the World
Observation wheels come in many different forms and manifestations. Here’s a look at some of the most unique Ferris wheels and uses of Ferris wheels out there.
The Hubless Ferris Wheel
A hubless, or centerless, Ferris wheel is exactly what it sounds like: a Ferris wheel without a center. It’s like the rubber portion of a tire without the hub or spokes in the center. Centerless Ferris wheels can operate in two ways:
- Like a typical Ferris wheel in that the wheel rotates and the carriages are attached to the outer rim of the wheel.
- The wheel is stationary and more like a track and the gondolas move around the outside of the stationary wheel.
The purpose of operating like method number two is to provide an attraction similar to a Ferris wheel with which the usual problems of Ferris wheel operation do not exist. The gondolas no longer move with the rotation of a wheel but the gondolas move along a track or bended track. This track can, for example, be circular, as a result of which the effect of a Ferris wheel is achieved. Compared with the conventional wheel, each of the gondolas has a relatively low weight. Also, instead of the circular track described above, it is also possible to implement other tracks along which the gondolas can be moved. Examples are polygonal polygons, pyramids, ovals and the like.
The world’s largest centerless Ferris wheel is the Big O at Tokyo Dome City in Japan. It is 60 m (197) feet tall and features a steel roller coaster called the Thunder Dolphin passing right through the center of it!
Unique Ferris Wheel Placement
Observation wheels have been built in some unusual places, such as on top of a building or shopping mall, but perhaps the most unique location is the Tianjin Eye – the only observation wheel to have been constructed over a bridge. The triangular shaped supports straddle the Hai River and the wheel actually sits above the highway on the Yongle Bridge. This masterpiece is found in Tianjin, China.
World’s Largest Enclosed Ferris Wheel
The world record for largest enclosed Ferris wheel resides in Ashgabat, Turkmenistan. A large glass and white-steel casing houses the 57 meter tall Ferris wheel, which has 24 six-seat cabins. Created by the Turkmenistan government, the structure cost approximately $90 million to build and also houses an entertainment center including a bowling alley, movie theater, restaurant, and planetarium.
A Solar Powered Ferris Wheel
Santa Monica’s Pacific Wheel is the only solar-powered Ferris wheel in the world, which makes it a pretty clean ride for those concerned about their carbon footprint. At night, the wheel is illuminated with 160,000 energy-saving LED lights. For $5, you can ride and catch the views from 130 feet in the sky above Santa Monica Bay. Nearly 650 photovoltaic modules are mounted on top of the park’s loading area to allow the wheel to run via a fully automated process. On cloudy days, the wheel is run off of traditional energy sources.
Eccentric Ferris Wheels
Eccentric Ferris wheels contain a track on which the carriages are free to roll as the wheel rotates. These wheels act like a combination roller coaster/Ferris Wheel as the individual passenger baskets slide along the rails of the wheel for a more dynamic ride.There are currently two eccentric Ferris wheels in operation today. Mickey’s Fun Wheel is located at Disney California Adventure theme park in Anaheim, California. The Wonder Wheel has been operating since 1920.
Double Ferris Wheel
A double Ferris wheel, also known as a giant wheel, was manufactured by the Swiss company Intamin. Each gondola was supported from an individual arm in a circular fashion instead of being attached to a giant wheel. Each set of gondolas was attached to an even bigger arm. Each set of cabins could be loaded separately of each other resulting in a hour passenger per hour capacity than a standard Ferris wheel. The Astrowheel at the former Six Flags Astroworld amusement park outside of Houston, Texas was the first double Ferris wheel and operated from 1968 to 1980. Intamin produced four double Ferris wheels and none are operating today.
Triple Ferris Wheel
In 1976, Intamin produced another variation on this concept called the triple Ferris wheel (also known as the Triple Giant Wheel and Triple Tree Wheel). Intamin only produced a pair of triple Ferris wheels for the Marriot parks. The last one ceased operation in 2000.
Ferris Wheel Lift on a Roller Coaster
A unique use of a Ferris wheel in a theme park is to lift a roller coaster vehicle to its highest point. One of these was actually built at Freestyle Music Park (now closed and formerly Hard Rock Park) in Myrtle Beach, South Carolina. Maximum RPM (Round About) used a first of its kind Ferris wheel lift system where the coaster trains were rolled from the bottom of the track onto a Ferris wheel-like contraption and then pushed off at the top into a high speed circuit.
Human Powered Ferris Wheel
Another unique Ferris wheel is found in India. What makes it different? It’s a Ferris wheel powered by people! It’s the cleanest carnival ride around producing zero emissions. Power outages are common in India. Thankfully, riders on these wheels will never be stranded. You would never see something like this at a carnival or fair in the United States due to all the lawsuits that would occur if one of the operators were to get hurt.
See the list of observation wheels.