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2012/120/1 Construction toy model, based on the giant ferris wheel in Vienna, Austria, metal, made from pieces of Meccano manufactured by Meccano Ltd, Liverpool, England, and Marklin Metall, Germany, model made by Fred Lane, Murrurundi, New South Wales, Australia, 1998-2000. Click to enlarge.

Large Meccano model of ferris wheel in Vienna

This large and imposing model of the famous 30-car ferris wheel in the Prater amusement park in Vienna, Austria, was made from Meccano and Marklin construction toy parts. The model was made in Australia by the Meccano collector and builder, Fred Lane, of Murrurundi, New South Wales.

The famous Vienna ferris wheel (Riesenrad) still stands at the entrance to the Prater amusement park in Leopoldstadt, the second district in Vienna. For some people this ferris wheel has come to symbolise Vienna itself. It was built in 1897 by the English Royal Naval engineer, Lieutenant Walter Basset Bassett (1864-1907), to celebrate the golden jubilee of the coronation of Emperor, Franz Josef I.

The first ferris wheel had been built in 1893 at the Chicago World's Fair by George Washington Gale Ferris. Bassett went on to established a "Ferris" wheel manufacturing business and built four big wheels between 1894 and 1898 in Earls Court, London; the Winter Gardens, Blackpool; in Paris; and Vienna. Bassett's business was not a success and he died virtually bankrupt in 1907. In 1900 the American engineer, William Sullivan, devised the first portable ferris wheel typically used in fairgrounds today (2012).

After the original celebrations and mania for ferris wheels died down, the Viennese 30-gondola wheel managed to survive as a tourist attraction. Viennese children were traditionally taken for a ride on it to celebrate their first communion. During World War II the ferris wheel was badly damaged. Demolition would have cost too much so in 1945-6 it was rebuilt with only 15 gondolas instead of the original 30. The 65-metre high, 430-ton ferris wheel continues to be a "must see" attraction for visitors to Vienna and was the tallest ferris wheel in the world for 60 years until one was built in Japan in the 1980s.

This model represents the Viennese ferris wheel as it appeared when built with the 30 gondolas. The wheel is driven by a circumferential cable which leaves the wheel and passes through a drive mechanism under its base. It is believed that the nickel-plated parts were made up of English Meccano pieces as well as German Marklin Metall ones. The builder of the ferris wheel, Fred Lane, also had especially large pieces purpose-built. Lit by tiny globes on the inner wheel and still operating, the model embodies the amazing ability of Meccano to capture, in model form, amazing aspects of engineering.

Margaret Simpson
Curator, Transport & Toys
September 2012

Anderson, Norman, "Ferris Wheels: An Illustrated History", Popular Press, 1993, p.104


Object No.


Object Statement

Construction toy model, based on the giant ferris wheel in Vienna, Austria, metal, made from pieces of Meccano manufactured by Meccano Ltd, Liverpool, England, and Marklin Metall, Germany, model made by Fred Lane, Murrurundi, New South Wales, Australia, 1998-2000

Physical Description

This large model stands 2.64 metres in height and comprises a large rotating wheel, 2.26 metres in diameter, with bicycle-like spokes radiating out. Suspended from the perimeter wheels are thirty cabins or gondolas. The wheel itself is supported on a triangular Meccano frame which sits on a base 1.14 metres by 1.01 metres.



2640 mm


2260 mm


1140 mm




This ferris wheel is made up of English Meccano and German Marklin.

The Marklin firm was established in 1859 by Theodor Friedrich Wilhelm Marklin (1817-1866), a master tinsmith who began making tinplate accessories for dolls' houses in the South German town of Goppingen not far from Stuttgart. After his death his widow, Caroline, ran the firm and from 1888 his sons, Eugen and Karl, founded a new company. In 1891 they bought out another toy manufacturing company with experienced staff in metal-toy construction and became Gebr. Marklin & Co. From 1919, Marklin produced its own metal construction sets like Meccano and sold it as "Marklin Metallbaukasten" to distinguish from the old name of Marklin-Meccano. The tin parts were black, the gears, nuts and bolts were made of brass, and the wheels were made of brass-plated tin.



This model ferris wheel was made by Fred Lane, an avid Meccano collector and builder, from the New South Wales town of Murrurundi. Fred was born in the inner Sydney suburb of Newtown. He received Meccano as a boy and said he could "smell" the Meccano waiting for him under the tree at Christmas time. In a newspaper interview in 1998 he said "I recall waking up those Christmas mornings to the lovely aroma of Meccano parts. It used to conjure images of magic in them and it reminds you of your youth, when life was much more simple".

Fred left school and worked in a factory. He became interested in wireless and went to work at the Kriesler Radio Co. which had been established in 1928 by brothers Alec, Leo and Rae Weingott, at 43 Alice Street, Newtown. During the Second World War Fred enlisted in the air force, went to wireless school and was involved in aircraft wireless maintenance and security. He returned to Kriesler which, by 1956, had become the third largest radio manufacturer in Australia. After working for Krieseler company Fred joined Amalgamated Wireless Australasia Ltd (AWA) and retired at the age of 58 as the firm's service and technical manager.

Fred's Meccano collection had been in a terrace house in Sydney but when he moved to the town of Murrurundi, in northern New South Wales, after his retirement he built a brick extension to his house to store all his Meccano models. He became an avid builder and collector of Meccano and made many models including this impressive and complex ferris wheel. The museum has already acquired the famous Meccano giant blocksetting crane from Fred's collection.


Credit Line

Purchased, 2012

Acquisition Date

7 October 2012

Cite this Object


Large Meccano model of ferris wheel in Vienna 2020, Museum of Applied Arts & Sciences, accessed 24 February 2021, <https://ma.as/457073>


{{cite web |url=https://ma.as/457073 |title=Large Meccano model of ferris wheel in Vienna |author=Museum of Applied Arts & Sciences |access-date=24 February 2021 |publisher=Museum of Applied Arts & Sciences, Australia}}