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