Giant Wheel / Ferris Wheel

The most famous, 'original' Ferris Wheel came into being when in 1890, an architect by the name of Daniel Burnham decided he wanted to create something magnificent, for people to enjoy and behold. He told his engineers to come up with "something novel, original, daring and unique." One of those engineers was George Washington Gale Ferris Jr. He imagined and then created a wheel 80.4m high, with 36 cars, each could hold 60 people at any one time. It opened on June 21, 1893 and acted as a landmark in the World's Colombian Exposition in Chicago. The Ferris Wheel took 38,000 passengers daily, during its first year, but sadly didn't continue with its former riding glory. In 1895 it was moved to Lincoln Park, then to St. Louis in 1904. In 1906, the original Ferris Wheel took its last bow and was blown up by 200lb of dynamite.

There are still many Ferris Wheels around the world, but slight and bigger differences mean they have evolved into the Big Wheel and the Giant Wheel.

Big Wheel

The Big Wheel came about in the mid 20th Century, a more scaled down version of the Ferris Wheel. Instead of 36 cars, the Big Wheel has only 12 and it usually carries 2 people to a carriage. In 1906, William Sullivan created the Eli Bridge Company and designed the Eli Bridge Big Wheel. Its design was simple and the drive mechanism used for the wheel to turn was robust. It became the standard Big Wheel that can still be found on fairgrounds today. The beauty of these Big Wheels was that they could be easily taken down and put back up. By the 50s and 60s, Butlins had a pair of Big Wheels for their holidaymakers, and another two could be seen on Blackpool Pleasure Beach.

Giant Wheel

The Giant Wheel or Observation Wheel is similar to the Ferris Wheel in many ways, but looks more like a bicycle wheel with its spokes running throughout the middle. The London Eye is a great example of this. Created in 1999, the 120m structure began its life as an Observation Wheel for tourists and locals to view the city of London from an optimal position. Supported on one side only, it has been dubbed " the world's tallest cantilevered observation wheel". It has 32 capsules which are all air-conditioned and each one can hold up to 25 people. Similar to the Ferris Wheel, it takes 30 minutes for one revolution, whereas the Big Wheel can turn up to 20 times in 30 minutes.