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How to Take a Ferris Wheel Apart

As I mentioned previously, there was a giant Ferris wheel behind the palace when we arrived. The last day it was there, we took a second ride. As it turned out, we got an extra-long ride, because the car in front of us had a couple of good-looking young women in it. One of the workers spotted them hopped in the next time around (while the wheel was turning!), and then got a friend to join them. Then we got to keep going while they chatted the girls up and tried to get a date.

When we got off, I asked whether they would take the wheel down that night, or wait until the morning. The guy didn't understand at first, which in 20-20 hindsight is understandable. They'd have to be nuts to take it down at night, and besides, it's a two-day job.

On the way home from the office on Monday, I looked over at the palace and saw that only a quarter of the wheel was sticking up. So I suggested that we go over and watch for a while. Pat and Xandie were game. We stayed until 8 PM, watching and photographing what can only be described as an amazing operation. Xandie got a bit bored after a while and found another little girl to play with. I really wanted to hang around and see how they took down the main supports, but hunger overcame us.

After dinner, Xandie and I went back for a quick look and found that they had knocked off for the night. That gave us a chance to look at things a bit more closely and learn that it was indeed water-ballasted.

On Tuesday I asked if anybody wanted to take another look before lunch and errands. Xandie, who is always up for an outing (even if it's only to the stinky dumpster), said "Sure!". So went over in the rain. Our timing was perfect, because they were just repositioning the crane to take down the last of the support structure. Again, I got a lot of shots.

This Ferris wheel travels all over Europe, hitting major carnivals everywhere. It takes something like 18 trucks to carry it. We hope to ride it again in the fall, when it will be at Oktoberfest in Munich.

How to take apart a giant Ferris wheel.  By the time we arrived in the
evening, they had already removed the gondolas and most of the wheel.
The ribs are removed three at a time.  The two men on the structure
(one on the ladder, one sitting on a rib crossbar) disconnect the bars
that go between ribs and let them hang, while others below remove the
bars that form the outer ring.  Then the ribs are removed using the
crane.  Not incidentally, everything is numbered for reassembly.

Pulling three ribs out with the crane.  It's a very tight fit.  They
have about eight feet of up/down clearance, and of course a very
narrow gap at the top.

Stacking the ribs on the truck.  There are two trucks carefully lined
up with each other.  The ribs are bolted to the first truck, then
lowered, and split in half.  The upper part is then re-lifted and
stacked on the second truck.

Stacking the ribs on the truck.  The crane re-lifts, and the man in
front muscles the ribs into position, where they are bolted into

Disconnecting ribs.  This guy is removing the pins that hold
connecting rods.  As you can see, OSHA is nowhere to be found.  These
guys clamber all over, 75 feet up, carrying small sledgehammers, with
no harnesses or safety lines of any kind.  They drive out connecting
pins that weigh 10-20 pounds, yet nobody wears a hard hat.  If
something slips, so does he!

Disconnecting ribs.  The outer circle is made of heavier bars.  They
hook them up to a winch cable, then drive out the connecting pins and
lower them into a neat stack.  There seems to be a contest to see who
can make the pins go the farthest.  The red circle highlights the pin
as it flies out.

Waiting for the third rib.  When the ribs are fully freed from each
other, a winch gently lets them down to vertical, so this guy isn't in
danger of getting his leg crushed.  When all three are in place, he'll
tie them together with the bracket that he's currently sitting on.

Pictures from Day Two:

How to take apart a giant Ferris wheel, day two.  We were wondering
how they were going to get the main support beams down.  By the time
we arrived, the four outer ones had been removed and stacked on a
truck, but they were just getting ready to do the inner ones.  Here,
the crane has already been connected to a beam so that it won't drop
suddenly.  Two men then removed one of the connecting pins; the other
served as a hinge that was then lowered until it dangled freely.

Connecting the crane to the support beam.  Note the purpose-built
connection point (only on this beam; the other is connected nearer the
hinge) and the built-in steps that allow the worker to get to that

Removing a connecting pin.  Two workers stand on special platforms;
the one on the other side (not visible) drives the pin out with a
sledge while his mate pulls it free.  The crane provides tension so
the whole contraption doesn't collapse suddenly.  You can see, on the
other beam, where the pin has been stored in a special sleeve.

OK, everything's ready.  Time to get the hell out of the way!

Lowering the main supports.  It's hard to see in this photo, but the
crane cable is carefully led up to the peak of the structure, where
there is a small U-shaped bracket that keeps it from slipping
sideways.  That turns out to be important, because by now, the support
point needs to be at the peak rather than halfway down a beam.

A worker, unconcerned by the tons above him, kneels under the
collapsing support beams.  He is placing a large brick, apparently to
give the hinges something to land on.

The outer support beams stored on their truck.  Xandie discovered the
truck as we were heading home for lunch.  She thought that the
leftmost beam looks like the head of a giraffe.  Note how one side is
apparently welded, while the other has a connecting pin for

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© 2004, Geoff Kuenning

This page is maintained by Geoff Kuenning.