Freo’s getting a new Ferris Wheel

Freo’s ‘Tourist Wheel’ is being dismantled and pulled down after 11 years of service. But don’t stress – a new Ferris wheel will be erected on the same site in coming weeks.

Many of you will have taken a ride on the Tourist Wheel, maybe while on a date or on a family outing with the kids or grandkids or maybe to just get away from it all.

From the top there were amazing views of Freo town, the harbour and the port. It took over 2 minutes to complete a full rotation and the average ride lasted between 8-12 minutes depending on the loading time. You got to do 4 rotations.

The beautiful wheel had become a much-loved landmark at the Esplanade. She was built in Holland in 2007, and had an impressive height of 40 metres with 24 spacious gondolas – similar to those used at Swiss ski resorts. Each gondola held 6 people, so she could carry up to 144 people.

Ferris wheels are named after their inventor, George Washington Gale Ferris Jr, a 33-year-old engineer from Pittsburgh. He was struck by a brainstorm when asked to design something as impressive as the Eiffel Tower for Chicago’s World Fair in 1893, the one to celebrate 400 years since Christopher Columbus landed.

Inspired by the moon, he sketched an enormous moon-shaped revolving steel wheel and his design was chosen. It measured 250 feet in diameter, had 36 cars each capable of holding 60 people. More that 1.4 million people paid 50 cents for a 20-minute ride to an aerial panorama few had ever witnessed.

Four years later, Ferris was bankrupt and suffering from typhoid. He died at the age of 37. A wrecking company bought the wheel and dynamited it into scrap. His invention lived on and at fairs, festivals and around the globe.

London’s Eye in the Sky. Credit Anna Claire Schellenberg

London has Europe’s tallest observation wheel (135 m). ‘The Eye in the Sky’ or the Millennium Wheel is perhaps the world’s most famous wheel. Vegas has the world’s tallest Ferris wheel, ‘The High Roller” (168 m). Singapore has ‘The Singapore Flyer’ (165 m).

Millions of people love to whirl through the sky in neon-lit wheels and know the sensation.

Joni Mitchell put it into words in her 1968 song ‘Both Sides Now’ –

Moons and Junes and Ferris wheels,
The dizzy dancing way that you feel
As every fairy tale comes real;
I’ve looked at love that way.
But now it’s just another show.
You leave ‘em laughing when you go
and if you care, don’t let them know,
don’t give yourself away.

I’m looking forward to spinning over Freo in the new Ferris wheel to get that dizzy dancing feeling.

STORY and photographs (except where credited otherwise) by Jean Hudson @jeansodyssey. Jean is our Shipping Correspondent and also a regular feature writer and photographer here on the Shipping News. You may like to follow up her informative Places I Love stories, as well as other feature stories and Freo Today photographs, right here.


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