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Google Earth Plug-in: The Great Wheel - Earls Court Exhibition Grounds - London (overlay)

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The Great Wheel of Earls Court was based upon the celebrated Ferris Wheel that had been the most arresting feature of the Chicago Exhibition of 1893. The patentee of the Chicago Wheel, a United States naval engineer called James Weir Graydon, had signed over his European rights to Walter B.Basset, a retired British naval officer (Basset later built further wheels at Paris, Blackpool and Vienna, of which the last alone survives). Work on the Great Wheel commenced in March 1894, with the public opening in July 1895. Its 300 foot diameter made it slightly larger than its predecessor and it weighed altogether 1,100 tons. The wheel was rotated by means of two 50HP steam engines; a complete revolution, with interruptions so that passengers could admire the view, took twenty minutes. Each of the forty cars could accommodate forty passengers so that up to 1,600 could ride the on the wheel together. In its life it conveyed two and a half million passengers. The wheel survived until 1906/7 when it had ceased to be profitable and Basset supervised its demolition. The Exhibition Grounds saw many shows including Buffalo Bill's Wild West Show in 1887 and contained many fairground rides including a Switchback Railway (an early type of rollercoaster).

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