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Wiener Riesenrad

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Fact #9 in the National Geographic 5,000 Awesome facts, 2015

“Despite being damaged during WORLD WAR II, the 120-year-old Weiner Riesenrad in Vienna, Austria still spins with its original 30 cars.”

5000 Awesome Facts, 2015

I started off wanting to write about a fact a day of the 5,000 Awesome Facts from the National Geographic 2015 Kids Edition book that Charley and I found in a standing free library on one of our walks. It grabbed my interest and although it is from 2015, which seems like yesterday to me, I wanted to see how and if any of these facts had drastically changed in the last 7 years, and what made them so Awesome.

After researching and writing about the first 3 facts in the book I realized that I didn’t like the pressure I put on myself, so I t tried once (1)a week. That didn’t last too long and now I’m going to write fact # 10-5000 the first chance I am able. I’ve also got another obstacle. I’ve got Stella Vader that does the same thing all cats seem to do, which is cozy up with my keyboard. I went out and bought a wireless one to avoid that situation, and boy, she got confused at that.


Oh, yeah, and can’t forget Charley who will sit and stare intently, and sigh. She even kicks out her back legs in a display of impatience. I’ll then get the bored look, they “I adore you”, the anxious look, the belly roll.”Look at me! I need to run and play and YAY! I am part cattle and cyborg! Did you forget?? Bunnies, frisbees, and don’t forget my ball!!!”- I hate her ball.


The Wiener Riesenrad is the oldest Ferris wheel located in Leopoldstadt, Austria, at the entrance of the Prater amusement Park. It is now one of the main attractions when visiting Austria, the only complaint being that at times, when they are in season, the mosquitos can be quite annoying and plentiful, so bring bug spray just in case. Especially March through November when they seem to be at their peak.


The gap toothed wheel, with only 15 gondolas instead of the 30 


The Weiner Riesenrad is not the first Ferris Wheel built, but it is the oldest and was once the tallest from 1920-1985. In 1897 the wheel unveiled itself, after two engineers, Harry Hitchins and Hubert Cecil Booth, and constructed by a Lt. Walter Bassett built it to celebrate the 5o year reign of Franz Josef. It started out with 30 gondolas, 3-4 people each, and would last about 15 minutes per ride per person. It was an immediate success, and hundreds of thousands of people would come to see in in 1914, even though many were not able to afford the price of a ticket to ride the wheel. It starred in its first movie, “Der Todesritt auf dem Riesenrad” (“Death Ride on the Ferris Wheel”). A certain lady, Marie Kindle, performed a stunt by hanging on the Ferris Wheel by a rope that was held by her teeth to hopefully draw attention to the poverty of the city, but got more publicity as a thrill seeker.

During all this, Walter Bassett had passed away 10 years after it’s opening, in 1907, just 44 years old, broke due to his failing manufacturing Ferris Wheel business. If he would have held on a bit longer I am pretty sure the tides would have changed for him.

Franz Josef passed in 1916, and the hype of the wheel started to die as well. It was scheduled for a demolition in 1917 but lack of funds prevented the wheel from being destroyed. They could not afford the equipment that has to be used for such a task.

A business man, Edouard Steiner took great interest in the wheel, but to his friends and colleagues challenged him to restore it, and so he did. It became once again a major attraction until WWII came in to play. Because Steiner was Jewish, the Nazi’s seized the wheel, yet in 1944 a great fire consumed it leaving only a frame of the Ferris Wheel. Unfortunately Edouard Steiner died that same year in a concentration camp.

The one cool thing was when the family were coming back through after the war they saw the wheel standing there, and a big restoration project began. A few changes were made, such as the 30 cars went down to 15, and were simplified, and the whole wheel got returned to Mr. Steiner’s children.

after WWII, burnt down to metal frame

Original cars refurbished, sitting as an exhibit.

Measurements in Metric

amount of wagons 15
total height

64,75 m above ground
diameter of the Wheel
60,96 m (= 200 ft)
outer diameter of the Wheel
55,78 m
inner diameter of the Wheel
49,68 m
axis of the Giant Ferris Wheel
10,78 m long, 0.5 m thick, 16.3 t
weight of the Wheel
244,85 t
total weight of all iron structures

turning speed 0,75 m/sec + 2,7 km

**** Fact : only 3 countries have not adopted the metric system:****

United states, Liberia and myanmar

The wheel briefly stopped in 2020 due to the pandemic after a 70yr. non disturbed run, but quickly started up again and ran during the pandemic, proper safety instructions, of course.

Replicas replaced the original wagons in 2016, and painted a bright red and white. Reservations can be made to fine dine on one of those cars, and yellow and gold lights were put on the wheel so it would light up in the sky as bright, golden stars.

For the 125 anniversary of the Ferris wheel they put in a carriage with no windows or ceilings, and a glass platform with tethers so patrons can see the landscape just as the original people who first built it.

This proved to be a very interesting and fun Ferris wheel to look up. I am glad it didn’t get demolished, and that the frame survived the fire in 1945. I will definitely add this to my itinerary if I ever make it to Austria.

Now, I am off to study fact #10…..another Ferris wheel.


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