The Disc-Comforter Fairground Ride

The start of 2011 had me come, finally, to the painful decision to dismantle the largest, heaviest and definitely most complex model that I had ever made. That was the model I called The Storm Rider and exhibited in 2010.

During the dismantling I decided to save part of the tower structure of the model with the idea to modify it and use it towards a new design. In actual fact many changes were carried out to that tower and the changes needed a supporting deck to firmly anchor the tower to stable foundations. Once this was achieved, I set about increasing the height of the tower, reinforcing it with two very large supporting legs on each side and two more further back to keep the structure rigid. At the back one more leg was added and this eliminated from the tower any hint of movement or vibration.

After adding the extra height to the tower I concentrated on building an area to fix the motor and gearing system to rotate a heavy-duty axle where the wheel was to be supported. Measurements were carefully taken to construct a huge rotating wheel that would fit with no more than an inch clearance of the main deck once the passenger carriages had been added.

The huge wheel disc was designed to attach eight double arms made with four angle girders (two each of 7 and 8) and three braced girders (99). The large angle girders are at the back and the shorter at the front to allow the space for the carriages fitted with one-sided axles to freely rotate.

In the central front a large flanged ring (167b) concealed the fittings of all the arms using two 5-hole perforated strips at an angle, the only possible way to symmetrically achieve the right fixings of all together equally. I was facing a difficult choice as after trying numerous fittings with nothing coming to the exact size, I was not sure if I would find a successful solution.

After further alterations, I finally produced the right configuration. A few back supports and fittings were made to keep the wheel the right shape as the arms tended to move slightly outward. Eight identical carriages each with four passenger seats were made and supported at the end of the arms in axles fitted to the eight large pulleys (19b). The carriages were supported with 5-hole double angle strips going through these axles. However, to reduce weight I changed them for 3-hole ones and shorter axles which worked better.

Extra fittings were made and added to the deck and the main front canopy with the usual steps, ticket kiosk and decorative extras. Further adjustments were made to get the right balance and look. A central light illuminates the central console and three more lights added inside the main top housing now light the main legs.

Just as I thought I had finished constructing my new model, I hit on the idea of adding eight extra arms to the structure making it a 16 arm wheel, but being short of parts to make another eight identical carriages, I decided to construct the eight new additions using a different design offering just two seats in each, in contrast to the bigger carriages offering four seats each. This did feel a little like cheating but the combination of the different carriages added something new to the fairground attraction.

My excitement was soon put in check as the extra weight I had added to the model’s rotating wheel came with a price to pay. The fitting of a motorised system to move the heavy wheel could not be made to work adequately no matter how many ways I tried. Eventually I decided to fix a modified motor which I had originally built for another of my earlier models, The Kraken. To ensure the motor would be able to move the wheel I had to fix several large pulleys and small ones with heavy elastic bands and small brass pulleys stretched to the right tension, until finally the wheel started to move freely and easily powered by the motor.

I was glad when I finally completed the model and got it to work successfully, but just at the last minute an idea came to me and I decided to fit eight large wheels and tyres underneath and six modern Meccano plastic wheels and soft tyres as well to the main structure making it possible to pull the large model easily along the floor instead avoiding having to lift the huge bulk all the time.

The motor housing at the top has one side fixed and one side hinged so it can be opened outwards allowing for maintenance to the motor and gearing system.

The rotating wheel is easily detached from the main deck and tower for ease during transporting it in the car and all the carriages can be removed as well.

The rotational speed achieved is considerably faster than a conventional fairground wheel and it challenges so-called ‘thrill-seeking’ passengers to see how much they can stomach. With it’s disc-like design, I wanted to set out that this is not the family-friendly Ferris wheel we all know from the past. This ride needed a name that challenged opinions at the amusement parks.

“The Disc-Comforter” — love it or hate it! How very appropriate!

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