The Great Wheel
Interview With the Engineer
gentleman who gave London its new plaything this year is at present in
Blackpool. He is Mr. Walter D. Basset, the man who has 'taken the " gigantic
wheel " business under his care as affording variety to the managing
directorship of the large firm of marine engineers, Messrs. Maudslay, Sons, and
Field, of London. And from what he told me, during an interview this week, his
catering to the public craving for new sensations is putting money in his
pocket. As Mr. Basset says, if a man wants to make a pile with little exertion,
he has to get hold of some novelty.
purchasing the English and Continental rights of the gigantic wheel from Mr.
Graydon, an American, the engineer therefore considers he has done a good stroke
of business. For he tells me that one half of the great wheel at Earls Court is
h property, and that the Syndicate which controls it has paid a dividend of 20
per cent. upon the capital, besides allowing a substantial sum for renewals and
repairs during the winter, and writing off £3.000 for depreciation. Which is not
bad, considering it was earned in little over three months.
It was a
cold morning, and we both held our coat-tails over a bright fire in one of the
Clifton Arms Hotel rooms whilst we juggled with facts and figures.
firm does not regularly go in for this kind of work, Mr.
my own private work. I'm a believer in the one-man principle, and I have carried
this thing out myself. No, my firm builds marine engines and constructs
Belleville tubular boilers (yes, we did rout the opponents of tubular boilers in
Parliament); and at present there are orders at the works representing half a
million of money."
did the plans and specifications for the wheel come over from America? Is the
Earl's Court wheel a replica of the original one over the
wheel at London, and the wheel that is to be at Blackpool, are both of my own
design. With the assistance of my head draughtsman, Mr. Booth, I have worked out
all the details, and I was directly responsible for the erection of the London
reader had been present at this interview he would probably have taken another
good look at the youthful-looking man who carries so much responsibility upon
his shoulders. And then he would have noticed the shrewdness which characterises
the engineer's face. Quickness of perception is shown in Mr Basset's
conversation; betrays all the nervous energy, readiness of thought, and the
promptness of action of the London business man.
whose property will be the Blackpool wheel—yours, or the Winter Gardens
A separate Company has been formed to work it. The site is leased from the
Winter Gardens Company, who will be represented on the directorate of the other
concern; and I shall build the wheel for them."
When I asked for some details of
the work, Mr. Basset commenced: “The wheel, you must know, is constructed on
the principle of the bicycle wheel. It will be 200 feet high, carrying 30
carriages, each of which will bold 40 passengers. That gives a total capacity
of 1,200, and as the wheel will make four double revolutions per hour, we
calculate to handle nearly 5,000 persons during that time. The entire weight
of the machine will be about 1,100 tons the people will probably weigh another
what respect does the design differ from the Earl's Court
Blackpool we shall not have the turrets at the top of the supports, nor the
tunnel through the axle. They have not been patronised so well as was
anticipated at London, so we shall dispense with them here. The axle for the
Blackpool wheel will be forged out of solid steel. It will be 27in. in diameter,
with a boring of 8in. through the centre, and will weigh 25
another point for you." continued the interviewee. “For the London wheel the
spokes are made of steel rods, but here we shall use steel wire ropes, perfectly
flexible. Except that the wheel will be driven by two wire hawsers, instead of
the chains in use at London, the driving, arrangements will be very similar. Of
course the hawsers will help to ensure the silent running we desire. The driving
power will be given from two Robey steam engines, each of about twelve horse
cost of all this, Mr. Basset?”
£45,000. I have learnt something from experience. The Earl's Court wheel cost
something like £59.000, but that wheel is a little larger, and it was the first
' I had_ undertaken. Most of the material will come from Glasgow. You know this
is mostly bridge work, and bridge work is not: our speciality, but the delicate
parts will be manufactured in London."
the Wheel will be perfectly safe. We have escaped without accident, so far,
although before we got properly running at Earl's Court some of the passengers
got stuck up in the air for a little time."
I smiled acquiescence.
not among them, were you?
glad -You saw it in course of construction!
will be a different matter here. We had some difficulty at some stages of
construction, but I'm up to every move on the board now, and I expect the
erection bore will go on without hitch.
build both sides of the wheel at once—expecting to commence in about a
there to be any more great wheels?”
been in negotiation with a view to erecting a wheel at Paris, but it will be
several months before I proceed with that.
novelty of the thing will die, you say.
so in course of time, but at London we did better business in October than we
did in August. Beside, if the novelty expires before our lease at Earl's Court
(21 years) is up, we can take down the wheel and erect it somewhere
else-probably in the East End, and take up the people at 3d. per head. What I
want to impress upon you, however, is that the expenses are so absurdly
trifling. They cannot amount to over £100 per week, and that is a consideration
not to be overlooked."
opposition likely to be encountered from either the Corporation or the residents
in the neighbourhood?”
think so. The plans were before a meeting of the Corporation Committee on
Tuesday, and all went swimmingly. Then it cannot be said the wheel will
interfere with any rights of light, because it is all lattice work. No,
everything is favourable, and I expect to have the machine running next
question, Mr, Basset; is the capital subscribed?”
all; there is only a small amount to get in. Good-bye."