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Manufacturer: PIKO Modellspielwaren GmbH, Torackerweg 7, 97488 Stadtlauringen/Fuchsstadt, Germany. Price: 62101Ferris wheel kit, see your dealer for price.

IF YOU WANT a carnival or circus corner on your large scale railway, PIKO's new 1:22.5 scale Ferris wheel kit surely will get you started. It is so superb, no amusement park worthy of the name should be without one.

The all-plastic model is of proper proportion to represent similar prototypes in traveling carnivals, circuses, and county fairs. It measures an actual 18 1/2 inches wide by 14 1/8 inches deep by 22 1/2 inches high. The overall wheel diameter is 15 3/4 inches. The manufacturer bills the model as 1:22.5 scale so those dimensions translate to 34 feet wide, 26 1/2 feet deep, and 42 1/4 feet high with a wheel diameter of 29 1/2 feet. The unit would be equally at home on 1:20 or 1:24 scale layouts. Since it is a generic model whose prototypes vary greatly in size, I see no reason why 1:32 scale layouts might not use it as well, though the ticket booth might need to shrink a bit.

POLA has marketed the Ferris Wheel for German, French and English speaking countries so it comes with large and small signs in those three languages. As with most European models, the plans have no real text but, instead, a series of drawings to walk you through assembly. Each piece has a clear part number and arrows to indicate where it will fit. Unlike some instructions I've seen, this 4 sheet, 24 plan set has no illustration errors and is very well thought-out (as is the model itself, by the way). Many parts come both right- and left-handed and, in every case, the plans correctly illustrate the fine points of how to differentiate between and use each piece. The top quality plans reflect the top quality engineering and plastic mold work PIKO obviously built into the model. Small tabs or alignment bosses fit together in dozens of places. Each is a perfect fit!

You must separate the individual pieces from their molding sprues. The best way is to use a nipping pliers for the bigger parts and a single edge razor for the smaller ones. The manufacturer has numbered the pieces clearly. All pieces were straight and without the warp common to many injection molded parts.

The detail of the parts is also exceptional. For instance, the safety chains across the cars' passenger entry are plastic moldings. The open center of each link is visible. You attach the chains by fitting their end links into slots in the body casting; each slot is the right size.

Such precision is evident throughout the model. In fact, I only had to trim one piece-a brace for the big banner in front-and I may have caused the problem myself by getting the banner a little off.

The basic model comes in a cream or eggshell color. Other pieces are gray, blue, or aqua and the manufacturer has painted a few parts red, such as railing tops. Most of the large signage also uses red, yellow, and blue as do the wheel and cars. All graphics are on printed, adhesive-backed plastic sheet with pull-off paper backing. You must cut them and the smaller signs to size. The colors provide an appropriate carnival atmosphere to the model.

The kit comes with two tubes of UHU plastic glue. Perhaps European manufacturers use it because it is local and inexpensive but I prefer other kinds of glue for such models as the Ferris Wheel. I tried UHU on a sub-assembly and found the volume almost impossible to control. A quick experiment showed Plastruct liquid cement bonded PIKO's plastic parts very well so I switched immediately and that simplified assembly immensely. For example, you have insert the ends of thin plastic corner poles into holes through both the top and bottom halves of the passenger "gondolas". The poles are such a tight fit, the glue must act as a lubricant. Liquid cement worked much faster and allowed the poles to slide into the holes much more easily than UHU.

The Ferris Wheel comes with an electric motor to rotate it at a realistic speed. It also includes bulbs to illuminate several signs and decorations. The motor is a self-contained unit with a friction wheel. The friction wheel presses against the outer edge of a large plastic drive wheel on the back of the model. The motor drive barely contacts the large drive wheel so you may want to modify the fit or add a small shim to achieve more positive contact.

The light bulbs and their sockets clip into plastic tabs. Each comes with an adequate length of fine wire to run down to and under the model's base. The wires above the base are hidden. You connect the wires together and to your power source. The model needs 14-16 volts d.c.

Some of the same elements making the model exceptional work against its being a permanent outdoor fixture. Most structural pieces are of thin cross section and many are very delicate; a strong wind could destroy them. If previous experience with other models is any indication, the colorful signage also may soon fall apart. The motor has no weatherproof enclosure so, even though the manufacturer says the model is "weather-resistant", I would recommend against leaving it outside. Its base is substantial, though, so you could take it outside for an operating session, then bring it back inside at the end of the day.

Overall, the quality of PIKO's model is exceptional. It captures the atmosphere of the original beautifully. Its engineering, instructions, and quality of manufacture are so superb an inexperienced hobbyist may assemble it despite its complexity. But it is definitely not a "quickie"! It contains a lot of pieces, its signs require a lot of cutting, and it takes time to think through and to follow the assembly sequence. An average modeler should need about 10 to 12 hours to complete it- time very well worth spending. If my company's name were PIKO, I would have many reasons to brag.-Dave Cummins


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