Capital Wheel

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The Capital Wheel is a Ferris wheel at National Harbor, Maryland, just outside Washington, D. C., in the United States. It opened on May 23, 2014.[1]

Capital Wheel, National Harbor
Capital Wheel has 1.6 million LED lights

The wheel was conceived by National Harbor developer Milton Peterson and inspired by the Roue de Paris.[2] Built by Chance Rides of Wichita, Kansas, it has an overall height of 180 feet (54.9 m)[3] and sits on a 770-foot-long (230 m) pier extending into the adjacent Potomac River, easily visible to passengers on flights to or from National Airport.[2] The 165-foot (50.3 m) diameter wheel carries 42 climate-controlled passenger gondolas, each able to seat eight people, including a VIP gondola that can be rented for weddings or celebrations.[2] The wheel has programmable special-effects lighting and seasonal concessions at the base of the ride from the Wolfgang Puck restaurant chain.[2]

The entire structure is 175 (52.6 m) feet tall.[4]

Design and construction[edit]

The Capital Wheel arrived at National Harbor by two of Cianbro's barges on February 18, 2014, pushed by a tugboat from Baltimore to National Harbor via the Chesapeake Bay and Potomac River. [4] Smith's Shipyard provided the 1,300 horsepower tug, named The Rising Sun and measuring 60 feet long by 22 feet wide (18.3m by 6.7m). [5] Flexifloat made the two barges that Cianbro used to transport The Capital Wheel, one for the materials, measuring 50 feet (15.2m) wide by 140 feet (42.7m) long by 7 feet (2.1m) deep, and one for the crane that lifted the components from the barge to the pier, measuring 60 feet (18m) wide by 120 feet (35.6m) long by 7 feet (2.1m) deep. Cianbro's Manitowoc 4100 Series 2 crane has a maximum lifting capacity of 460,000 pounds. [6]

The materials barge carried 280,000 pounds (127kg) of galvanized steel base and tower legs and other miscellaneous components weighing 120,000 pounds (54.4kg) for The Capital Wheel. [7]

The Capital Wheel weighs approximately 320 tons (281,227kg), exclusive of the base, which weighs an additional 140 tons (127,006kg). The structure's eight legs support a 95-foot (29m) axle, which took a full day to install. Cianbro attached the Swiss-made passenger gondolas four at a time to the wheel structure, followed by a 90-degree wheel rotation, until wheel was fully assembled. [8]

Four 50-horsepower variable drive units rotate the Wheel at a speed of 1.5 rotations per minute. Each passenger ride lasts 12-15 minutes. The Capital Wheel has 1.6 million LED lights with a spectrum of 16,387,064 colors. [8]

Passenger gondolas[edit]

The Capital Wheel has 42 climate-controlled gondolas, including one VIP gondola, and can carry 336 passengers at maximum. CWA Construction, a Swiss manufacturer, built the passenger gondolas that Cianbro installed for The Capital Wheel. [4]

Each glass-enclosed gondola weighs 1,500 pounds (680kg), measures approximately 6 feet long by 5 feet wide by 5 feet high (1.8m by 1.5m by 1.5m) and holds eight passengers or up to 1,380 pounds (626kg).

The gondolas have interior lights and two-way, individual communication with the operator, and their doors open facing the harbor, for an unobstructed view of the Washington Monument, U.S. Capitol, City of Alexandria, Virginia, and Prince George's County, Maryland. [8]


  1. ^ Marylou Tousignant. "Capital Wheel Soars High As It Spins" Pittsburgh Post-Gazette. 26 May 2014. Retrieved 26 May 2014.
  2. ^ a b c d Thomas Heath and Jonathan O'Connell. "Is Monumental Washington Area Ready for the Capital Wheel at National Harbor?" 15 January 2014. Retrieved 15 May 2014.
  3. ^ Erin Corneliussen. "A New 180-foot Observation Wheel Opens Near Washington, D.C." Smithsonian Magazine. 23 May 2014. Retrieved 31 July 2014.
  4. ^ a b c "National Harbor's Capital Wheel Arrives in Prince George's County" NBC Washington. 18 Feb 2014. Retrieved 28 July 2014.
  5. ^ "Marine Towing" Archived December 8, 2013, at the Wayback Machine. Smith Shipyard. Retrieved 28 July 2014.
  6. ^ "Cianbro Moves "Capital Wheel" Base Steel from Baltimore to D.C.. 20 Feb 2014. Retrieved 28 July 2014.
  7. ^ "The Capital Wheel". Retrieved 28 July 2014.
  8. ^ a b c "Capital Ferris Wheel En Route to National Harbor "CBS Washington". 18 Feb. 2014. Retrieved 28 July 2014.

External links[edit]

Coordinates: 38°47′8.2″N 77°1′8.9″W / 38.785611°N 77.019139°W / 38.785611; -77.019139