How Velocipede Carousels Work

The World's Last Remaining Velocipede Carousels

Just two velocipede carousels remain in the world today. One is in France, while the other is part of a traveling collection of vintage amusement park rides. The velocipede carousel in France resides at the Musée des Arts Forains (Museum of Fairground Arts) in Paris' Bercy neighborhood. The museum, opened in 1996, comprises a colorful jumble ofcarousels, carnival rides and games from the 1850 to 1930 time period. The beautifully restored pieces were collected by a man named Jean-Paul Favand; his collection is one of the largest such private collections in Europe. Luckily for the rest of us, Favand turned his collection into a museum so everyone could enjoy it. Even better, the rides in his collection aren't simply on display, they're still operative. So yes, if you head to the museum, you can pedal his 1885 velocipede carousel [sources: Thomas, Robertson]. Two interesting points about his velocipede carousel: while French carousels all run counterclockwise, this one runs clockwise because it was operated in Great Britain, where that direction was the norm.This velocipede carousel was also featured in the 2011 film "Midnight in Paris," directed by Woody Allen[source: Rohan].

The world's other remaining velocipede carousel is part of Fête Paradiso, a similar group ofvintage rides, carousels and various other carnival components. Frenchmen Francis Staub and Régis Masclet, rabid collectors of old carnival rides and art, purchased the pieces and came up with the idea of traveling around the world with them, reminiscent of the carnivals of yesteryear. Fête Paradiso was set up for several weeks at a time in various locales, beginning in 2013 [source: Rohan].

The copper-and-iron velocipede carousel in the Fête Paradiso collection was created in 1897 and used in the 1889 World's Fair in Paris, where the Eiffel Tower was also unveiled [sources: The Library of Congress, The New York Nineteenth Century Society]. Nikola Tesla, a famous inventor known for his contributions to alternating current electricity, is said to have provided the engines for this particular velocipede carousel,which can move both forward and backward[source: Cohen]. At some point over the years, an electrical engine was added to the carousel, negating the need for feet to power it along. Today, however, that's the point of riding on it. Luckily, the engine can simply be turned off to allow it to once again be operated by people [source: Rohan].

In 2015, Fête Paradiso reportedly closed permanently, according to their Facebook page. The fate of its velocipede carousel is unknown.