Ochusjob, Chiapas, Chariot 1982 photo by Antonio Turok


References ยป Glossary

Carousel Glossary

(note to carousel experts, if you see any terms or descriptions which need editing please contact me, also, if there is an omission please advise me, thanks, BD)

Animals: Any horse or menagerie animal or other ridable creature or object that has a saddle for riding and is mounted on the carousel.

Band Organ: A large mechanized music machine that usually runs with an electric motor. Air passes through wooden whistles, pipes and horns, it can also power drums, bells, and cymbols. Traditionally a paper or card type roll full of specifically placed holes that ran over an air vacume system triggered the music. Modern carousels use taped or digital sound systems of the same classic band organ music style, often time marches and polkas.

Bevel Gears: Cogged gears tapered to roll over the teeth of the master ring bevel in the center. On older carousels this master ring bevel was made of a series of individual oak cog pieces fitted into the circular housing.

Brass Ring: Originally carousel were military training devices requiring the rider to hold a sword in hand and practice whacking things. Later a ring catching game was used for children. The early rings were brass, then only the special ring was brass, now all of the rings are steel with a brass plating.

Centerpole: Large wooden or steel pole standing tall in the center of the carousel mechanism. Holds the whole weight of the moving carousel. It usually sits on a large base with diagonal supports. It can be anywhere from 10 to 16 or more feet tall.

Chariot: A large bench-like riding box. Can have carved wheels like a chariot or no wheels at all. Often times highly decorated with dragons or swans.

Crank Shaft: The long solid rod mounted on pillow blocks between the sweeps which has off-set bearings riding on it where the galloping poles attach. This gives the animals the up and down motion. The inner end of the crankshaft has a bevel gear on it which rides over the master ring bevel which is stationary and mounted on the center pole above the ring bearing.

Crestings: The large decorative panels covering the perimeter diameter of the sweeps. Very similar to Rounding Boards and Shields, constructed in a more integrated style than Rounding Boards and Shields which are a more old fashioned style of Crestings.

Crown Bearing: Large circular thrust bearing at the top of the center pole that has attachment holes for the guy rods. The crown bearing carries all of the weight of the rotating carousel. This bearing must be well lubed so that it never fails. Most carousels have one or more back-up bearings built into the main thrust bearing, if the main bearing freezes up, the secondary bearing will come into play until the main bearing is repaired.

Flying Horses Carousel: A very early style of carousel that does not have a platform. The animals, chariots or seats hang on hinges poles from the sweeps and usually have a tension chain holding them from the rear. As the carousel rotates the animals slightly fly out from the centrifugal force. This same force pushes the riders into the seat of the animal thus making a very safe ride.

Frame: The whole rotating combination of the crown and ring bearings with sweeps, crank shafts, guy rods, shield brackets, rounding boards and platform (if it has one). The animals and chariots ride from the frame.

Galloper: Carousel animal that has no feet on the platform and hangs on a galloping pole hanging from the crankshaft above. Rarly, on some carousels, completely different drives were used and the animals were held from below where a galloping mechanism was located.

Galloping Carousel: The typical modern carousel. Many or all of the animals hang from poles that run down from overhead crank shafts mounted above the sweeps and down into a telescoping hinge on the platform floor. A galloping carousel can also have standing animals and chariots. Like a standing carousel centrifugal force tends to throw the riders outward and seat belts are advised. The animals are usually set at a slight slant toward the inside, leaning over so to speak, to compensate a bit for the centrifugal force.

Guy Rods: Large diameter steel rods connecting the end and sometimes mid-section of a sweep to the top of the center pole at the crown.

Lower Scenic Panels: The lower scenics are stationary and usually cover the inner center pole. They are usually twice as large as the Upper Scenic Panels, often times having advertizing or text of other sorts.

Pinion and Drive Gears: Unless powered by pulling a rope on a sweep by a person or animal, such as was done in antiquity, most carousels have a drive train which sends power from a motor, hand crank or foot pedal to the rotating frame via a vertical drive shaft topped by a pinion gear. The small round pinion gear meets into a large circular ring vertical cog gear that is affixed to the underside of the frame on the sweeps.

Platform: A large donut shaped floor hanging from the sweeps that serves several purposes on standing and galloping type carousels. On a standing carousel the animals and chariot are placed on this floor. On a galloping carousel the poles are based into the floor where the poles go up and down.

Poles: Long hollow rods 1"-2" in diameter that hang down from the sweeps above and go through the animal in front of the saddle. Standing animals generally have a narrower pole attached on the sweep above used for stability whereas the galloping animals have a sturdy pole hanging from a crank shaft which rides on pillow blocks mounted on spreaders between the sweeps.

Power Train: Hooked up to the vertical shaft that drives the pinion gear this is what makes most carousels rotate. The power source is usually an electric motor or small gasoline engine, sometimes an hydraulic motor. Hand cranks and foot pedal drives can also power a smaller size carousel. Between the power source and the drive shaft are a combination of step-down transmissions, a clutch and a brake. Depending on the age and size of the carousel these pieces can vary greatly.

Prancer: Carousel animal that mounted on the platform like a stander but has one or more feet off the platform.

Ring Bearing: A ring-like set of bearings which run around the center pole about 7'-10' off the floor depending on the carousel. This bearing can be split into two or more parts for removal. Inner end of the sweeps fits into a slot or socket on the perimeter of ring bearing housing.

Ring Dispencer (Catcher): The long arm suspended on a swinging hinge aimed at one point at the edge of the outside row of animals. Riders on the outside row are able to hold their arms out and grab one or more rings at each pass. The ring dispencer has a spring lightly holding in the rings.Ring Dispencer (Catcher): The long arm suspended on a swinging hinge aimed at one point at the edge of the outside row of animals. Riders on the outside row are able to hold their arms out and grab one or more rings at each pass. The ring dispencer has a spring lightly holding in the rings.

Ring Target: Riders must throw their rings into the target, often times a clown face with big holes and points depending on location. Riders do not get to keep the rings. Often times there is a special ring mixed into the ring supply and the rider that grabs that ring gets another free ride.

Rotation: Most American and Continental European carousels rotate in a CCW, counter-clockwise, direction. This is attributed to the chivilrous tradition of mounting a horse from the right and also, given the carousel's evolution from a military training devise, so that the rider can have use of his/her right arm for sword and club work on the out side of the ride. In England, and several other Commonwealth nations, carousels rotate CW, clockwise. This is largely due to a Brittish custom of meeting a fellow rider on the road on the left and also mounting the horse on the left. Modern Brittish automobile traffic customs reflect these old world traditions.

Rounding Boards (sometimes called Crestings): Horizontal boards or elaborately decorated constructions that lock in the perimeter ends of the sweeps forming a large wheel out of the carousel mechanism as seen from above. Rounding boards and shields usually form the visual upper edge of the carousel.

Shields and Shield Brackets: Brackets on the perimeter end of each sweep, holds the decorative shield and attaches to one end of a rounding board or cresting. Dentzel carousels became known for their Jester Head shield.

Stander: Carousel animal that has all four, or two in some cases such as an ostrich, feet on the platform. Due to centrifugal force these animals usually lean in a bit toward the center of the carousel.

Standing Carousel: A later style of carousel that has a full donut-like platform floor hanging from the sweeps. All of the animals and chariots are attached to this floor and turn with the carousel. People can stand on this floor while the carousel rotates. Due to centrifugal force the riders and people standing on floor tend to be pulled toward the perimeter of the carousel. These carousels must have seat belts on the animals especially if they have a high RPM such as 7rpm.

Sweeps: Long spoke-like arms running overhead from the center of the carousel to the perimeter, wood on older machines, steel on newer machines. The sweeps carry the animals, chariots and most often a platform. Older style "Flying Horses" carousels do not have platforms.

Three Abreast: A row of animals hanging from one sweep station, sometimes two abreast, sometimes four abreast.

Upper Scenic Panels: The decorative carved and painted panels hanging between the sweeps on the inside diameter of the carousel. Usually a variety of scenic views and well known landmarks. These panels rotate with the caousel (whereas the Lower Scenic Panels are stationary inside the carousel, see above).