THEY came out in their thousands to take a final turn on York’s big wheel.

Queues snaked around the base of the Norwich Union Yorkshire Wheel at the National Railway Museum (NRM) at the weekend as crowds eagerly waited to capture a bird’s-eye view of the city before its closure last night.

On Friday, the city’s big wheel was transformed into the “Yorkshire Squeal” to celebrate Hallowe’en.

The attraction stayed open until 9pm. It was lit up in an array of eerie colours and decorated with ghastly ghouls and creepy cobwebs.

An NRM spokeswoman said crowds were queuing before the museum opened at the weekend to sit in one the wheels 42 luxury pods.

The 200-foot structure has been popular with visitors and residents alike since it was first erected two and half years ago.

The wheel opened on April 12, 2006, and 5,110 people went for a ride on it, making it the biggest wheel attraction in Europe for that day and more than 25,000 took a spin in its first week.

Its first year alone attracted an estimated half million visitors and was credited with helping admissions to the museum rise to more than 900,000 – its highest figure since 1986.

Gemma Sneyd, of the NRM, said it would be difficult to estimate just how many people had hitched a ride on the 60-metre wheel since it opened, but suggested the figure would be more than a million.

She said the busy weekend and final week marked a successful end to the city landmark. “It has been ridiculously busy,” she said. “The combination of half-term, Halloween, the good weather and the people wanting to use the wheel for the last time has made numbers even higher than usual.

“Thousands have used the wheel and we have had people saying how sad they are that such an icon in the city is closing. It has marked a successful end to a great partnership between the NRM and World Tourist Attractions.”

The wheel is now set to be dismantled over the next three weeks and moved abroad.

Judith Whitaker, head of commercial development at the NRM, said the wheel had brought a boost to the city. She said: “We would like to say a huge thank-you to all those who have ridden it over the past two and a half years.”

World Tourist Attractions (WTA) hopes to put up a new wheel in North Street Gardens, next to the Park Inn Hotel. A planning application is to be submitted within weeks.

John Lowery, senior manager of WTA, said if the planning application goes ahead the company would be looking forward to more successful years in the city.