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Pinball Parlour (Earlington, PA)


The Grand Pinball Shop-Job...
A.K.A. The Mystery Castle that was ALMOST too-far-gone

Report, Web Site, Pictures, and backbreaking physical labor by Torrey George
Supervision and Mentoring by Todd George

Presented on November 22nd, 2002
as a Graduation Project for the
Quakertown Community Senior High School


Legend has it that once upon a time there was a behemoth distributor and importer of video games and pinball machines called State Sales and Coin. This was one of the largest distributors and re-importers of pinball machines in all the land. An over-eager pinball enthusiast and collector ventured with his brother to this vast wasteland of forgotten pinball equipment. Lo, our heroes did not know the adventure that would await them...

Upon entering the warehouse, there were games as far as the eye could see. Stacked on specially made racks, 7 to 10 pinball machines high. The warehouse had forklifts scooting to-and-fro. According to the sales person at the building, there were 850 pinball machines in this particular warehouse. Judging by the breadth of the warehouse shelving system, they were not lying. From this empire of pinball machine glory, sprung forth our subject for this project. A rusty, burnt-up, non-working, filthy, dirty, very heavily used piece of rotting garbage. The game was called Mystery Castle. It had easily been years since it had seen any play. The game was complete, but most definitely not working. Any other pinball-repair team would have scoffed at it, telling the salesperson that he was insane, and would have continued looking around the warehouse for a more likely candidate. Not us. Not this time. We bought it. For better or worse, this was Torrey's graduation project. There was no guarantee that the game would ever be workable, in which case, we would sacrifice the work and pick another game. Luckily, we were very successful with our restoration process. The following is a chronological representation of the work that ensued to make this ex-pinball rise again amongst the living and playable.

These machines are designed for the purpose of having the public play them. They are top-grade commercial equipment. Like any other mechanical equipment, they require a certain amount of maintenance. Due to economics, time constraints, and all-around laziness, the people who own the machines that are out for the public to play (commonly called route operators, or 'operators' for short) typically do not maintain them properly. Proper maintenance would consist of test plays from time-to-time, rubber-ring replacement where needed, lightbulb replacements where needed, cleaning and waxing of the playfield, and cleaning of the glass. If operators would take the few minutes needed to perform these proper and basic maintenance procedures, the games would never get to the state that Mystery Castle was in when we acquired it.

The Work Begins:

We brought the machine home to begin the laborious task of refurbishing this machine. One of the more important parts of the whole process is reviewing the current condition of the game. This will allow you to get a feel for what will need to be done during the refurbishing process (commonly called 'shopping the machine' or 'shopping' for short). On Mystery Castle, Torrey had his work cut out for him, as this machine needed EVERYTHING.

First Steps:

Obviously, no work could be done on the machine unless we could plug it in to the American electrical plugs. Conversion consisted of removal of the strange Italian electrical plug, and replacement with a standard, grounded American plug. Also, Italy is set up for 220 Volts AC, 50 Hertz. As it was configured, even with the correct plug, the game would NEVER work in America. Thankfully, the game manufacturers had planned ahead for this, and the internal main transformer for the game has a plug that can be replaced to jumper it for America's standards. Unfortunately, we didn't have this plug. We were able to acquire the wire mappings, and we set off to replicate the factory plug.

Success! The game is up and running, and we were able to take the first steps in testing to see what had lay ahead of us.

Click here for a gallery of pictures from the initial phases of checking this machine over.

Initial Discoveries:

The state of the machine was very sad. What was wrong? The sound board was inoperable, the dot matrix (score) display was exhibiting a multitude of problems, the game was dirty, in need of waxing, had missing and burnt out bulbs, had rust on every exposed metal piece (indicitive of the glass being left off of the game for an extended period of time in a humid environment), and had a boatload of parts that were broken or worn-out.

Never Fear, Work Begins:

We began the tasks at hand, completing the following list of procedures:
  • Converted the machine to U.S. Voltage
  • Repaired the Sound Board (Broken Wire Harness)
  • Repaired the Dot Matrix Driver Board (Bad High Voltage Section)
  • Took pictures of the entire machine, including close-ups for reference.
  • Took pictures of dirt that was encompassing the entire machine.
  • Stripped the playfield down to the bare wood.
  • Cleaned the playfield with Novus #2 (three times).
  • Waxed and Polished the playfield twice with Carnuba Wax.
  • Cleaned and Polished all of the playfield assemblies and parts.
  • Used a rock tumbler with walnut media, running overnight, to polish the smaller parts.
  • We removed the rust from all of the previously exposed metal pieces using a combination of methods, buffing wheels, chemical rust removers, metal polishes, and sandpaper.
  • Removed and cleaned drop targets.
  • Recreated drop target stickers in Adobe Illustrator.
  • Polished the metal assemblies and parts.
  • Removed the rust from the metal ramp flaps and recoated them.
  • Multiple trips to local hardware stores, and shopping for pinball parts from distributors.
  • Repaired and rebuilt (using new parts) the flipper assemblies to Alvin G. original specifications.
  • Reparied, cleaned, lubed (metal on metal pivot points only), and reassembled playfield mechanical assemblies.
  • Cleaned lightbulb sockets.
  • Cleaned and/or replaced lightbulb colored caps.
  • Replaced lightbulbs with new ones.
  • Cleaned arch/apron assembly.
  • Cleaned and polished trough assemblies and ball guides.
  • Cleaned and reinstalled the plastic post assemblies on the playfield.
  • Cleaned and polished the metal ball guides, including wire ones.
  • Repaired some broken welds on the ball guides.
  • Replaced all rubber rings on the machine with new premium white rings.
  • Checked, repaired, cleaned and polished the pop bumper assemblies.
  • Repaired some playfield damage from a broken post.
  • Replaced some of the posts with stronger design posts.
  • Cleaned and polished all flat plastics.
  • Repaired one or two broken flat plastics with epoxy and reinforced with Lexan.
  • Used fender washers under slingshot plastics for reinforcement.
  • Reinstalled all flat plastics.
  • Replaced all flat plastic mounting hardware with new.
  • Rebuilt the drop target assemblies.
  • Repaired a large amount of broken ramp wiring.
  • Reinstalled the ramp assemblies.
  • Cleaned under-playfield ball trough.
  • Adjusted Switches that were in need.
  • Tested all of the lightbulbs.
  • Cleaned all high-voltage flipper switches.
  • Replaced Dot Matrix Display glass with a used one that was in better condition.
  • Cleaned the DMD Panel, inside and out.
  • Cleaned the backglass, inside and out.
  • Cleaned the playfield glass.
  • Cleaned the cabinet, inside and out, including vacuuming excess debris.
  • Removed, cleaned, lubricated lock-down-bar assembly, reinstalled and tested.
  • Designed reproduction pricing and instruction arch/apron cards in Microsoft Publisher.
  • Printed and installed the new instruction and pricing arch/apron cards.
  • Installed protective film over the new instruction and pricing cards.
  • Replaced a missing cardboard light-blocking insert in the backbox.
  • Replaced a missing slingshot switch diode.
  • Tested and retested all switches.
  • Removed rust from speaker grilles.
  • Replaced black-plastic playfield backer and clear plastic arch/apron ball jam prevention strip.
  • Installed brand new, extremely high grade pinballs. (Mirror finish.)
  • Replaced foam ramp bumpers/pads.
  • Straightened bent coin door.
  • Stripped/Cleaned/Repainted/Rebuilt/Reinstalled coin door.
  • Touched up cabinet paint.
  • Final tweaking during playtesting, fixing some minor reassmebly mistakes.
  • More playtesting.
  • Cleaned and polished legs.

Click here for a gallery of pictures taken at various intervals during the work completion phase of the project.

Nearing Completion:

All that was left once the machine side of the project was complete was for us to create the web site, and finish all of the reports.

Click here for a gallery of the finished product.

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