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Tuesday, October 1, 2013

A little background on both the Bally Signal and the history of my machine

The Bally Signal was introduced in 1934 and is railroad themed game and is one of the earliest EM (Electro-Mechanical) pinball machines.  Pinball machines of that era are very different from modern day pinball machines.  It is pre-flippers and the way it works is this:  The game costs 5 cents for 10 balls to play.  The playfield has a series of holes and gates and what is called the Signal hole.  After paying the 5 cents to play, the balls will drop down to the ball collection area so you can use a manual lifter to deposit your ball in front of your plunger.  As you shoot the balls they can land in a series of holes (or gated areas) where they are trapped and do not drop through the playfield.  Each hole has a point value.  The gated areas though offer larger payouts and extension of play.  There are 3 gated areas and each has a series of 3 gates which look like railroad crossing gates.  If a ball lands in the gated area it is trapped at the first gate.  If after that a ball lands in the Signal hole, it drops all the way through the playfield it sets of a bell and rolls over a series of electrical switches setting which activate the gates which in turn let the balls drop down to the next gate which offers a higher point total. The ball that dropped through the Signal hole then rolls down to the ball lifter for another free shot.   After all 10 of your balls are trapped you have to manually add up your score.  The machine uses glass marbles rather than steel balls and has 9 blue and 1 red.  The red counts as double points. 

To read more about the 1934 Bally Signal you can follow this link to the Internet Pinball Database.

Now for a little background on my Signal.  Some of this is guesswork on my mother’s part.  My grandfather purchased the pinball machine sometime during the 1950s as a Christmas present for my uncle.  My mother believes he most likely purchased it at a local bowling alley.  It was used for a number of years and then at some point was put into storage in the attic.  Years later it was given to us and was put to use in our basement.  I don’t know exactly how long it was in use in our basement but at one point the machine was jammed due to the wrong balls being put into it either by one of my sisters or myself as the glass over the playfield was missing and nothing to prevent us.  So the machine now unusable, sat once again though this time in our basement waiting for the day to be repaired/restored.  We recently have cleaned up and painted our basement to turn it into a usable space, and so the time for repair and restoration has come.
I will do my best to chronicle the restoration so anybody who is interested either in my project or a future one of their own can follow along.  I am already off to a bad start though as many of the pictures I was taking to track the project early on were lost when my cell phone decided to reset itself.  I still have some that I sent to myself, but many others were sadly lost.

So to start, here are a few of the pictures of my Signal from before I started this project.  All that has been done is a little dusting.

You can see in the side view that the legs are not leveling properly and it sits a little wonky

Dirty playfield with no glass

From above

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