My first machine!

Today I purchased my first pinball machine! Williams machines from the 1990’s have always been my favorites, and there’s no denying I’m a Star Trek: The Next Generation fan, so when I had a chance to buy a ST:TNG machine at a pretty decent price, I jumped on it. I’ve played it a few times before and knew it was a great game.

First, some background. ST:TNG is a Williams SuperPin from 1993. Superpins were a line of machines from that era that were a bit wider than normal machines. This opens up the playfield quite a bit and gives the designer room to pack more “stuff” into the game, but it also made the games more expensive to manufacture. The honor to create these games went to the top brass of designers including Pat Lawlor and Steve Ritchie.

Ritchie designed ST:TNG, which is a particularly sought-after machine – it’s #4 in the all time best Solid-State machines list at at the time of writing. The game features 3 flippers, lots of good ramp shots, an insane 6-ball multiball mode, great audio with voice-overs recorded by the cast of TNG & the theme music of the show, great graphics and animations on the dot-matrix LCD screen, and a variety of gadgets on the playfield including two “phasers” that swivel and let you shoot the ball out. It’s good stuff!

ST:TNG Pinball links:

The haul home

I was lucky enough to have some awesome friends help me haul the machine home. There were four of us and still the machine felt pretty darned heavy. The manual lists it as 322 lbs (crated), so forget about moving one of these things around without either a really specialized dolly or some friends. I had measured ahead of time and was pretty sure it would fit in the back of my jeep cherokee, so we went ahead and removed the two front legs first, slid it in front-first, then removed the back legs and pushed it all the way in. It was close, but the back hatch on the jeep closed without any problems! Excellent!

Got the machine home and did the reverse procedure – pull machine out a little, install rear legs, pull it out some more and install the front legs! The jeep sure came in handy today!

The work begins

And now the work of restoring the machine back to original condition (or as close to it as possible) begins. In general it’s in pretty good condition, but there are are definitely some issues to get worked out – much more on that in future posts. About me: I’ve gotten my hands dirty on pins only a couple times before, so I really don’t have that much experience with this stuff – I’m sure it’s gonna be a great learning experience. Luckily the service manual is readily available online and there’s tons of info about pinball repair out there.

Summary of work done on day 1:

  • Removed Backglass and separated translite from glass panel. Cleaned both sides of each with damp cloth, making sure not to scratch the translite. Re-assembled with fresh tape. Not sure how they are assembled at the factory, but mine was held together by what looked like 10-year old tape that was falling apart.
  • Cleaned cabinet. Many years of dust on this thing!
  • Removed playfield glass and cleaned both sides.
  • Started cleaning playfield. It is in desperate need – there’s a black film covering most of the of surface of play and it looks pretty terrible. Damp cloth worked pretty well – I was happy to see how nice the playfield looks after cleaning. Only touched a small fraction of the surface though. Will also try to get some Novus cleaner to get a deep clean.
  • Explored the diagnostic menus. There’s lots of stuff in there including the ability to test every single switch and lamp in the game. Ran through lamp test mode to see how many lamps are burnt out – at least 3 or 4. Will have to order a supply of replacement bulbs.
  • Played a bunch of games to figure out what works and what doesn’t. Or maybe it’s cause I just wanted to play? No, I’m listing this under “work” so that’s my excuse and I’m sticking to it 🙂

Well, that’s it for today! Here’s a pic of the machine, which is in the living room for now. It will move to the office when I have cleared out some space for it in there.

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2 Responses to My first machine!

  1. Marc Boulé says:

    Quite a detailed log! The full shot of the playfield makes a nice pic. I think I’ll use one of those solenoid pics in my electromag class… 😉 Kepp up the good work!

  2. Hi,

    Great write-up! I also have a ST:TNG pin. I bought it for about $500, but it was missing a few boards and playfield pieces. Everything is 90% working now. Yesterday I rebuilt all three flippers and fixed the classic J103 fuse blowing issue.

    I love pinball, and you definitely have a beautiful machine there!!! Congratulations.

    There’s also a website where you can put in the location of your ST:TNG and see where all the others are as well. It’s kinda fun.

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