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Troublesome Child

Postby badpenny » Tue May 08, 2012 5:06 pm

Have you got a machine that resolutely refuses to behave yet you hang on to it, periodically showing it a spanner or two? Instinct tells you to move it on however you can't bear to get shot?
I have, it's a Groetchen Columbia Bell. Actually I have two of them and won't touch the second one until I have taken the first one to the end of the road, even then I suspect I shan't sell it on even if it still refuses to play the game.
These machines are infamous for not being the most reliable. However I adore them.
Not only do they look great, they have a mechanism nothing like any other 3 reeler. They do whatever any other bandit with an escalator and jackpots does, but that's as far as the comparison goes. It's operation is very Heath Robinson'ish and cranky.

The Americans were paranoid about counterfeit coins, hence the amount of work and design in most coin acceptors etc. Groetchen decided to come from a different angle, the machine will operate probably on buttons. However unlike other machines that pay from the bottom of the stack these pay back the last coins (buttons) played. In other words you won back whatever you were putting in.
It does this by dropping the coins played from the escalator (which is turret shaped) into a large carousel. Each play the carousel moves on one spacer. Upon a winning line the carousel reverses the required amount of spaces depositing those coins down the chute.

I've had this machine about 17 years I think, so far back I don't even remember submitting this photo ..........
Second machine in link

When I got it I was aware it was misbehaving on payouts. The carousel wasn't returning in order to payout ...... except when the lid was off.
The inside of the lid showed some ugly aluminium welding had been done at some time suggesting that the lid had been dropped probably on its top.
I ground as much of the excess off as I could, and Woo Hoo !!YIPPEE!! that cured that.
Then over the years it started seizing when the handle was half way down.

To get the mechanism out there are three things to disconnect.

The White circle shows the button to release the handle (which conveniently can be replaced when the mechanism is out on the table)
The Yellow circle shows the bolt (should be a wingnut) that secures the frame into the case.
The Red circle shows the fork holding a screw head that operates the variable chute that aims overspill coins to the jack pots.
To un-seize it, the first thing to do is the same as any other bandit, release the ratchet. Very slight pressure on the handle takes the pressure of the pawl then a long thin screwdriver allows you to lift it clear of the rack.
I then discovered that what was jamming it was the payout finger wasn't retracting from the reels. Anyone with Mills/Sega Vestpocket mill understand the principle. It seems to be one of the foibles of this design. Many of the links and levers in these machines are floppy and have a lot of lateral movement in them which I'm sure doesn't help.

This is my finger tugging the payout finger back to release the reels. You can also see the coin carousel and the top of the handle.
It does that less often now, maybe because of regular light oiling or perhaps it's the flux of The Earth, to be honest it's like a cat and does as it pleases.
About a year ago it started stopping after the second brake dropped in, just going quiet and leaving the third reel turning until it slowly came to rest. To add to the frustration vibration caused by removing the back door and then the bonnet sometimes jolted it back into life. !PUNISH!

So a day spent feeding it with the lid off finally reproduced the problem. Coins were getting jammed during the transfer from the escalator to the carousel. Further examination uncovered that coins were doubling up in some of the slots in the carousel. If that happened twice in a row there was nowhere for the third coin to go and it jammed the movement of the carousel and then the whole mechanism. It appears this was a known problem as Groetchen made a removable gate so you could clear jams.
This photo shows coins jammed whilst dropping from the escalator due to the space below already being occupied.
This is the same scene with the gate removed for clearing.
Again same scene after the blockage cleared and the gate refitted.
So although the carousel reverses properly to pay out; what was up with the forward action that moved it one slot on in time for the next coin to drop in?
After much peering through my "scrute a scope" I found that the claw that progresses it one slot on is adjusted by a screw holding a primitive looking lever made from a bent and twisted piece of mild steel. It took a while to work it out as this was situated no where near the problem in fact it was diagonally opposite and on a lower level.
To adjust it you simply turn the screw. Anti-clockwise allows the lever to come to rest closer to the cross member of the frame and that progresses the carousel further. Opposite to shorten the movement.
However that only worked for a while. dirtdog

Now it went back to not finishing the cycle after the second brake dropped in. Only this time there was no coin jammed in the gate.
We now take a jump in time, two wars in the Middle East, a couple of Despots and a terrorist leader are usurped, bankers stuff the world and I get wheel spin when it comes to escaping wife number three, then two more partners before finding Sally.

I returned to The Groetchen and noticed that lateral movement in the lever with the screw adjuster stopped it always coming to rest in the same place every time. So I fitted a spring which pulls it against its axle in an attempt to keep its travel true.
Now it behaves most of the time ...... perhaps ......... maybe!
I suppose I'll now get on with the second one which if I remember rightly has a completely different set of baggage.

I hope you've enjoyed or found this useful.
These machines do have a bad press for poor performance also for utilising "pot-metal" in parts of the frame. I've not witnessed any metal fatigue in mine, nor am I bothered about it, as I've had nominal success with the recent advances in low temperature solder and epoxies.

They aren't much different in size to a Mills QT but are heavier and trickier to live with.

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Re: Troublesome Child

Postby JC » Tue May 08, 2012 11:46 pm

Nice post BP - very informative. I've always admired these little machines, but never actually owned one.

........hope that huge ugly black boil on your hand gets better soon....... :lol:

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Re: Troublesome Child

Postby coppinpr » Wed May 09, 2012 1:14 pm

I like these machines as well. Mine works OK, but jams a lot. See my machine in action on youtube:

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Re: Troublesome Child

Postby special when lit » Wed May 09, 2012 3:39 pm

Glad you've got it working OK, they're a great looking machine.

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Re: Troublesome Child

Postby silverbitz » Wed May 09, 2012 9:20 pm

Great machine. My first 'round' of collecting some 20+ years ago netted me one of these for just £30 from a local antique shop. Of course the same problems occured but still retain fond memories of a continuous learning curve whilst trying to get it right!. Probably never did as it happens but this thread just brought it all back......I must invest in another!!!!!!!!! :shock:

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Re: Troublesome Child

Postby malcymal » Sat May 12, 2012 7:18 pm

ALthough troublesome, what an amazing piece of genius the mechanism is though, the engineering in it absolutely fascinating. I think people forget this with values of machines, to recreate and engineer such a thing from scratch would take a fortune. They can reprint money, they cant remake one of these babies.

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Re: Troublesome Child

Postby badpenny » Mon Aug 26, 2019 3:34 pm

Seven years have passed, and I still have my Troublesome Child.

I have been approached by three collectors over the intervening years seeking help. I've helped at least two of them, and now I've learnt a bit more about these machines' foibles I thought it best to record them here as a guide to help fixing the three most common gliches these buggers are in the habit of embracing.

This time I'm only approaching it as a guide of what to do and not why. A lot don't need to know why, just what to do, and those curious enough will work it out once they've got it working again.

So, The years have taught me that the 3 most common gremlins Groetchen Columbia bandits fall foul of are: -
1) Deciding to altruistically slip into free play.
2) Come to a halt after the handle is pulled leaving a coin half stuck between the escalator and carousel. This usually happens after reels 1&2 have stopped and leaving reel 3 spinning until it stops slowly of its own accord
3) Handle gets half way down and jams. Usually happens after a payout
Problem 1 The white arrow points to the coin probe. Check it hasn't been dislodged and needs reseating. The flap it passes through is hinged at the bottom and in movement can lodge the pin.
Problem 2 unscrew the adjustment (arrow 1) slightly to allow the carousel to move forward a gap and allow coin to drop cleanly from escalator. Then it won't jam part way through the cycle.
Problem 3 After releasing rachet on handle to allow mech to run back to beginning you must keep spring loaded plunger ( arrow 2) well oiled at all times so you can easily lift it with one finger.
I have realised over the years that there is a second reason which can imitate problem 2 when reels 1&2 stop and reel 3 spins until it stops slowly of its own accord. It doesn't involve the carousel not moving forward to allow a coin to drop from the escalator. It's the clock running out of steam before the third reel stop falls. So check the heavy spring from the clock up to the main axle towards the back.

I think the issues discussed are just Columbia design as they seem common between owners of these machines. Some have said it's poor design and also they are made of Pot Metal which doesn't help (I might have said it myself)
So far as the design is concerned I feel Columbia were to be congratulated on not merely copying Fey's basic design and coming up with their own ideas. Also there is a lot of mild steel employed in their construction, and whereas much of the heavy castings did use an alloy which might resemble MAZAK it is heavier and I've not witnessed any of the crumbling or delaminating we associate with German Post War mechanisms.

So if you've been put off in the past, go on, give one a try. It can be a bit like owning a cat, but I find them to be the most characterful little machines. And they're a delight to own and play.


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Re: Troublesome Child

Postby dutchboy » Mon Aug 26, 2019 6:05 pm

Thanks for all of that badpenny. Never owned one of these. Once I have been in a arm length distance of a chrome one that was for sale but did not notice it. A very interesting post, thanks! !!THUMBSX2!!

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