History of the Bryans Works

Complete listing of Bryans machines

The Bryans Museum









Cranes &



Bryans Payramid

There is no doubt that the Payramid is one of the greatest slot machines ever invented. The game is a true classic, and a tribute to the inventive genius of William Bryan. The Payramid was introduced in 1934 and was still being made 40 years later. It is Bryan’s most popular ball-catching game, and no penny arcade in Britain would have been complete without at least one of these frustrating games!
The Payramid is packed full of interesting features and simple solutions to complex mechanical problems. The method by which the balls are instantly raised up to a height of 18" by a mere half a turn of the handle must rank as one of mankind's greatest achievements!  Not content with just making a mechanism that worked, Bryan made life difficult for himself by operating all the separate parts of the machine from the same crank handle, and by incorporating many of the game's interesting features on the symmetrical playfield.  These include the winning and losing stacks of balls, the jackpot stack and the fully automatic self-filling jackpot.

Other ingenious features are the small toggles that prevent balls from jumping up from the stacks and operating the payout mechanisms prematurely; the mechanical coin reject; the coin operated ball release; and the plunger and cylinder connection between the operating handle and the payout mechanism.  It is interesting to note that if a player abandons the game at any point, the simple insertion of another coin will always reset the machine back to the start again, irrespective of how many balls have been played or where the mechanism is in its cycle. This is a considerable achievement for a mechanical game of this complexity, and one that is not obvious to the casual observer.         (photo courtesy J.Darvill)

Close-up details showing the four stacks of balls on the playfield

All missed balls fall to the bottom of the playfield and end up in the left or right stack of balls seen in the photo.
All balls caught between the fingers are stacked up on the playfield in the centre column.  This column will hold four balls (3 are shown in the photo).  If a fifth ball is caught, it falls into the hole above the fourth ball and activates the payout mechanism.  The ball eventually re-emerges back onto the playfield between the two losing columns, where it starts to form a jackpot stack.  This column is clearly visible in the centre of the photo, although there are no balls in it.
Further winning balls will build up in the jackpot stack until, if (by some miracle) all eight balls are caught, this stack also overflows and the last ball disappears into the machine to actuate the jackpot mechanism.  This opens and then closes the jackpot door, releasing all the visible pennies into the payout chute.
After the massive payout! the eighth ball then re-emerges from the hole seen at the very bottom of the photo.  The player continues to play this last ball until it drops into one of the losing columns.  Each time he catches it, he is rewarded with two more coins from the machine.

The relatively simple mechanism of the Payramid is one of Bryans greatest achievements.  The entire mechanism is contained on the back of the playfield.  This includes all the coin and payout chutes and the ball runways.  The case itself is completely empty, apart from the cash box.

Before the insertion of a coin the operating handle is completely free to turn, but the various parts of the mechanism just operate idly because there are no balls in play.  Therefore the coin does not need to operate any complicated clutches or lock-out devices, but only has to release the balls to start the game.  It does this by withdrawing pins from beneath the four stacks of balls.  As soon as the balls drop into the mechanism, the game starts automatically.  As can be seen from the photo above, the balls from the winning stack are diverted through the left-hand lose column rather than falling through the jackpot column directly underneath.  This is to prevent the possibility of a ball getting stuck in the jackpot column at the beginning of the game if the player turns the handle very fast after inserting the coin.

If play is abandoned, inserting a new coin will release the balls already played.  These drop down to join the unplayed balls from the abandoned game.  As the total number of waiting balls will always add up to eight, irrespective of how many have been played, the game automatically starts from the beginning again.

There is a small part of the machine cycle, just before a ball is ejected from the top of the playfield, when the insertion of a coin would only return seven balls instead of eight.  However, the mechanism is so arranged that the coin reject gate is opened during that part of the cycle, so any coins inserted at that time are automatically returned to the player instead of starting a new game.

1934 mechanism

Compare the original 1934 mechanism with Bryans patent specification above.  The patent shows the playfield on the left, and the internal mechanism on the right.  Almost identical to the real thing!

1960 mechanism

The mechanism of the 1960 Payramid was quite a bit different from the original mechanism, reflecting 26 years of manufacturing experience.  Almost every part of it has been simplified and unnecessary refinements removed.

Note the complete absence of the coin runways of the original, made possible by moving the coin entry to the side, and removing the reject feature.  This has also allowed a standard Allwin-type payout assembly to be used.

The anti-jamming springs have also been removed from the operating crank.  See below

The horizontal ball runway seen at the top is actually a holder for spare balls.

(mechanism photo courtesy J.Darvill)

The use of the standard Allwin payout mechanism enabled the payout slides to be easily changed, and 1960 machines contained instructions and award cards for no less than 9 different payout schemes.  5 of these schemes can be used with the 1934 Payramid.  Read the 1960 Payramid Instruction Sheet
Close-up details of mechanism

The payout slide can be seen to the left of the brass-coloured casting in the centre of the photo.  Winning balls drop into this casting and are pushed to the left by the mechanism, taking the payout slide with it.  After the ball falls through, the slide is returned by means of the pull-rod underneath. This photo shows the back of the crank handle which is turned by the player to operate the machine.  The mechanism is coupled to the crank by the pair of hefty tension springs shown.  In the event of a ball or coin jam, these springs decouple the mechanism from the crank, until the jam clears.  The simple mechanism fixed to the brass-coloured casting operates the jackpot door.
A typical 'Bryans' touch is this ingenious device to prevent balls from accidentally tripping the payout in the event of a 'lucky bounce' from the stack.  Allwins by other manufacturers that used a ball-stacking technique did not incorporate such a refinement, as it was not considered to be a problem worth solving.  On the rare occasions that a ball accidentally bounced into the 'Win' hole prematurely, the player would simply regard it as a lucky fluke.  But Bryan wasn't having any of that!  On the face of it, it would seem to be extremely difficult to prevent balls from falling into the hole when they are not supposed to, but Bryan came up with the absurdly simple solution shown here.

A small 'L' shaped toggle (which can be seen above the balls) is freely pivoted just underneath the winning hole in the playfield.  This protrudes slightly into the hole, and prevents balls from entering.  The toggle simply pivots out of the way to allow balls to pass down onto the stack.  However, when the stack is full, the top ball comes to rest against the toggle, and holds it in the depressed position.  In this position, the toggle no longer obstructs the hole, and all subsequent balls will land on the top ball in the stack, and roll into the hole.  Brilliant!!

Back to Ball Catching Games

This web site is copyright (C) 1999-2017 Melvyn Wright
A note about values: These were included on the site because 80% of emails received by me are of the type "I have xyz machine - how much is it worth?". The values are based on the best information available at the time, but they are subject to large fluctuations due to the condition of the machine, the case style, and the demand for it at the time of sale. There is no guarantee that your particular machine is worth the amount shown on this site. All values are in GBP (£).