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B.M.Co. AUTOMATIC PAYOUT ALLWINS

The British Manufacturing Company (B.M.Co.) was a major manufacturer of Allwins during the 1930s.  Unfortunately, the company did not survive after the War, but they made a huge range of machines.  It is said that they were also responsible for the introduction of the multi-cup format and the plastic backflash.  A lot of their machines were only made in very limited quantities, and in some cases very few, if any, examples have survived.

B.M.Co. machines can be recognised by their outrageously large and decorative topflashes (see below).  In many cases, however, these topflashes have not survived, although evidence of their fixing may remain.  Other distinguishing marks are the trigger fittings and the stylish 'Sunray' corner spandrels on some of their machines.

         
Distinguishing features include the large topflash, 'Sunray' corner spandrels, and the curved trigger with crescent stop plate

Here are some examples of B.M.Co.'s conventional Allwins without the automatic payout mechanism

 

 
Photo courtesy of Alan Leyland

 
Photo courtesy of Dave Geeson

 


Photo courtesy of Dave Geeson


Photo courtesy of Dave Geeson


Photo courtesy of Dave Geeson

B.M.Co. machines were very well made and sturdily constructed, and have a marvellous solid feel to them when played.  The trigger produces a good hefty 'thud' as it hits the ball, which flies around the track with a low-pitched rumble, as opposed to the 'tinny' clatters and rattles normally associated with Allwins.  This is because the track is not made from flat thin strip, but is 1/8" thick and grooved to suit the ball.  This guides the ball properly and prevents it from rattling against the glass or the backflash.  Some other Allwins also have a grooved track, but the B.M.Co. track is the thickest I have seen and this is what gives these machines their solid characteristic sound.

Hint for collectors: Place a piece of doubled-up insulated wire down the centre of the trigger spring.  This damps any sound vibrations from the spring, and gives the machine a much more solid feel.  Try it!  

(Right) The solid 1/8" thick B.M.Co. track is far thicker than was required to do the job and is partly responsible for the quality feel of these machines 

B.M.Co. made at least six different Allwins with the automatic payout mechanism, which was invented by Henry Esdaile in 1934, who presumably worked for the company.  Like the machines themselves, the mechanism was beautifully designed and over-engineered, seemingly without any consideration for the costs involved. High quality roller bearings were used, pivot points and bearing locations were screw-adjustable, and miniature brass retaining collars were used  rather than split pins or circlips.  As far as I know, all of these machines were also available with the normal manual payout, which would have been much cheaper to produce, and probably more reliable as well. Although the automatic payout versions were much more expensive, and wouldn't really offer much of an advantage to operators, they are a collector's delight. The build quality is superb, the mechanism ingenious, and the instant payout always impresses, often delivering a coin before the player even realises he's won! They are much rarer of course. Expect to pay around twice the price of a manual version for an automatic version in perfect working order.  

 

How to tell the difference between the manual and automatic machines?  Simple - The automatic machine has no payout knob!
Apart from that, they are identical on the outside

The six different machines advertised by B.M.Co were: Little Mickey, Playball, The Flyer, Lucky Star, Cresta Run, and Lucky Circle; but others are known to exist.  The machines were advertised simply as: 'Coin Repeat Wall Machines'.  The most common of the six were the Playball and Little Mickey, with the rarest being The Cresta Run and Lucky Circle.  The six machines were of course identical, apart from the different playfields and topflashes  In the event of a winning shot, the machines automatically paid out a single coin and returned the ball for a replay.

Click Here to see the original B.M.Co advertising flyer

How Do They Work?

The photo shows the relatively simple mechanism of these machines.  The large brass ratchet wheel carries a coin carousel, very similar to the carousel in a slide projector (remember them?).  Each compartment in the carousel holds a single coin, and there are 22 compartments altogether.  In the photo on the right, the coin carousel is partially hidden behind the'Y'-shaped housing, but it can be seen clearly in one of the photos below.  The large brass weight seen on the opposite side of the gear wheel counterbalances the weight of the carousel and coins, and also gives the wheel a clockwise turning force.

When a coin is inserted into the machine, it slides down the curved chute and enters one of the coin compartments.  The large horizontal coin lever seen at the top of the mechanism has a tail piece that rides up and down in a slot in the coin chute, and is depressed by the coin on its journey to the carousel.  However, the pivot of this coin lever is not in the exact centre of curvature of the coin chute, so as it nears the bottom of the chute it becomes disengaged from the coin and returns to the horizontal position, allowing the coin to pass through to the compartment.  Meanwhile, the other end of the coin lever raises a pawl which engages in a tooth of the large brass wheel and rotates it anti-clockwise by one compartment.  Therefore, as each coin is inserted, an empty compartment is automatically moved into position underneath the coin chute to accept it (see video).  When all the compartments are full, the coin overflow ramp moves into position to divert any extra coins into the cash box.  The brass wheel is prevented from rotating backward by a detent which can be seen near the end of the coin chute.

As the coin lever is depressed, it also operates the ball release lever, which can be seen just below it, at 45 degrees.  This works like any other Allwin, and releases the ball for play.

See video of the coins loading into the carousel

This photo shows the mechanism with the brass gear and coin carousel removed to show the various levers behind.  The pawl that advances the brass wheel, as already described, can be seen on the right, and the detent which holds the wheel in position can also be seen.

When a losing shot is fired, the ball returns to its previous position, where it is held by the ball release lever.  Another coin has to be inserted to replay.

When a winning shot is fired, it travels down the ball chute which can be seen in the centre of this photo, and operates the payout lever, which projects into the chute.  This lever disengages the detent from the large brass wheel and allows it to rotate clockwise one tooth only.  At the same time, the horizontal pawl release lever seen in this photo moves to the right and disengages the pawl from the wheel.  Thus the carousel moves backwards and brings the last inserted coin into position above the payout chute.  The coin drops down the chute and into the payout cup.  At the same time, the ball continues on its journey and re-emerges back onto the playfield to be replayed.

See video of the payout

 It is worth noting that the player wins his own coins back. So if he puts dud coins in, he gets dud coins out again!  The mechanism also includes a safeguard to prevent payouts in the event of a coin jam.  If the coin lever and ball release lever remain depressed by a coin, the ball will be continually recycled without the player having to put any money in.  In this condition the pawl release lever acts in a cutout and does not disengage the pawl from the gear wheel, thereby locking it and preventing payouts.  The wheel carries a removable brass pin which can be placed in one of two positions to determine the maximum angle through which the wheel can rotate.  One position allows maximum payout, whilst the other position allows no payouts, as would be used in an 'amusement only' location.

 
Photo showing the carousel in an empty state.  As coins are inserted, the carousel rotates anti-clockwise into the housing.  When full, the coin overflow ramp moves into position underneath the coin chute and all further coins are directed into the cash box.  The missing tooth  is to prevent over-rotation of the wheel. Close-up of the detent which prevents the coin wheel from moving backwards, until rotated by the payout lever.  The double teeth act as an escapement to allow only one tooth to pass at a time.  Note the missing tooth on the wheel, which comes into position when the carousel is full. This shows the inside of the 'Y'-shaped housing.  The channel down the centre is the payout chute.  The curved channel segment on the right sits over the coins in the carousel. When the carousel is rotated sufficiently, the top coin will drop into the payout chute.

The ball release lever is fitted with a rotating roller where it rubs against the coin lever.  Another sign of a quality machine, as are the brass retaining collars. The coin lever pivots in an adjustable screw cup bearing which allows very precise adjustment.  The counterweight in the foreground returns the arm to the horizontal position. An empty coin compartment waiting at the end of the coin chute.

The tail at the end of the coin lever is slotted and must be adjusted so that it disengages from the coin at the bottom of the chute. The large brass wheel is journalled in two high quality roller bearings to reduce friction and take the weight of the heavy carousel and coins, plus the counterweight. The odd Slipper-shaped coin box gives clearance for the large gear wheel.  It can be secured to the floor of the machine by a padlock.  A sliding door at the back of the box allows the coins to be emptied.  These boxes are often missing.

When the mechanism is set up properly it works well and reliably, but this depends on a number of careful adjustments and fine balances.  The counterweights on the coin lever and gear wheel, the length of the coin lever, and the position of the detent are all important for correct operation.  If you are thinking of buying one of these machines, make sure that all the parts are there and undamaged, particularly the carousel assembly. It is quite common for the brass gear to have teeth missing and for the carousel to be broken.  I am told that successful repairs to these components are virtually impossible (I've never tried it), so make sure you see the machine working before parting with your cash.

Adjustments:
The tail on the end of the coin lever should be adjusted so that it just clears the coin at the bottom of the coin chute.  The pivot screw should be adjusted so that the arm moves freely without undue play.
The counterweight on the end of the coin lever should be sufficient to raise the lever promptly after the coin has passed, but not so heavy that it impedes the coin.  This can be adjusted by adding or removing washers from the screw in the counterweight.
The counterweight on the brass wheel can be adjusted by adding or subtracting extra weights behind the wheel.  These can take the form of large washers, or old pennies with holes drilled through the centre!  The gear should be weighted so that it always tends to rotate clockwise, even when full of coins.  But if the weight is too heavy, the inserted coin will not be able to rotate the gear and will stall in the coin chute.  It is important to check this adjustment when the carousel is in the empty position, and also when it is in the full position and full of coins.
Check that inserted coins fall cleanly into a coin compartment.  At this instant, the wheel is being held by the pawl, so this should be adjusted to bring the next compartment exactly into line with the coin chute.  The pawl can be adjusted by the slotted mounting holes, or by careful bending.  As a last resort, thin card can be placed behind the coin chute to bring it into exact alignment with the coin compartment.
The detent is mounted on an adjustable pivot.  This should be adjusted so that it allows the wheel to rotate by one tooth only when the payout lever is operated.  by hand.

Patent Drawings

     

The Original Patent drawings for the Coin Payout machine (left) and the Prize Vending machine (right)

 
Here are some photographs of collectors' machines
Many thanks for the people who have kindly sent me photographs of these machines.  If you have any additional photographs or information that I could use on this page, especially of machines not shown, please email them to me.

Little Micky from my own collection.  A standard multi-cup playfield game (anybody know who Little Mickey was?!)

Cresta Run from my own collection.  This version has 12 individual cups rather than the 2-cup version shown in the advertising flyer.  This is one of my favourite games. The ball doesn't bounce down the left or right galleries, as you might expect; but bounces to and fro across the galleries, and even defies gravity by bouncing from the bottom of one gallery to the top of the other!  Couple this with the automatic payout mechanism and the game is a true delight.  This ex-Carters machine can be seen on page 54 of Paul Braithwaite's book.

Cresta Run (unrestored) .  This is the 2-cup version as shown in the advertising flyer.  Winning balls travel down the two runways into the cups.  Compare this with the 12-cup version above.  I don't know which version came first, although I suspect this one did. Photos courtesy of Cliff Prince

The Playball (unrestored)
. Photo courtesy of Cliff Prince

The Airplane.  A beautiful machine this, with its miniature aeroplane cups, propellor symbol, Sunray spandrels and topflash.  There's no wasted space on that playfield!  The Airplane seems to have been a more common name for this machine than The Flyer.  Photo courtesy of Cliff Prince

Another Airplane, this one has a large topflash which is probably not original, although it is in the B.M.Co. style.  This machine is also unusual in that it has a separate cash box compartment at the bottom. Photos courtesy of Gary Wood

An amazing restoration of a Playball by a collector in America, who contacted me to identify the machine and to ask if it was worth restoring!
(Actually, he didn't show me the left-hand photo at the time, or I would probably have said 'No'!). Photos courtesy of John Lewis

The Ideal, which is not shown in the advertising flyer, but seems to be the same as Little Mickey. Photo courtesy of Cliff Prince

The Lucky Circle

Two large 24-Cup Allwins. These are not shown in the advertising flyer.
 These had a separate cash box compartment at the bottom.  Right-hand photo courtesy of Kevin Gowland

Prize Vending Machine

There was also a prize vending version of the mechanism.  Here, a winning ball would deliver a prize rather than a coin.  While this might sound like a more complicated task, the mechanism was in fact much simpler.  As the carousel is loaded manually with the prizes, there is no need for the complicated coin feeding mechanism; and the carousel only needs to be driven in one direction.  All coins go straight into the cash box, after having tripped the ball release.  As the coin is pressed into the slot it lifts a weight which supplies power to turn the carousel, should it be released by a winning ball, in the same manner as described above.  
Lucky Star  The prize vending machines are larger and much rarer than the normal ones.  The photos show the large carousel, which is manually loaded with prizes.  The metal cover around the carousel has a gap at the bottom to allow a prize to drop out of the machine as it moves into position above the delivery chute seen inside the case.  Upon inserting a coin, the weighted coin lever at the top depresses a pawl, which clicks over the next ratchet tooth on the wheel.  The weight on the end of the coin lever tries to raise the pawl and turn the wheel, but it is locked by a detent on the payout lever.  The payout works in the same way as the normal machine already described.  A winning shot releases the detent, which allows the wheel to turn one tooth and deliver a prize.  No replay was given on prize vending machines, so you couldn't win multiple prizes with a single coin. Photos courtesy of John Peterson

 

Another prize vending machine.  Photo courtesy of Cliff Prince

 

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