National Pinball Museum Reopens in Baltimore

Players filled the Pinhead Gallery at the National Pinball Museum in Baltimore. National Pinball Museum founder David Silverman greets visitors on opening day.

The National Pinball Museum reopened in Baltimore. Click photo to enlarge.

Hundreds of visitors played pinball on opening day at the National Building Museum's new location in Baltimore. The new location offers a little more space to play pinball and a little less space for historical displays. The crowd was very enthusiastic, with many people staying all day.

The Old Chocolate Factory Building

Last September, the museum's lease was terminated early by the Georgetown Mall in Washington, DC. Museum founder David Silverman coordinated the move to 608 Water Street in Baltimore, which was formerly a chocolate factory (among many other things). After five months of planning, permitting, building, cleaning, and setting up, the museum was ready to reopen on January 14.

The Baltimore location provides two floors open to the public. The ground level includes a gift shop and three rooms of museum displays. At Georgetown, the museum had five rooms that presented the history of pinball by immersing visitors in historic settings: a French chateau, a ship, a factory, a tavern, and game designer's studio. These five rooms have been condensed into one at Baltimore. Similarly, the Golden Age of Pinball room, which features games from the 1940s and 1950s, has been condensed to about one third its size in Georgetown.

The Pay for Play room, which was cramped and overheated in Georgetown, has been expanded to fill the second floor of the Chocolate Factory building. Players can move among the games more easily and the temperature remained comfortable throughout opening day.

Players also preferred the new admission prices. Instead of separate charges for admission and game play, the museum now offers timed admissions of two hours, four hours, or a full day. Visitors can play as many games as they want until their time expires.

The Smoking Nine Sisters

When I arrived at noon, the Grand Opening celebration was in full swing. The gift shop was packed with people munching on free pizza provided by Joe Squared, a restaurant around the corner. I was told that I just missed the Smoking Nine Sisters. I hadn't expected a band.

I was one of three volunteers that day to help maintain the games. I soon learned that smoke had billowed out of the Williams Nine Sisters game on the second floor. When someone pulled the plug, the smoke stopped. A quick inspection revealed charred coils in the million-point score reel and relay. The wood above the score reel was blackened by the smoke. This game would need more than a quick adjustment.

Some other games had typical start-up problems after their move to Baltimore and months without play. For example, one game had been setup without any pinballs. Another game played well, but didn't respond the Secoa card reader system. Most of those problems were easily resolved.

Unfortunately, a few games that had been frequent troublemakers in Georgetown remained problems in Baltimore. The museum will have to switch them with other games in storage—a task made time consuming because the card readers must be moved to the new games.

Toward the end of the day, I discovered that Bally Fireball had simply worn out. On the first player one's score reel frame, the spring hook broke off from years of wear. When the hook broke, the springs fell off and the reel would not advance. We will have to replace the entire score reel unit or reconstruct the spring hook.

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