(Topic ID: 238867)

Cleaning up an old River Boat


By Pablito350

1 year ago



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  • 21 posts
  • 6 Pinsiders participating
  • Latest reply 1 year ago by Pablito350
  • Topic is favorited by 4 Pinsiders

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#1 1 year ago

So a few months ago I told my wife Chrissi that I'd like to get our first EM game to play with. I was looking for a project to basically learn on as all of other pins are SS. So we set out on our search, and up came an ad for this River Boat.

The owner's family had it since it was new. It lived in their basement next to a shuffle alley he was also selling. Over the last 50+ years many family and friends enjoyed about 28,000 plays on it. As we all know life gets in the way, and time, and disrepair delegated this machine to set in the corner of his garage collecting dust for at least a decade... maybe even more.

Upon initial inspection it looked complete, but had lots of issues rendering it unplayable... a perfect project!

Here it is the day I got it home. I just took a rag and wiped a thick layer of dust off it to get a closer look.
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The backglass looked OK, but I can see paint starting to flake off on the ladies' faces. It will need to be addressed.
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The cabinet was in excellent shape! It was just filthy, and had a couple of spots the owners touched up.
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And here's a few more from that 1st day.
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It looks pretty good actually. Not a whole lot of wear.

#2 1 year ago

Some close ups of what we started with..
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I wonder if this is who sold the machine to them way back when..
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Someday I'm going to beat this score!!
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The coin door, and front of the cab took a beating, but it looks like it'll clean up nicely.
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After spending a bit of time assessing where to start, and how far we want to go with this I decided to keep it as original as possible, and not add any paint to touch things up. Except for the front of the cabinet around the coin door. That hopefully will be the only place I'll touch up, and add paint.

#3 1 year ago

One of the first things I did was see exactly what I was dealing with on the playfield. I wanted to see it's potential so I used some magic eraser and alcohol just to see what was under all that dirt.

Here you can see the difference between the right and left hand side after a few minutes of cleaning.
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Then hit it with a bit of compound..
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It's actually shiny!

Let's see about that nasty apron.
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Yep.. it'll clean up too!

Then I removed the apron to see what nastiness lurked underneath.
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Well... now I can see why the left flipper didn't work. Looks like it was shorted somewhere.
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#4 1 year ago

I then removed most everything on the top of the playfield and got to work. Why I started with the playfield I don't know. I just couldn't bear seeing it that filthy. I figured after it was all cleaned up I'd start troubleshooting, and get it playing.

It cant be that hard... right?

Many hours, and lots of elbow grease later, and we're showing some progress!
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After I got it as clean as I could, and removed all the residue left by the cleaning I hit it with some compound, and was rewarded with this.
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It looked so nice from this angle I had to take another beauty shot.
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I couldn't believe how much of the original paint I was able to save, and actually make it look respectable.
Now I was getting excited!

#5 1 year ago

I just couldn't believe how nice it was looking.
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I cleaned, polished, and flattened up all of the plastics with a heat gun.
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Then started to put things back together again.
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I was experimenting with different bulbs, and settled on the warm white retros under the plastics to keep them from warping again.

#6 1 year ago

I decided to touch up the front of the cabinet, and tackle than nasty coin door.
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After disassembly I let everything soak in evaporust for a day and got to work sanding out all of the deep scratches. I initially wanted a high polish on the door, but the factory spot welds along the bottom edge were just too deep. I decided to just smoothen and regrain the stainless instead.
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While the coin door and parts were soaking I removed everything from the front of the cabinet to see what to do. It wasn't as bad as I initially thought, but bad enough to me to warrant a repaint. I lightly sanded, and filled a few deep imperfections while leaving the minor ones in place. Then simply tinted some white paint to match the sides and put down a few coats followed up by a few coats of satin clear.
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Here I cleaned and buffed out the sides to remove the yellowing while keeping the original stenciling intact.
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#7 1 year ago

While everything was drying I polished everything before reinstalling.

Add in a new set of legs and here she is!
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If you look closely you can still see the original number stampings in the wood at the top LH corner, and the serial number in the bottom RH corner while still seeing some of the battle scars everywhere else.

#8 1 year ago

At this point I had to tackle a problem I had with the head. The bottom had started to split along the bolt heads, and the whole thing wobbled. The more it wobbled the worse it cracked (or vice versa) so I had to address it. Unfortunately I didn't take any pics of it because well.... I'm an idiot.

I had to decide to repair or replace the whole bottom plate of the head. The crack was pretty long, and both gussets used to strengthen it started to crack as well. It was almost as if the front of the head was the only part solidly attached. What to do?

Here's a pic from day one, and if you look closely you can see the crack in the bottom RH corner.
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After taking a day or two to think about it I decided to repair what was there instead of replacing them. What I did was get a hypodermic needle with a pretty wide tip big enough to inject wood glue through. I spread apart all the ccracks while injecting as much glue as I could into them. Once it was all glued I aligned everything and clamped the hell out of it. While clamped with everything in the right place I shot about a dozen 2" brads through the bottom into the good wood above it.

Then I let it sit for a couple of days and hoped for the best.

#9 1 year ago

A couple of days later I removed all the clamps and was rewarded with a tight, solid repair.

Now it was time to reassemble the head, put it back on and connect everything, and start to finally make it all work.
Having never worked on an EM before I watched as many videos, and read as much as I could to familiarize myself with how it all works. That combined with just inspecting every wire, every switch, and every coil/relay I found a few things wrong.

First was the large bell coil. While it looked on the outside it was shorted out and the plunger was binding. I took the playfield out for better access (and cleaning inside the cabinet).
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This lock relay worked, but the plastic bobbin was cracked so it had to go.
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At some point a 1pt switch on the pf must've stuck closed, and burned up the coil so it too had to go.
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A few weak/broken solder joints were resoldered.
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The fabric insulation on the LH flipper coil must've worn through causing the short so it was replaced.
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And that was basically it. Everything else looked pretty good. I didn't even clean or adjust any of the switches at this point because I was afraid I'd only make it worse. If it worked before like this it'd work again like this.
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#10 1 year ago

I also decided to clean all of the score reels, and lube the contacts, and gear pin with a thin film of super lube. The plastic follower and gear were just scrubbed with a soapy old toothbrush and reinstalled. This got all four reels moving smoothy with a lot less effort than before. Did the same for the stepper unit as well.
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I used this diagram to help verify that the score reel switches were set correctly.
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So now it was time to fire it up and see what happens!

*** At this point I realized just how much of an idiot I really was in thinking "How hard could it be?" ***

After 6 hour marathon on my day off of removing the score reels to adjust the switches multiple times, cleaning every pin on every jones plug, and manually activating various relays over and over again I made some progress. I finally got all the reels to reset properly! I then tested each switch on the pf to see if it recorded the score properly, and again, after many adjustments it all fell into place.

It
All
Works!!!!

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Chrissi came home from work just as i was putting the finishing touches, and tightening the final screw for the day and was amazed to see it all put together and working. We spent an hour or two getting a feel for the game and making a few tweaks to the new leg levelers to make it right. We have a long way to go to beat that score scribbled onto the side of the head, but I'm ecstatic it turned out as nice as it did.

Steve at PBR was awesome in helping me along, and supplying me with the parts I needed. There's still an order being sent that'll enable me to rebuild the flippers, and change out the two purple bumper caps I erroneously ordered because I'm an idiot.

There'll be a few more things to work on to make it complete. I still have to tackle the backglass with my airbrush to fix the flaking. I want to make up new score cards, and still am not sure if I like the lighting or not. The LED's look a lot whiter and brighter in these pics than they do to the naked eye so we'll see.

For the mean time we're just going to play it and chase that 6483 score!

#11 1 year ago

Nice work! I've got a Heat Wave, playfield layout has some similarities.

#12 1 year ago
Quoted from dr_nybble:

Nice work! I've got a Heat Wave, playfield layout has some similarities.

Thanks! I've never played Heat wave but it does have some similarities.

Hell.... I've barely played River Boat either! From what I have played (about 30-40 games so far) I can see why people like it.

-Paul

#13 1 year ago

Great job! It looks great, especially when compared to how it looked at first. Welcome to EMs!

#14 1 year ago
Quoted from wolverinetuner:

Great job! It looks great, especially when compared to how it looked at first. Welcome to EMs!

Thank you sir.
We've already got our peepers peeled for a Grand Prix. I'll just wait a bit until I'm ready again for all those score reels it has.

#15 1 year ago
Quoted from Pablito350:

We've already got our peepers peeled for a Grand Prix.

Great choice. Mine is probably bolted to the floor.

#16 1 year ago

thats a nice riverboat. i prefer this game much over the highly touted heatwave for a williams game. i need to ask , when you said regrain the stainless steel what method/process do you do that by?

#17 1 year ago
Quoted from singlezero:

thats a nice riverboat. i prefer this game much over the highly touted heatwave for a williams game. i need to ask , when you said regrain the stainless steel what method/process do you do that by?

Hey Thanks!

Regraining is kind of misleading as the "grain" in the metal is similar to grain in a piece of wood. It's always there. The lines you see in a piece of stainless comes from how the metal is drawn at the mill. It's always in one direction, and all the lines are parallel to each other.

In the case with my coin door it was so deeply scratched that it required some heavy sanding. Most of the sanding I did was with a DA with varying grits from 60 to 600. I used the DA just to save time.

In the beginning of my sanding the scratches left by the lower grit discs stood out more to the eye than the "grain" of the metal. All I saw were little circles left by the DA. Once I got passed 600 grit I stopped using the DA and used a block, sanding in straight lines parallel to the grain.

It's the unidirectional sanding that "brings out the grain". The grain is always there, but sanding scratches that don't run parallel to it, hide it. All you'll notice are those sanding scratches that don't run parallel, and it'll look like ass.

Hope I answered that OK.

-Paul

#18 1 year ago

Great job! I'm working on a wing ding williams from1964
and it has what looks like a lot of similar mechanics. Thx
for posting. This has been helpful in me making progress
on my game.

#19 1 year ago
Quoted from lowbeau67:

Great job! I'm working on a wing ding williams from1964
and it has what looks like a lot of similar mechanics. Thx
for posting. This has been helpful in me making progress
on my game.

Thank you sir!

I'm sure there are lots of similarities between Wing Ding and River Boat as they were probably made at the same time from the same parts. I'm really like these Williams reverse wedge-heads.

Good luck with your's. If there's anything I can help you with let me know.

-Paul

1 week later
#20 1 year ago

Nice to see an old game back on the road. See more and more game restores on here for newer ss era games but not as many em ones. Just as you have found the em's may not be super flashy and covered with bash toys and fancy video screens but after a good clean and tune up can be just as fun and sometimes harder.
Grand Prix is a good game. If you get a project one you may hate yourself for getting it been told by many the 4 player Williams games can be a real head banger sometimes but seems you ready for that next em project so i wish you luck.

#21 1 year ago
Quoted from cp1610:

Nice to see an old game back on the road. See more and more game restores on here for newer ss era games but not as many em ones. Just as you have found the em's may not be super flashy and covered with bash toys and fancy video screens but after a good clean and tune up can be just as fun and sometimes harder.
Grand Prix is a good game. If you get a project one you may hate yourself for getting it been told by many the 4 player Williams games can be a real head banger sometimes but seems you ready for that next em project so i wish you luck.

Thanks! I wouldn't call what I did to this machine a restoration, but more like a thorough cleanup, and tune.
I think that River Boat was an excellent EM to learn on as it's very basic in it's mechanics. What surprised us was what an absolute blast it is to play. We really enjoy playing it more than we initially thought we would.

Now that this game is done I'm working on a Monster Gun EM shooter. I think that these will be a good primer for me for when we get a project Grand Prix. I too have heard that it can be quite challenging to work on as it's so densely packed with it's mechanics.

-Paul

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