Vibroplex & Lionel Semi-Automatic CW Key Adjustment

Vibroplex & Lionel Semi-Automatic CW Key Adjustment

I was at the Dayton Hamvention 2 years ago and picked up this Vibroplex CW Key Adjustment information from one of the booths. It's a copy of the same information, which appeared in a QST Magazine Article.

In the early days a poor telegrapher was called a "bug". and some operators bought a key from Vibroplex and other company's and starting using them without practice. The result was poor sending, and the keys themselves became know as "bugs". The Vibroplex Company registered the word "bug" as a trademark for its semi-automatic keys in the early 1920's, which continues to this day.

Early Telegraph Keys used to send messages caused severe strain on the telegrapher's wrist --- a condition now known as carpal tunnel syndrome or glass arm in the early days of the telegraph. In 1902, Inventor Horace G. Martin patented the first in a line of devices which solved this problem: the Martin Autoplex, an electro-mechanical sending device which required batteries.

Two years later, Martin went into business with a group of entrepreneurs, forming the United Electical Manufacturing company. It was also in 1904 that Martin filed his second patent for a new sending device which used a weighted, vibrating arm and did not require the use of a magnetic coil or batteries. This device was the bases for the first Vibroplex.

In 1908, the association between Martin and U.E.M. ended, when it went out of business. However J.E. Albright, who began a business catering to the telegraph industry in 1890, began marketing the Vibroplex for Martin. On March 12, 1915, Albright filed a certificate of incorporation in New York for the Vibroplex Company, Inc. Within a short years, Vibroplex came to represent the best of the telegraphic, and later amateur radio, industry.

A bit about the Lionel Company Semi Automatic CW Key - History

During World War Two, the Lionel Electric Train Company made thousands of copies of the #6 Lightning Bug for the U.S. Army Signal Corps. Because of materials shortages, Lionel had suspended production of electric trains and was making small electromechanical devices for the war effort. Little is known about the relationship between Vibroplex and Lionel, but it's very likely that Vibroplex loaned Lionel the necessary tooling or at least allowed Lionel to copy it.

Lionel's bugs were designated the J-36, which was the designation the Signal Corps gave any bug. "J-36" was simply the Signal Corps number for a bug, and Lionel was neither the first nor the only manufacturer of the J-36. Vibroplex made J-36s, which were simply #6 Lightning Bugs with a Signal Corps nameplate. JHB made several types of J-36, including a #6 Lightning Bug clone and a version of their #1 Original style bug. Brooklyn Metal Stamping had made the J-36 in the Thirties. The BMS bugs have several novel features.

Lionel J-36 The Lionel J-36 can be identified by its nameplate, its distinctive rounded dot paddle, and slightly different knurling on the screws. Otherwise itís a #6 Lightning Bug, and parts are interchangable between the two. The nameplate is the most prominent feature of the Lionel J-36. Long and narrow, it was placed along the left edge near the paddle and fastened to the base by five pins.

The Lionel nameplate was made out of a celluloid-type plastic, and the vast majority of Lionel J-36 bugs lack a nameplate. For one thing, many servicemen took their bugs with them when they were discharged, and removed the nameplates at the same time. The Lionel nameplates that were left have generally shrunk badly and many have come loose and fallen off. If you own a Lionel with a nameplate, DO NOT leave it in the sun, get it hot, or get it wet.

Enjoy the information and we hope to hear you on the air with your Key.

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