May I add a correction: the standard "flameproof" i.e. xxx26003A type
keys were not signal light keys, except for the one variant which can
be distinguished from the others by the engraved knob skirt: "Do not
press for more than 2 minutes" (I don't have that key in front of me
as I'm at work now, but this is the gist if I'm not quoting it
correctly) and these keys have a very stiff and hard spring, so
sending speed is forced to be very low.
The key used on ships is the xxx26012B type. It resembles the J-37 in
shape but the base is closed and there is a receptacle on its left
side, (viewing it from the front) which accommodates the standard
wedge plug of the "bring your own" bugs.
The standard 26003A keys were used in Navy aircraft - I can post
photos of aircraft radio operators' positions with the key showing,
and also scans of various Navy aircraft radio equipment manuals call
out for this key type.
Some Canadian bombers which were equipped with Bendix radio equipment
which didn't use the standard military nomenclature, also used the
"flameproof" key, which , in this system were issued and documented
with a Bendix type number of MT-11B.
Here is a link to a radio operator/bombardier/navigator position photo
from a WW2 Mosquito bomber's manual:
- note the MT-11B key.
73 de Meir WF2U
Quoting David Ring <n1ea@...
> Here is my recommendation - get a WW2 Vibroplex Lightning Bug (or
> Original). It is unique as it has jeweled movement in the trunnion, but it
> has a painted (battle ship gray) base and red finger pieces. It looks very
> Bugs were seldom provided to ships because they were not suitable for every
> operator - the Navy and others required a "Speed Key Certificate". Many
> operators bought their own keys - T.R. McElroy often visited ships with a
> trunk load of keys that he sold to the radiomen. He was an enterprising
> The red finger pieces would bring attention to the key!
> A XXX26003A key would NOT be correct as these were signal light keys - not
> issued to the radiomen. The J-37 would be more correct and there is a
> variation I think it's the J-45 that was used on ships - as I remember it
> had some sort of base. The armed forces preferred the permanent leaf spring
> rather than the coil spring because men's lives could depend on having that
> spring not get lost. Coil springs can go airborne which isn't good in time
> of emergency.
> If you want to stick with the more generic J-36 (which was the name given to
> ANY speed key), I'd go for the Bunnell J-36 as it is really elegant or the
> Vibroplex J-36, and I think
> W1TP has a file of a Lionel decal. You'll probably need one if you get a
> Lionel bug. Print it out and use "matte spray" from a photo shop or craft
> store to give a very hard durable surface on it that is dull. Well worth
> the price of the can of matte spray. You'll be amazed at how many uses it
> will have once you get it.
> W1TP has a picture of one key that I think is the same one that I've seen on
> WW2 USN ships - http://www.w1tp.com/8370.gif This configuration is called
> the J-44.
> On Wed, Dec 3, 2008 at 1:10 PM, Richard Meiss <wb9lpu@...> wrote:
>> Hi, Dave R. and all -
>> I would like to tap into your expertise regarding maritime history. A
>> group in Indianapolis is in the process of constructing a "period-authentic"
>> reconstruction of the radio room of the USS Indianapolis. This will be a
>> working station that will be housed in the Indianapolis War Memorial
>> building. I have been asked for recommendations (and donation or loan) of
>> keys for the station. My question is this: were the J-36 bugs used in
>> shipboard service? I have one of these available, along with some
>> Vibroplexes of the period, but I would like to know what bug would be
>> historically appropriate. I also have some XXX26003A straight keys from
>> that period, as well as a J-37 and similar, with Navy markings.
>> As I understand it, the station will not attempt to exactly duplicate
>> the USS Indianapolis setup physically, but it will be made entirely of
>> authentic equipment that would likely have been in use on board such a
>> ship. So any advice along these lines would be welcome.
>> TNX es 73 de Rich, WB9LPU