PA3CLQ's Leuke Linken Nr. 500



Morse trivia

174 years ago tomorrow, May 24, 1844, is the day when...Morse telegraphs, "What hath God wrought?" from Washington to Baltimore.
73 es trivially yours, Mike ab3ap

I wonder what he used for a key...


Here's the key:

73, David Ring N1EA

The Vail Lever Correspondent Replica key (photo attached) is sold by Kent Keys/......

R. A. Kent Engineers in Tarleton, Preston, U.K. and Is based on the original key displayed in the Smithsonian Institute and Vail's own documentation.

Polished brass, steel and wood make this a real showpiece.
* Base: 53mm X 166mm / 2.1" X 6.53"
* Height: 76.5mm / 3"
* Weight: .5 Kg / 1.1 Lbs

73, de Cliff, KU4GW


Telegraphy in the News

Is there a web site or address where you can learn to hear the clicking type morse code? I can't imagine the crossover to that sound from knowing the regular CW copy would be easy. Has someone done it and tell what it is like to learn?

Thanks. Boyd KO4WK,


I have a software program that produces 'telegraph clicks'.

Let me know if you are interested, I will find it and give out more info.
Jeff KT0G

Hello, pse take a look at:

Download MorseKob from

Learn abt it

Gl, es 73, Jan Pieter Oelp PA3CLQ


The early telegraph systems relied on pen registers for receiving.

When operators began noticing that they could copy Morse by ear, the early companies initially considered such a practice unreliable.

However, operators quickly proved that sound copy was just as accurate and much faster!
Copying on a sounder is perfectly reliable.

The process is essentially the same as copying CW.
Of course, in North America, the original American Morse Code was used for commercial telegraphy, as opposed to the International Code, which hams are familiar with.
American Morse is also faster, a distinct advantage in an environment where time (and circuit capacity) is money!
73, James Wades (WB8SIW)


Dot and dash wise, there it not much difference...
The characters "C O R Y Z &" are the main difference.
It is getting used to the "click.clack" of a dit versus the "click....clack" of the dahs that takes a little getting used to.
I should have some recordings at home.
Will post of link if I find them this evening.
73 - Bill KA8VIT


Hi Bill:
Youre right in that the most difficult part is adjusting to the report of the sounder rather than tone.

However, your list of differences is a bit incomplete.

Primary differences between the codes are:
C F J L O P Q R X Y Z and the numerals 1 2 3 5 6 7 8 9 0.

The punctuation is different as well.
The original American Morse is said to be about 20 to 30 percent faster because the spaced characters consisting primarily of dots saves time.
I have used both codes extensively on Telegraph and radio circuits and can also attest that the American Morse is much less tiring to send on a bug.

I can send traffic all day in Morse whereas I get a bit clunky after eight hours of sending traffic with International.
A good CW operator can fairly easily transition to Morse on the sounder.

That is; assuming Code has become a natural language already. In such cases, its like adapting to a new dialect.

Here is a video with the sound of American Morse on a sounder:

The telegrapher hears the rhythm patterns associated with the two different reports when the armature strikes down and up.
73, James Wades (WB8SIW)







Hi Benny:
Of course, the MTC Charter emphasizes preserving the history and traditions of telegraphy and the telegraph industry.

Therefore, we do keep an emphasis on commercial telegraphy and American Morse, primarily as it was practiced in the US and Canada.

However....the World is not producing new commercial telegraphers....but ham radio is still producing CW operators.
We did recruit three expert CW traffic operators to assist with telegraph demonstrations.

With the major revitalization of the traffic networks taking place under the auspices of Radio Relay International, there has been a renewed interest in traffic handling and a fairly vigorous dialogue about improving the quality and performance of nets.

The results are already impressive.

Our plan is to use the RRI traffic system as an outlet for originating telegrams from Morse Telegraph demos.

For example, I occasionally demonstrate telegraphy at steam train excursions and railroad museums.

Back "in the day" we could set up a current loop between two distant points and people could send complimentary telegrams on-site simply to see how things worked.

It wasn't a problem to find a decent operator to transmit the traffic and either myself or someone else to handle the receive side of the circuit and pound out the telegrams at a fast clip on the old mill.
It's now at the point where we can find maybe one qualified operator for an event.

As such, our plan is to equip a few competent CW traffic ops with telegraph equipment, which will allow us to establish a virtual Morse circuit to a remote location.

The traffic op will then be a gateway for message origination. In other words; the visitor originates a telegram, it goes out via land-line telegraph (in International Code) and it arrives at the "gateway" volunteer, who takes the message and transfers it into the RRI traffic nets through which routing and delivery is accomplished.

We plan to have a special telegram blank available on the RRI Web Page for such events.
Here is a brief video example of how such a telegraph demo works:

In the brief video, you can see me sending Christmas telegrams (Santagrams) from the Saginaw, Michigan "Holidays in the Heart of the City Event."

You will note that three hams from the Saginaw Valley Amateur Radio Association are available who serve as message clerks.

They collect the telegrams from the public, much as a clerk used to do at the Western Union or Postal Telegraph office service desk.

The telegrams are then passed on to me where I assign a serial number and transmit them over the Morse wire to their destination.

It is not uncommon to transmit 150 to 200 telegrams in a few hours.
The public finds it fascinating.

Adults and children, regardless of race or background will often watch for quite some time, having never seen a REAL telegraph circuit in operation.

Once they see real, honest-to-goodness telegraphy, as opposed to some simplistic, child-like, insulting facsimile in a bad Hollywood western, they are generally impressed.
It should also be noted that our virtual Morse wire (Internet based), which simulates a real Morse circuit perfectly, does have participants from overseas, primarily in the Commonwealth Countries.

Overseas, commercial telegraphers used International Morse, so one will encounter a GPO operator now and then who would prefer to communicate in International Code.
All this is a long way of saying.....we want to perpetuate the use of American Morse and standard commercial telegraph practice, but we don't object to using International Code either.

It may be increasingly necessary as more and more of us who can operate American Morse are transferred to the "relay office in the sky."

A bunch of information can be found at:

Thanks, 73, JW refers to


I remember reading somewhere about railroad telegraphers who would stick a Prince Albert tobacco tin lodged against the sounder somehow in order to give a slight tone to the clicking sound making it easier to copy.

Also, I ran across this very interesting article by railroad telegrapher Jim Thompson in the OzarkWatch periodical Vol. VII, No. 2, Fall 1993 / Winter 1994 that I thought I'd share here in case some of you guys/gals would like to check it out.

He tells about some of the things the experienced operators would sometimes do to new operators as a joke.

He refers to the new ops as lids although my understanding of what a lid is has always meant a bad operator.

The URL is at:

73! Cliff, KU4GW


Hi Cliff:
Thanks for sharing that article! It's appreciated.
Interestingly, the topic of Valparaiso Technical Institute came up today on another list.

VTI was originally the "Dodge Institute of Telegraphy."

This reminded me that during the 2016 Alumni Reunion, I presented a talk entitled "Canst Thou Send Lightnings." I remembered that it was available on YouTube, so I thought I might share it here.

The video quality is fairly good, and some hams may find the content informative.

73, James Wades (WB8SIW)


The railroad telegraphers at the Hickory station would use the Prince Albert cans, as shown in the picture.

It would amplify the clicks of the American Morse considerably.

A couple of the old guys used the straight key, but the newer ones would stick the wedge plug into the key and use their bugs.



Rich K4DJ


Thanks a lot for sharing that old photo Rich!

I wonder if enough telegraph traffic went through that station to warrant the use of a bug key?

I'd say likely yes because I read a great book a few years ago titled The Victorian Internet by Tom Standish that makes a comparison between the telegraph of yesteryear and today's internet, one of the best books I've ever read!

Everybody used the telegraph back then, the banks used it with secret codes to do long distance banking transactions, businesses for their sales orders, they used it on Wall Street in the financial markets, etc.

I was amazed at all the things it was used for besides just railroad traffic.

You guys discussing all this old stuff just fascinates me.

I like to think that if I had lived back in the days of the old west I would have worked as a telegrapher at a Western Union telegraph station or the like, but know they would have probably called me a lid considering my Morse proficiency, but it is a nice thought plus it would probably have been a much safer place to work than most when some gunfighter or outlaw gang came through your town.

A bit off topic, but I'm also a huge fan of old TV westerns with Gunsmoke being my most favorite since it was on TV for 20 years so I have lots of episodes to choose from on re-runs.

They have every episode of the show ever made free to watch on YouTube.

You can look the show up on The Internet Movie Database at :

and see a description of every episode ever made and take the season number and episode number, for example, Season 3 Episode 7, and go back to YouTube and type Gunsmoke S3 E7 in the search box and find it.

Works great! Oh well, sorry for getting off topic on the TV westerns so back to the telegraph, I bought a Kindle e-book yesterday on Amazon for only $3.20 that's titled The Brasspounder by D.G. Sanders.

It's about his experiences as a railroad telegrapher from the time he was a boy in 1915 through pulling the plug in the 1930s and am anxious to read all about those 31 chapters of adventure!

The cover photo from the book The Brasspounders by D.G. Sanders.png:

Thanks again and 73! Cliff, KU4GW


The Victorian Internet by Tom Standish at:


Brass vs. Other Metals

I would have to agree and say that our brass keys are not just gussied up switches but harken back to the early days of telegraphy.

Brass is easy to work but that can be a liability.

Ive dropped parts on the shop floor and suffered dings and/or scratches that sent a part into the junk can only to force me to start over.

Not a problem for the home brewer but making commercial keys out of brass can be challenging when it comes to the final finishing process.

Having said that, I love the look of brass above all other metals.
By the way, I have a lot of leftovers if any of you would like to have a go at home brewing a key.

Shoot me an email off list.
72/73, Steve, W1SFR Morse Key maker 802.779.7489c (?)


[slowspeedwire] The Name "Lightning Bug"

Words, terms, phrases and expressions, and especially their origins, have always fascinated me.

And so today, when I ran across the phrase "Lightning Bug" used in an 1875 publication, my Tilt Light lit up.

The document in which it occurred was Operator magazine for April 1, 1875, page 10.

The actual sentence said, "The worst used man who has visited Thompson since the advent of the illustrious Griffin, is Tilley - Jas. P. Tilley - a journeyman lightning-bug, who recently honored our town with a stay of several weeks."

"Journeyman Lightning-Bug"... that phrase could only mean a cracker-jack telegraph operator.

What a wonderfully turned expression it is.

And so, when Mr. Vibroplex created and named his "Lightning Bug" key, he probably was not inventing a clever neologism, but rather using a term which had been used "in the trade" for well more than a quarter century.

The next job will be to see if any earlier examples of the term "Lightning Bug" can be found in the trade journals.

(Yes, I occasionally use a Lightning Bug, but the Vibroplex Originals are my favorites.)

See attachment pse

-- 73 SW & (abram burnett)


[slowspeedwire] Polarity on Straight Keys ?

Has anyone ever seen any industry (or company) standards on polarity to be observed in the hook-up of a straight key?

What bring the question to mind is that today I was looking at the contacts on a very well-used hand key, and the metal on the bottom contact seems to be more burned away than that of the top contact.

Yes, I understand that an arc drawn across a contact is pretty much irrespective of polarity, but there still has to be some directional flow of electrons involved, perhaps at the very instant of the break, before the arc is drawn.

-- 73 SW & (abram burnett)


Abe, most diagrams I've seen in contemporary texts show the frame of the key (large contact) connected to the battery and the lever arm is connected to the instruments.

 I doubt that this is the reason for what you're seeing.

I think what is happening is a mechanical phenomena.

A key is supposed to have a very slight play side to side and this would allow the typically smaller contact on the lever to move around slightly on the larger lower contact.

Of course, if the contacts are the same size, then that's probably not what's happening.

Also, I'm not sure exactly what the pattern or appearance of the damage looks like on the your key.
I have a few other thoughts, but they are so esoteric, I don't think that they have much merit.

Maybe someone replaced the upper contact or arm at some point.

73, Chip


Ever thought about high voltage arc? i.e. ligjtning, static, or high a high voltage wire.

Just a thought.


Well for land line telegraphy,

I don't think it makes any difference for safety's sake as depending on where you are in the circuit, both sides of the key can be well above ground potential.

For radio work, however, I always made sure the key base was connected to the sleeve of the "phone" plug as in most cases the sleeve contact on the jack was electrically connected to the transmitter chassis and thus grounded.

But I have seen exceptions to this, even with vacuum tube CPO's...

As to contact pitting I do recall reading that current direction has something to do with this but I read that at least 50 years ago and my ageing neurons can no longer be trusted to successfully recall memories that old (or frequently even from yesterday.

So as I usually do I asked "Dr. Google" and one of the references said:

Material transfer is generally associated with DC circuits due to the polarity of the circuit being interrupted.

  • If the electrical contacts operate under non-arcing conditions, a phenomenon known as metal bridge transfer causes material to migrate from the positive to the negative contact.
  • If the electrical contacts are operating under arcing conditions, in addition to metal transfer, another phenomenon occurs that causes material transfer from the negative to the positive contact. This is a result of arc emission and is referred to as arc transfer. As a result, the arc duration and intensity will determine whether the net transfer will be to the negative contact or the positive contact.
  • Selection of electrical contact materials that resist material transfer is important for DC applications. High melting and boiling points, good resistance to contact welding, high electrical and thermal conductivity and high hardness are properties that help reduce material transfer.

73, Chris Hausler


Chris, you touched on some of the thoughts I had, but my experience is more with vapor deposition and I didn't think that was really applicable.

The current direction could have something to do with it as well.

The batteries were opposite polarity at each end of the line and I doubt they switched polarity much or moved keys around.

So maybe there is some polarity effect as well.

Electrical damage analysis is a fascinating subject.

I'm more familiar with very small geometries that are damaged with ESD that you can't even feel or see.

This big contact stuff (I know the power guys have a very different frame of reference) is something I don't have a lot of practical experience with.

It sounds like the reference you found has provided the mechanism, but the particulars might be interesting if someone had some time to dig that info out. Electricity and metallurgy interactions are a fun and frustrating topic.

And that's just for a fairly benign environment.
73, Chip


Not I, says I......

Lower contact being done in first may be due to fact that key lever being more massive could dissipate heat better from upper contact point...

But I think it is highly unlikely a "normal" telegraph circuit would be carrying enough juice to heat those contacts at all....50-90 Ma....Naaahhh.....

Maybe lower contact point just made of softer stuff and got hammered more.?

I really dunno.

I never heard of any "standard" polarity designation for installing any straight key.

Ed. FB


I run O Scale 2 rail trains on straight DC. Positive voltage on the right hand rail gives forward motion, so any uni-directional locomotives run most of their hours with positive voltage on their right side wheels.
I have seen many more right side than left side wheels showing evidence of pitting from arcing.
This has never been explained in the model press, nor even mentioned, so I have no explanation.

It is, however, a phenomenon that I have noticed.
In some cases both rails and wheels are of the same metal, usually some formula of steel, and in other cases the two metals are dissimilar.
There may be something going on here that is related to direction of current flow.
Steve Bartlett


Chris and Chip,
Thank you for adding your information.
I have recently been reading (or trying to read) a book titled _Pocket Edition Of Diagrams And Telegraph Information For Telegraph Engineers And Students_, by Willis S Jones, dated 1902.
Descriptions of various multiplexing circuits say that this technique included reversal of line polarity, so at least on multiplexed wires, polarity was not fixed.
Steve Bartlett

Hi Steve,

That pocket book you mention is downloadable from Google Books at:

Just FYI.

Polar telegraphy was common and of course what was used on undersea cables as by reversing the polarity it would more quickly "suck" the charge out of the high capacitance cables and thus allow for faster signalling.

As open wire pole line was low capacitance this wasn't a problem but polar signalling did increase noise immunity even in that case.

If you Google "polar duplex telegraph" a lot of references come up...
73, Chris Hausler


Anatomically speaking, there is no neurological pathway from your ears to your hands that doesn't go through your brain.
Steve AI9IN

Why do we use HI HI for laughter ?
Here's why.

73 - Bill KA8VIT


HO HO in American Morse is: Di-di-di-dit. Dit dit
The letter O in American Morse is a spaced character: Dit Dit.

Sorry, Bill.

The link you provided didnt display, so I answered the question. LOL.
Should have paid better attention.
73, JW (WB8SIW)

Funny, JW, but I remembered back in the 50s, we used to send "di, di, di, dit dit dit" with the elongated space between the last two dits, like H E E.

I am getting old because I had forgotten about that.

Today, most would think it was just poor sending, maybe me too! LOL
I am glad some of you keep kicking my gray matter back into gear.
73, Joe, K8JP


Railway telephone systems.

There's a pamphlet from Western Electric which can be downloaded which goes into great detail about them.

The link is:

73, Chris Hausler

Ten days ago Mike k5mp wrote: Have we any Sun Spot experts here? Wish to comment...........?

I keep hearing that Solar Cycle #24 has at least two years to go before we see an upswing in propagation conditions.

However, today I stumbled across the following article which suggests that the current cycle is diminishing more quickly than forecast, in fact it has reached solar minimum approximately 2-3 years ahead of predictions.

The question remains however, if that means the solar minimum will be prolonged or will Solar Cycle #25 arrive sooner (and present us with conditions more conducive to HF communications)?

I'm hoping for the latter and the return of days when 5 watts spanned oceans and continents with ease.
Obviously, the attached link kind of drops the topic right there, with indications that new studies are required to better say what may be in store for us.

I am no expert by any means on this subject.

I just mention what I saw today as maybe an omen to better conditions sooner than later.

If anyone out there has additional knowledge on this subject, I for one would like to have the benefit of your opinions.
Here's the link I saw:

Please do not ask me for interpretation; I just share what I saw.

But if you have additional (current) information, please share your reference when you comment.
Cheers, Mike, K5MP


Yes, the sun has an 11 year cycle but there are also longer cycles that are not nearly as well understood as the 11 year cycle.

At times the sun seems to go quiet with fewer sunspots in both the maximum and minimum periods with the minimum being longer.

Think of the Maunder and Dalton minimums which also resulted in mini ice ages.

for more detail on the effects of these periods.

The last few cycles have shown a progression toward weaker maximums and more drawn out minimum.

If the next cycle goes the same way we could be in for a lot of cooler weather and probably more poor propagation.

Note that the 11 year cycle can vary a couple of years either way so that is always possible.
Im an astro-physicist (retired now) and try to keep up on this stuff.

Unfortunately it doesnt look like well get the one watt work the world any time really soon.

That said, there are always the odd event that changes the ionosphere.

It just wont be as consistent or predictable in the near future.
Leslie Hock WB5JWI

I have been through a few cycle watches, starting in 1957.

Please note, most of the best information will say predict.....

It can not be determined, but predicted based on past history of this cycle and past cycles.

They will vary in both length and strength.

This last cycle has been one of the worst I have experienced, mindful I was not as active during some and depend on reports.

This last one, because of its nature seems to cause some of the predictions to move from the norm, some even predicting that we are in for a more drastic change in the future cycle or cycles.

It is truly a SWAG (Scientific Wild Arse Guess).
If you think I am off base, maybe.

But, take a look at all the Global Climate Change experts and their suppositions on the causes, especially those touted by the main stream media.

Do any of them even mention the Suns effect on our climate?

The sun has more effect on our climate then any of our gas guzzlers, forest logging and peeing in the bushes!

I am not saying they do not effect the climate, but some control freaks want to blame something they want to control.
Heaven forbid, it is beyond their control.
What am I going to do?

What the current trend, read the various predictions, use the current conditions that prevail to the best I can, ie. use the proper bands, the best antenna for those bands I can make available to myself to use and wait.

After 61 years, I am still learning and hope and try to keep learning.

That is one of the fun parts of our hobby, even with some of the frustrations.
Oh, and I am praying they will get better before I die.
73, Joe, K8JP/K5 - V31JP

is the official "go-to" website for solar and geomagnetic activity.

Plus, at the bottom of the page, there is additional information under the "radio" and "space enthusiast" dashboards.

But remember, everything you see is what has already happened.

X-ray flux and solar wind is nearly real time but geomagnetic indices (A- and K-indices) are what happened 3 hours ago or 24 hours ago, plus are smoothed to represent the global average, not necessarily what you experienced.

Try as they may, solar physicists have yet to develop any predictive indicators.

A solar flare MAY cause a geomagnetic storm in 2-3 days if things are just right.

That's about it for definitive predictions.
The sun swings through its minimum-to-maximum cycle every 11 years.

Not 11.00 years, but 10 to 12 years or more.

We just don't know the exact duration, nor do we know in advance what the solar flux will be at the minimums or maximums.

Some solar cycles are better than others.

Also keep in mind all this wonderful data we have from the sun has only been instrumented for the past two solar cycles.

When I first started working at the Very Large Array radio telescope in 1977, we subscribed to the NOAA service that mailed us a post card when a flare occurred, hoping we would get it before the shock wave arrived.

Then a summary was mailed once a month.

Two months ahead of QST.

Then we graduated to a model 33 teleprinter for getting teletype alerts! Woah.

As a ham, I thought I was on the leading edge by knowing about solar flares and a boost in propagation within just days after it happened! Solar astronomers would have killed for the data available to us today on our PCs a few years ago.

It wasn't that long ago where solar flux and x-ray emissions were measured by launching high altitude balloons to give us a 5-minute look at what the sun was doing.
The solar minimum, flux around 60, is theoretically about as low as it goes due to the escape velocity of electrons and protons from the sun.

This does suggest we may be entering the solar minimum a bit early, compared to the Spring 2019 minimum predictions (let's hope so).

Or, could it mean a prolonged minimum? (Uuugh).

We just don't know.

So all we can do is get on the air and accept the bands for what they are.

We're all experiencing the same solar minimum doldrums on HF.

A level playing field for us all.

And as others have said, particularly to those of you new to HF, a few years from now (when solar flux gets above 100-120), the bands will have a completely different pleasurable character.

And, it will last for years.
So the moral of the story?

What will the solar flux and Kp index be on May 16, 2019?

What will the Dow Jones Average be on May 16, 2019?

Pretty much the same thing, unfortunately.
The good news:

We are about at the minimum.

It can only get better, but may be a year or two before we really see it.
72, Paul NA5N


Hello Friends

Cootie question

Spotted the cootie in the attached image from a photo of a table at Xenia.

There were several others (including some Japanese and a Bunnell Double speed).

But I havent been able to find another example of this one after searching many web photos of cooties.
Anyone know what it is? (The seller may even be a member of this group, but there was no identifying info in the photo)

Grant NQ5T
Have a nice day / week(end) gents, BCNU.

73, Yann, F5LAW

By OM Yann F5LAW SideSwiperNetGroup


73, from the town at the rivers "De Bergsche Maas" and "De Dongen" Geertruidenberg (800+ years city rights) at: 51.702211N 4.853854E

Editor Jan Pieter Oelp PA3CLQ



My simple website about Gigantic DF-Antennas

Part 1 "DF-Antenna Wullenweber Array"

Part 2 "DF-Antenna USSR Variants"

Part 3 "DF-Antenna USA Variant"

Next Part 4 "USSR OTHRA DUGA 1,2 & 3" at: