British Keys

Many of the early British telegraph instruments operated on what is called a Double Current Telegraph System.

The US and most of the world used a Single Current system, where current flows only in one direction. A dot or dash is caused by current flowing through the relay, while a space is caused by the absence of a current.

However, in a Double Current system, current flows in one direction through the relays to produce dots and dashes, and flows in the opposite direction to produce spaces. This is accomplished through the use of a Polarized Relay.

Double Current systems are more efficient and can handle higher data rates because the action of changing polarity on the line neutralizes the residual charge on the line when the key is opened. With Single Current systems, this residual charge takes time to dissipate, which limits how fast data can be sent.

Below are some pictures of some interesting keys from Great Britain, including single & double current keys as well as radio keys. Many are stamped "GPO", which stand for General Post Office.

*NOTE: For pictures of British spark keys such as Marconi, please visit my Spark Keys Page.

(Click on each thumbnail to view the full size image):

Early British Camelback Key Marked GPO 187 Another View of the Camelback Key GPO Number Stamp Another Early British Camelback Key of Similar Design to the GPO 187 Key
Stroh Double-Current Key, Patented 1868 Top View of the Stroh Key. The Lever Pivots Sideways to Change Between Send & Receive 6-Terminal Double Current Reversing Key by Warden & Co. (Varley Patent of 1858) Westminster, England Another Varley Patent Key
Postal Key Made By Siemens Brothers & Co. Ca. 1880 Another View of the Siemens Brothers Key Showing the Name Classic Style Double Current Key With Glass Cover Double Current Key With Cover Removed
Another Double Current Key by H. White, 1917 White Key With Cover Removed Early Double Current Key GPO Type 866 Walters Electrical Type 6K Double Paddle Key. Used for Double Current & Cable Telegraph
Double Paddle Key With Glass Cover in Place Another Early Double Current Key GPO Type 562 British Railway Block Bell & Key. Used for Sending Signals Between Switch Towers. These Sets were NOT used to Send Morse Code
Inside the Block Bell Instrument. These Instruments Were Used to Send Codes to Indicate the Status of Trains Occupying Different Sections of Track Close-Up of the Signalling Bell. For More Information About Block Bell Instruments, Check Out My Page on Needle Telegraph & Block Signalling Typical GPO Postal Key Another View of the GPO Postal Key
GPO Type 2036 Practice Key by GH Steward, 1898 Another British Practice Key Postal Key by Elliott Brothers
Another Postal Key, Maker Unknown Postal Key Marked "Patt 1056" (F9WT Collection) Another PATT 1056 Key. This One is Made by Baird & Tatlock Possibly British Key Marked "Marshall Key". Maker Unknown
Ediswan Key & Buzzer Set Ediswan Set With Buzzer Cover Removed Radio Key by A. Mason, Surrey England Walters Electrical Model 18K Postal Key With Leaf Spring Pivot
Different Style Walters 18K With Send-Receive Switch Another Walters Key Different View of the Walters Key 2 Walters Electrical Keys
Walters Electrical Model 20K Postal Style Key with Switch. Marked R.L. 7019 Postal Style Key by Charles Palmer Close-up of the Palmer Name
Unknown British Postal Style Key Morse Training Key by WG Pye & Co, Cambridge Top View of the Pye Key The Victory Key. Used for Code Practice. Post-WW1
Close-up of the Victory Key Unusual Split Lever Key Possibly Made by Siemens, a German Company Another View of the Split Lever Key Split Frame Key by ATM
Top View of the ATM Key Walters Electrical Postal Key With Slot for Bug Wedge Another Postal Style Key by Walters Electrical Close-Up of the Walters Nameplate
RAF Airplane Key With Winker Lamp (F9WT Collection) Postal Key by Pye & Co. Another Pye & Co Key Unknown Key, Possibly for Wireless Use
Marconi Type PS-213a With Cover Air Ministries RAF Type B Aircraft Key Inside the Type B Key Type B Key Nameplate
RAF Type D Key used at ground stations (F9WT Collection) Inside the Type D Key Flameproof Key With Air Ministries Marking Inside the Air Ministries Key
Key From Fullerphone MKIII Field Telegraph Set Key From Fullerphone MKV Field Telegraph Set (F9WT Collection) British "Bathtub" Key Used in Lancaster Bomber Inside the Bathtub Key
Small British Key with Large Contacts. Maker Unknown Top View of the Small British Key Unknown Small Key Possibly Part of a Field Transmitter Set Another Similar Field Set Key
Admiralty Pattern Type 2342 Admiralty Pattern Type 691 Admiralty Type 691 With Cover Removed Admiralty Pattern Type 5475
Admiralty Pattern Type 65485 Admiralty Pattern Type 7681 (F9WT Collection) Close-up of the Type 7681 Name The Admiralty Pattern Type 7681 With Optional Cover
British Military WT-8Amp Key Another Style of the WT-8Amp British Spitfire Fighter Plane Landing Light Key British Aircraft Spark Key. Has a Gasket Around the Lever to Make it Flameproof. Made by Lucas Ltd. in Birmingham England
Inside the Flameproof Key Marconi Wireless Type 365A Inside the Marconi 365A Signalling Equipment Ltd. Key
Close-up of Label Signalling Equipment Key Used in Double Current Configuration Unknown Signalling Key Practice Key by The Dulci Co. London
Another View of the Dulci Key Miniature Key Used in British SOE Type B2 Spy Set Mini Key Used With Lifeboat Transmitter Unknown Key Possibly Used in Shipboard Wireless
Another View of the Shipboard Key Walters Model 5KK Mounted on Tuner Box The Walters 5KK With Cover Removed Marconi Type 316A (F9WT Collection)
316A Key With Cover Removed Marconi Type 971 Inside the Type 971 Key Marconi Marine Type 1588. Used With Marconi AD107 Transmitter
Unknown Key Stamped GB-1091 Marconi Marine 365-FZ Inside the Marconi Marine 365-FZ The Marconi 365-FZ Label
Marconi Marine Key Used With Salvor Emergency Lifeboat Transmitter Side View of the Salvor Key Marconi 365-Style Key by Redifon Another Marconi 365-Style Key
Another View of the Marconi 365-Style Key Key Used by NATO Forces Inside the NATO Key Marconi Marine Z-50
Marconi Marine Z-50 With Cover Removed Close-Up of the Z-50 Nameplate British NATO Type Mk3 Another View of the NATO Mk3 Key
ITT Marine Key Inside the ITT Marine Key Small British Military Key With Leg Strap. Used With the Racal PRC-320 HF Radio Close-Up of the Key
   
  SR-Cotel Radio Key by Jack Sykes, G3SRK Key From Clansman Wireless Set. Ca. 1980  

 

 

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