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The Lionel Type J-38

The Lionel J-38 is the easiest type to identify because it has the Lionel logo cast into the bottom of the base, and the logo and company name cast into the frame, which is solid, rather than open between the trunnion supports. It also has angled, rather than vertical, knurling on the four lock nuts. The corners and top of the base are radiused, and the circuit closing switch knob does not have the flair at the bottom which is seen on all the other J-38 types.

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Here you can see where the positioning pins fit into the bottom of the inner binding posts on the Lionel. On the right binding post (left side in this picture from the rear) the pin is held by a hole cast in the frame, while the pin on the left binding post is held by a slot cut into the anvil strap and the washer beneath it. These positioning pins keep the holes for the connecting plugs in the inner binding posts at 45 degrees to the center line of the key. Only the Lionel type J-38's have these inner binding post positioning pins.


This picture shows the base of a rare variation of the Lionel type, with the company name printed in white on the top front of the base. This base does NOT have the logo cast into the bottom. Everything else about this key is the same as other Lionel J-38's including the frame with the logo and company name cast between the trunnion supports.

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The key on the left looks like a standard Lionel J-38 on the top. The bottom, however, does NOT have the Lionel "L" logo normally seen in one corner (see photo above). Probably caused by a casting set-up error, there may have been only a few of these made.



Although J-38's are normally thought of as U S Army keys, the Navy obviously used them as well. This key, the JK-38 Bulkhead Practice Key, was used by the Navy to provide an easily accessed code practice station.

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A J-47 key normally has a J-37 key mechanism. These two J-47's, however, use a standard Lionel J-38 mechanism instead. The key on the left is mounted on a regular, square cornered, J-47 base, but the key below is mounted on a round cornered J-47 base with the Lionel "L" logo cast into the bottom of the base. Also shown below is a very rare Lionel J-47 box.



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The Philmore Code Practice Set shown here is another unusual place to find a Lionel J-38 being used.

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The ingenuity and inventiveness of ham radio operators is remarkable, and one of the most remarkable examples I have ever seen is this paddle and straight key combination made with one Lionel J-38 and two J-37's. This key does not seem to have been made just for show. There are signs of considerable use on the paddle finger pieces. If anyone has ever seen this key before or another one like it I sure would like to know more about it.



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