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Neal McEwen, K5RW


Copyright © 2004, Neal McEwen

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Neal has many interests, among them are:

  • Antique Telegraph Instrument Collecting
  • Amateur Radio
  • Steam Locomotives
  • Model Railroading
  • Computers

  • Antique Telegraph Instruments -- I am a sucker for an old telegraph key. I have a collection of old keys and I specialize in collecting semi-automatic telegraph keys, most often referred to as "bugs." I have been collecting for approximately 23 years. There are many different bugs from a variety of makers in my collection. There is also an assortment of other types of telegraph keys and instruments. I know and operate the American Morse Code (landline telegraph) as well as the International Morse Code (radiotelegraph). There is an operating telegraph office, circa 1930, here in my home. With this equipment and a modem I can talk to other Morse operators similarly equipped. I have authored several articles on telegraph instruments for the Antique Wireless Associaton, Quarter Century Wireless Association and Morsum Magnificat, a Dutch journal. I will be happy to help you date an old key or provide you with info. For more information about my collection and other telegraph related topics:

  • The Telegraph Office: Home page for Key Collectors and Historians.
  • Bibliography for Key Collectors and Historians
  • List of Semi-automatic key (bug) makers
  • Would like to buy your old key
  • Neal's list of duplicate keys for trade

  • Amateur Radio -- I have been an amateur radio operator for 45 years. My favorite activities are CW operation on the HF bands and experimenting with advanced packet networks. I learned the International Morse code at age 14 and was licensed by the FCC as K5ZJP. My first rig was a 6J5 driving a 6L6. Do you remember those fire bottles ? In 1977 I was issued my current callsign. I have the Drake C line that I bought new in 1975. It still works great. I have worked all DXCC countries with it on CW. I guess I'll keep it a while longer; if it breaks I can fix it. I am not to sure that I could fix a "rice box"! Oh, I still have the SPEED-X bug that I bought when I was 15 years old. 20 meters and 40 meters are my favorite two bands. I really like 80 and 160, but since moving eight years ago, I no longer have the room for antennas for those bands. I guess I'll live! I like to experiment with antennas and modifications to my Drake R-4C. In fact, I have a spare R-4C so I can have one on the bench while I use the other one. The history of commercial wireless and amateur radio is very interesting and I work that in with my love of old keys. 

    Steam Locomotives -- I have been fascinated by steam locomotives for as long as I can remember. As a kid I grew up along the MoPac main line and saw many big, black, fire breathing, ground shaking, noise making, smelly locomotives go by. I'll drive 500 miles to ride one of these babies. Is there one near you? The trouble with diesels is that there are no moving parts on the outside. They don't make funny noises or smell like boiling water. All the romance it gone. The heads really turn when a steam locomotive goes by !!! Try one !!! 

    Model Railroading -- I started playing with model trains about 1950 or so. My first train set was an "O" gauge Marx. Then I discovered girls, went off to college, got a job, ... But about fifteen years ago, I got the bug bad. I mean big time. I am a member of the NTSF, North Texas Society of Ferroequinologists. We have a very, very large operating HO scale layout at Richardson Square Mall in Richardson, Texas. It is open to the public from Thanksgiving to New Years and the proceeds go the Boy Scouts of America. At home I model the Fort Worth & New Orleans RailRoad. The time period is 1953. And yes, I do have steam locomotives !!! I love long trains of 30-40 cars or more. They real challenge in model railroading is trying to remember how things looked during the time period that you are modeling. 

    Computers -- I make my living working with big computers. So how do I spend my free time? I come home and play with little computers. The biggest little computer has DOS, OS/2, LINUX and NT on it. The medium sized computer has DOS and OS/2 on it. The small computer has DOS on it and is used to control my packet radio equipment. All are hooked together in a small LAN. It is a lot of fun to play with and affords me the opportunity to try new things that will help me in my career. 

    My wife says I have too many hobbies. What do you think? I've been thinking about starting to collect old tubes; do you thin I can sneak a few into the house?

    Regards, Neal

    or for the hams and telegraph operators,

    73 de K5RW