I unpacked and assembled my new (to me) Blue Racer (serial number B1102) yesterday and am in absolute awe of its performance. I've used a total of four Vibroplex bugs in my ham career and the vintage one pictured here is by far the smoothest. Easy to manipulate, predictable in operation, solid as an anvil.
And fast. Real fast. They were called "racers" for a reason and that reason is the short, and therefore quick-acting, swing arm. Even with both weights at the slowest position, minimum speed is about 25 wpm. The single-weight minimum is about 35 wpm.
I can't help but wonder who used this piece of history and what messages were sent with it back in 1914. I suspect it was used by a professional telegrapher since ham radio ops were a rarity back then. Landline or radio...I have no idea. Today it is hooked up to a Flex SDR transceiver that couldn't have been dreamt of in 1914 and is sending dots and dashes out into a much newer and quite different world. ZL7G on 15 and 30 meters were worked with it.
A big "Thank you" to Bob W0YBS for sending me three decals so that, once I get the base plate refinished, I can add the decal where now only a bit of residue can be seen. I asked Bob where he managed to find the decals on the keys he's refinished, told him about my project and the next thing I knew, there were the decals in my mailbox. Bob, you're the reason this hobby is so amazing - it ain't the radios, it's the people behind them. Check out Bob's key collection here - click on one of them to see the "After" pics of his fine work.
I made the following video in order to better appreciate just how old this Vibroplex is. I hope you enjoy it (full screen is best for reading the captions):