Australia - Colonial: 1954 - 1900.
Subsequent east-west telegraph lines.


Although the line from Albany to Eucla to Port Lincoln and Port Augusta was a catalyst to significant social and economic development in Australia - one Premier described it as one of the major factors supporting the movement to Federation - it soon became overwhelmed. The demand on the line was part of its own success. Consequently, it was not long before plans were being discussed to create a second line.

Ultimately there were two other lines:

 

The 1896 line.

By the late 1880s, the sea air was adversely affecting the line and the transmission of all telegrams was being significantly affected. The spiders were happy. Many questions were being asked over a long period in both the South Australian and Victorian parliaments as to why the additional charges were being imposed when the Western Australian line - especially between Eucla and Esperance - was so often inoperative.

Newspapers in all Colonies constantly carried reports with the general heading

Eucla Telegraph line again interrupted.

For example:

"Communication was again interrupted on the Eucla telegraph line last night. Although the line is now required to be in continuous working order, these interruptions have apparently increased since it is now required to accommodate the constant pressure of business especially in relation to the discovery of the gold fields. The interruptions are becoming unbearable and are causing the loudest complaints. Important messages are often delayed hours in transmission and the work has even been known to be days behind.

There can be no doubt that before long this intolerable nuisance will have to be rectified by the erection of another telegraph line and people cannot understand why, in view of the importance of the matter, steps have not already been taken to rectify this constant series of interruptions to which business is being subjected.

Several suggestions have been made but it is agreed on all sides that before long, steps will have to be taken to alter matters in this respect".
Western Australian 12 January 1895


Finally the two Colonies sorted out a solution which involved, in part, running a second line direct from Port Augusta to Streaky Bay. The Western Australian Government was also trying to construct the alternative line from Coolgardie via Eyre to Eucla.

Sir Charles Todd was interviewed by a reporter for the Daily News office and reported on 6 January 1896... "With regard to the duplication of the intercolonial telegraph line, the Postmaster-General of South Australia said the work had been authorised by the South Australian Parliament and was in course of being carried out. Iron poles had been ordered from England, and work would be started in the course of a few weeks. The line would be taken from Port Augusta along the Gawler Ranges to a point west of Streaky Bay. From there it would run on the same posts as the present line. The distance from Port Augusta to Streaky Bay was 230 or 240 miles and the total distance that the line had to be taken by South Australia was 570 or 580 miles.

Their terminal point was Eucla, which was just on the West Australian side of the border. Sir Charles considers that it will take South Australia eight or nine months to complete her portion of the contract, the delay occurring on account of order for posts and instruments having to be sent to England. Speaking on the question of the respective merits of wooden and iron telegraph poles, the visitor said in timbered country they always used wooden posts. There was a certain amount of danger of the wooden poles taking fire, but the precaution was always taken of clearing a track 30 feet wide through densely timbered country".

The Duplicate Line.
19 December 1896. Kalgoorlie Miner:

"The construction of the duplicate telegraph line to Western Australia has been completed and communications opened direct with Perth. The new line owes its origin chiefly to the development of the goldfields and the increased trade with South Australia consequent upon the progress of the western colony. Its construction was authorised by the present Minister of Education, the Hon. Dr. J. A. Cockburn, who is Minister controlling the Post and Telegraph Services and Parliamentary approval was given on October 3 last year. Sir Charles Todd, the Postmaster-General, planned the new line, which has been completed very successfully and without serious accident or death.

The wire joins the direct wire from Eucla to the South Australian border to Coolgardie, which has been erected by the Western Australian Government. It runs from Port Augusta almost direct west to Streaky Bay and is therefore free from the influence of sea fogs to which the coastal line is subject. The sea fogs of summer are perhaps more injurious than the storms of winter.

The old line traversing the coast to Eucla is 780 miles in length, while the length of the South Australian section of the new duplicate wire is 582 miles.

The first pole of the old line was planted on 25 August, 1875, by Mr. T. McTurk Gibson, the first Mayor of Port Augusta. The survey of the new line from Port Augusta to Eucla was begun on 16 October, 1895. It has been constructed in two sections by Government overseers and line parties — one section being from Port Augusta West to Flagstaff Landing and the other from Flagstaff Landing to Eucla. Mr. J. Murphy overseered the portion to Flagstaff Landing, having with him a party of twelve men. Mr. T. Hanley, with eight men, was the overseer of the other part.

The distance from Port Augusta West to Flagstaff Landing, Streaky Bay is 229 miles. A station will be established at Yardea - 143 miles from Port Augusta West. This portion of the telegraph passes to the north of Coralbignie Run and Thurlga to Yardea and thence westerly through many of the new hundreds (sic) which are not yet settled.

The first pole was planted at Port Augusta West on April 30, 1896. For the first 100 miles 2,052 wooden poles have been used, and 2,072 iron poles are employed between the 100th mile post and the junction of the old line at Flagstaff Landing. The average number of poles to each mile is 20. From Flagstaff Landing to Eucla, a distance of 353 miles, the old line has been strengthened".

This new line also soon required upgrading by the new Federal Government due to increased demand:

  1. The first Federal Loan, prepared in 1902, provided "for about £3,000 for the substitution of copper wire in lieu of galvanized iron wire, on the Adelaide to Eucla line and on the Adelaide to Sydney line as far as the border near Tareena. Only the difference between the cost of copper wire and galvanized wire is provided - the balance being chargeable against revenue";
  2. " the line between Adelaide and Eucla (West Australia), and the increase in business caused by the reduction in inter-State telegraphic rates has resulted in serious congestion and delays. The Postmaster-General has therefore authorised the construction of a second line, via Yardea, on the existing poles across Eyre's Peninsula, from Port Augusta westward to Eucla, at a cost of £3,500. The construction of the line will be begun at once". Advertiser 18 Feb. 1903.

 

The 1926 line.

A second line to Eucla was constructed through Coolgardie when the expansion of business through the gold discoveries rendered such a course absolutely necessary through the occasional failure of the line from Albany.

17 May 1926:

"Although the public works committee has approved of the erection of the new telegraph line from Port Augusta to Kalgoorlie, the work of construction has not yet been begun. When the line is completed, the Eucla Telegraph Station will be considerably reduced in status. Extensions on the west coast are planned by the Postal Department. It is intended to construct a telephone line from Port Augusta to Cowell and to link up eventually with Port Lincoln, which is gradually being converted into a receiving station for west coast business. It will be possible eventually to speak from Adelaide to Port Lincoln by telephone and this will expedite the conduct of business with commercial houses in Adelaide".