Western Australia: 1869-1900.
Telegraph lines to the Goldfields Region.


The Goldfields Region is defined, for the purposes of describing the construction of telegraph lines to the Goldfields, as extending:

The construction of the telegraph lines in the Goldfields can be accessed from the following:

  1. the line from Southern Cross to Coolgardie and Kalgoorlie;
  2. the line north from Kalgoorlie to Niagara;
  3. the line north from Niagara to Mount Sir Samuel;
  4. the inter-regional link - the line from Murchison to the Goldfields;
  5. the line south to Norseman and Dundas.

 

The small map below represents an area of about 230,000 km2 - about twice the size of England, three times the size of Austria and five times the size of Switzerland. All main construction of the telegraph lines in the region took place in the 1890s. The first discoveries of gold in the Southern Cross region had occurred in 1887 and gold rushes followed at Southern Cross in 1888, Coolgardie in 1892 and Kalgoorlie in 1893. For an excellent review of the history of the gold ruch 1893-1897, see the Chapter by Warren Bert Kimberly.

York was the Telegraph Office in the west from which the line extensions were developed.

The area was very remote even for those early days - the road from York to Southern Cross was only constructed in the last 3-4 months of 1890. Extending the road beyond Southern Cross was also a major undertaking after the gold discoveries in Siberia and Coolgardie. The Perth Daily News of 1 May 1894 described one aspect as follows:

"The road between Coolgardie and the Cross is in a very precarious condition. The stage between Boorabbin and Coolgardie - about sixty miles - is absolutely waterless. Water is also very scarce between Boorabbin and the Cross and, not only a water famine is threatening, but also great scarcity in provisions unless the traffic is regulated and the road kept open. A complete cessation of traffic is probable any moment".

Goldfields

The line from Southern Cross to Coolgardie and Kalgoorlie.

After the gold discoveries around Southern Cross in 1887, a telegraph line was finally extended to that area with the Telegraph Office at Southern Cross (in the Wheatbelt Region) opening on 4 February 1892. Gold rushes followed at other locations including those further east in the Goldfields Region especially at Coolgardie in 1892 and Kalgoorlie in 1893.

These gold discoveries were of world-wide interest and the overseas press commented on developments regularly. The Colonist Press in Vancouver, Canada carried the following on 15 February 1894:

"There is something striking and theatrical in these West Australian gold finds. The richness of some of them is indisputable, and their permanency seems a reasonable assumption to experts. But the accidents of discovery are romantic.

A man falls over a big stone , strikes it maliciously with his pick in the anger of a bruised shin and reveals a mass of gleaming gold. Chunks of gold, bars and pillars and blocks of gold are what the telegrams speak of, not merely good prospects or the absolute certainty of payable returns. The latest big sensation is the discovery of a rich reef in the backyard of a hotel in the main street of Coolgardie. This ought to be the greatest money-making concern in the world-for the publican, who will have a double gold mine on the premises."

For reasons now unknown, telegraph line construction appears to have been suspended for two years until survey work resumed in February 1894 commencing from Southern Cross with the aim of extending the line to Coolgardie. The Perth Western Mail of 14 July 1894 reported "The tools &c for the telegraph line are to hand, and the line is now fairly started and good progress is being made. Unless something unforeseen happens, it should be completed sometime next week".

Construction of the telegraph line to Coolgardie was completed in July 1894 (with the office opening on 22 July) and to Kalgoorlie in the following month (opening 21 August). The Office at Boorabbin open on 24 September.

By September, the traffic on the line was so heavy that the lines were overloaded, there were delays in sending and receiving and the operators were requesting a duplex instrument as well as a duplication of the lines. During a visit to Coolgardie at about that time, Mr. Scholl announced that

"with regard to the telegraph service he was afraid there must necessarily be delays until the duplex system was introduced. This would cost £500, but it was highlynecessary, and a complete apparatus had been ordered. When it arrived, the Coolgardie people would be able to forward and receive messages at the same time. (Applause) Even the duplex system, he thought, would not be equal to the requirements in time, and something would have to be done to meet the times.

The great telegraphic business of the field was principally with the other colonies. The question of constructing another line to Eucla was of course a very big one considering that the present line cost £35,000. He was sure South Australia would not consider Western Australia at all in the matter and provide a wire" (Coolgardie Miner, 15 September 1894).

A duplicate line was therefore built from Perth to Coolgardie but as early as December 1895, the poor quality of this overcrowded line was already being noted in the Press as well as comments that it was falling down in several places.

The other close location was Boulder. It developed later but again took a long time to be recognised despite its proximity to Kalgoorlie. The Kalgoorlie Miner of 20 January 1897 carried a letter from "A Visitor" at Kalgoorlie pointing out that "The line from Kalgoorlie to Menzies up to this has not compensated for the neglect. It is monstrous that there is now neither a school, a post office, a police station, a hospital, nor a telegraph office at the Boulder".

The only other telegraph-related construction work in the region was to connect new stations on or close to the existing line. Many of the larger mines were connected with their own telegraph station.

 

The line from Kalgoorlie to Niagara.

Discoveries were made quickly and over diverse areas. It was not possible to plan any telegraphic communication network because of this diversity. Hence mines used the telephone to connect with nearby telegraph offices.

Menzies demonstrates the rapidity of developments. It was only "discovered" in September 1894. By March 1895, the Progress Committee was already asking for a Telegraph Office. Then, in late November 1895, the Premier visited Menzies where the telegraph line from Kalgoorlie had just reached. The Post & Telegraph Office was in the course of construction although no work was possible about the time of the Premier's visit because there were no workmen available and the required materials had not yet been delivered. The Menzies office opened on 4 December 1895.

On 8 February 1896, the telegraph line to Kurnalpi (NE of Boulder) was completed.

About 15 April 1896, tenders were opened for the construction of the telegraph lines north from Kalgoorlie to the 20-Mile, Bardoc, Black Flag, Broad Arrow and thence to Menzies. Construction was completed in July 1896.

On 22 April 1896, the West Australian reported that "A contract has been let for laying out the material for the telegraph line between Coonallion and Bardock, the contractor being H. Climie. The distance is about 37 miles. It is expected that the construction of the line will be commenced shortly".

The Coolgardie Miner of 14 July 1896 emphasised how slow the Government had been in responding to the rapidly changing complexion of the Goldfields region - especially that centered around Menzies:

This community is much agitated at the lethargy of the Postmaster-General or whoever is responsible for the mail and telegraph service. At present about four thousand telegrams and a large number of cables are despatched from Menzies monthly. The sale of stamps, money orders and inward cables, telegrams and mails must give a return to the revenue of over £800 per month, a sum more than double the amount required to give a quick and effective service not only to Menzies but to the northern districts.

In Mr. C. Fisher, who is in charge of the department here, we have a most obliging and painstaking officer, and so are his assistants, but they cannot do impossibilities. The requirements of the fields demand greater facilities and Mr. Sholl should either rise to the occasion of keeping pace with the times or resign his position and allow a better or more suitable man to take his place. The revenue returns from this place show the absolute necessity of greater facilities being given at the earliest possible moment. At present it is rarely we get telegraphic messages from either Perth or Coolgardie on the same day, while intercolonial wires take three, four and five days to get a return.

The great centres of the near future will be Mt. Ida, Mt. Malcolm and Mt. Margaret where magnificent belts of highly aurifeious country abound and where large numbers of miners and business men are flocking. Wires should at once be stretched to these parts for, when messages from these places are passing through, the single wire will be so occupied that Menzies people will be in a still worse position. Consequently a duplicate line should at once be put up.

Three coaches are still running weekly, and only two mails are sent, and on these occasions the mails are so heavy that passengers are compelled to walk half the distance if the track is anything like bad. The progress of this place demands a daily mail as there are over 1,700 leases taken up and being worked from this centre. The time that is taken up between here and Perth with communications on leases, transfers and other matters is simply intolerable and quite unfair to the public.

A large and influential meeting was held on Friday evening last in St. Alban's Hotel, the Mayor (Mr. Gregory) in the chair, to urge upon the Government the necessity of greater postal and telegraphic facilities being given. Several resolutions were proposed and unanimously carried :

  • " That the meeting impress upon the Minister the urgent necessity of immediately establishing a daily mail service between Coolgardie and Menzies."
  • " That the telegraph system be extended to Mt. Margaret, Mt. Malcolm, and Lawler's."
  • " That the attention of the Minister be drawn to the incomplete system existing in the telegraph service involving delay, loss of time and business and the necessity of having the line duplicated at the earliest possible moment."

A report in the Perth Inquirer of 26 June 1896 noted "F. C. B. Vosper, who has just returned to Coolgardie from a tour of the Coolgardie goldfields, reports that when he was travelling down the track from Goongarrie he followed the telegraph line, and noticed that it was very much out of repair, many of the poles being down, while many of those standing were canted at all sorts of angles. He also states that a town has grown up at the 42-Mile (Balgarri), with a population of at least 300 persons, who are anxious to have a  telegraph and post office established. The line makes a detour to touch them".

The line from Niagara to Lawlers, Mount Sir Samuel and Willuna.

The first link to Lawlers appears to have been a bicycle postal service between Lake Darlot and Lawlers. This service commenced operation in 1895.

The Coolgardie Miner of 16 July 1896 noted:

" The telegraph line, it is understood, is about to be extended from this place to Lawler's. By this being done, it will touch and open up a large district on the route. Mount Malcolm, Station Creek, Diorite King, Wilson's Patch, Great Western, Owen Daly's, Lake Darlot and a lot of other centres will be served by the line going from Niagara, while the line from Menzies would only afford communication to one small place on the route, the rest being mere desert.

The line from Niagara would pay for itself before reaching Lawler's, while the line from Menzies would not return the cost for a long time after completion. I am not briefed for Niagara, nor am I interested in any way therein, but I know the country between Lawler's and the two places mentioned and, on the principle of the greatest good to the greatest number, the line should undoubtedly be carried on from Niagara, for a large population and a big district will be served that way, while on the route from Menzies the population and district is comparatively small".

On 29 August 1896, the Kalgoorlie Miner reported that "Sir John Forrest said to-day that, after consideration, the Government had finally decided to construct a telegraph line from Lawlers to Niagara, via Yerilla, Pindinnie, Redcastle and Mt. Malcolm". The West Australian of the same date carried a longer report of the announcement:

"The Telegraph Department has finally decided to erect a telegraph line to Lawlers from Niagara via Yerilla, Pindinnie, Red Castle, Mount Malcolm, Cutmore's Mine and Doyle's Well. The line by this route will be about 184 miles in length and will give telegraphic facilities to no less than eight places. It is the intention of the Minister of the Postal and Telegraph Department, Mr. E. H Wittenoom, to have this work started at once. If, after reaching Lawlers, the developments justify it, the wire will be carried on to Mount Magnet, thus giving the department an alternative route for cables to London between Coolgardie and Geraldton via Lawlers should there occur at any time an interruption between Coolgardie and Geraldton via Perth".

 

On 16 October 1896, the Western Mail reported on a meeting in Geraldton on 13th with Mr. Wittenoom:

"the Minister of Mines said he was responsible for the statement that the telegraph line to Lawlers would go from Mount Magnet and that material had been ordered for the same. The officer selected to make a survey had travelled from Niagara by way of Lake Darlot and Lawlers to Mount Magnet. He then sent in his report, in which it was stated that between Mt. Magnet and Lawlers there was no single station or settlement that required a line whereas between Niagara and Lawlers there were no less than ten. It was consequently decided to begin the line from the Niagara end, seeing that so many more people would be accommodated thereby. To continue work from Lawlers to Mount Magnet would be a matter for further consideration. It would cost £15,000, and would only put these two places into communication but it would give an alternative route. The Minister admitted that his first impression was in favour of the Magnet-Lawlers line, but it would have been hardly fair to leave so many other places out in the cold for months.

Everything possible would be done, declared the Minister, to prevent a recurrence of recent interruptions on the Telegraph line between Geraldton and Cue".

On 31 October 1896, the Kalgoorlie Miner reported that "The second telegraph construction party arrived (in Coolgardie) yesterday, under the command of Mr. Giles. Including those brought in by Mr. Brown's party, there are about 40 camels, which will be taken to Kurnalpi to be turned out in charge of attendants till required. The next large work on which the telegraph construction parties will be engaged will be the erection of the Niagara to Lawlers line, the survey of which has been almost completed. Two hundred tons of material for this line have already reached these fields".

The Kalgoorlie Miner of 9 December 1896 expressed optimism about the developments by noting "preparations are being actively pushed forward with a view to commencing the Niagara-Lawlers telegraph line. There will probably be three constructing parties. The party will at once commence the sinking of telegraph post holes at different points on the route of the proposed line and the erection of poles and wires will be begun as soon as the material is laid out by the contractors who have charge of this branch of the work".

A start of the construction was made during December 1896.

The contract for the distribution of telegraph construction material for the line from Niagara to Lawlers via Mount Margaret, Mount Malcolm and Lake Darlot was awarded to the firm of Faiz and Tagh Mahomet & Co at a cost of £14 8s per ton. The Perth Inquirer of 1 January 1897 reported that "A start has been made with the construction of the telegraph line from Niagara to Lawlers. The material is at Niagara and is now being conveyed along the route".

The Western Mail (also) of 1 January 1897 reported that "indignation is felt at Niagara respecting the action of the Government in accepting the tender of an Afghan firm for carrying telegraph  material for the Lawlers telegraph line". Indeed the Coolgardie Miner of 10 February 1897 commented:

"The Asiatics are daily superseding the white man in some new line of business (says the "N.C. Herald.") The construction of the  telegraph line from Niagara to Lawlers has been let to Afghans, who have taken advantage of this unwarranted concession to further insult the white man by endeavoring to supersede the teamster. Yesterday the residents of Menzies beheld an unwanted sight in the procession through the main street of nine camels yoked to a waggon, loaded with  telegraph poles for the Lawlers line, so that it appears that even the poor unoffending waggon-horse cannot escape the effects of cheap Asiatic labor".

By 26 January 1897, poles for the Mt. Malcolm-Lawlers telegraph line had been laid as far as Yerilla and it was expected that communication with the latter place would soon be established. When the line did reach Yerilla, a Post & Telegraph Office was opened on 16 February 1897.

The Perth Daily News of 17 March 1897 reported that "A fire occurred at Lawlers last week by which a number of the camel stores belonging to Messrs. Faiz and Tagh Mahomet were burned to tho ground. The damage is estimated at £1,500".

On 6 April 1897, the Murchison Times reported:

"Mr. Peate and Faiz Mahomet arrived in Cue last Friday overland from Coolgardie via Menzies, Niagara, Mount Masterton, the Diorite King and Lawlers. The trip occupied 15 days and was a very enjoyable one, good weather being experienced throughout the trip with the exception of a very heavy hailstorm which they experienced at the Diorite King mine. The hailstones were of unusual size some being as large as pigeon's eggs.

The country is looking very much the better for the recent rains which have fallen out East, patches of green feed being met with in a great many places. A general depression seems to exist in all the places passed through due, in a great measure, to the numerous exemptions which have been granted.

The contract for the distribution of the telegraph material for the line from Niagara to Lawlers, which is being carried out by the firm of Messrs. Faiz and Taig Mahomet will, Mr. Peate informs us, be completed in a few days. The construction of the line which is being carried out by the Government is completed as far as Mount Malcolm and should be in Lawlers in about a month. The store owned by this firm, which was recently burned down at Lawlers will, Mr. Peate informs us, be rebuilt as soon as the necessary arrangements have been made for the conveyance of the material.

Mr. Peate and Faiz Mahomet will be leaving for Geraldton early this week, but will return to Cue to be present at the railway opening demonstration after which they propose to proceed to Lawlers to open up the new premises".

As with all developments and progress, it is ultimately people that matter. The Coolgardie Miner of 17 April 1897 reflected that sentiment in its evaluation of the new line to Lawlers:

"The recent extension of the telegraph line to Lawler's and other places has led to a considerable increase of business at the Menzies telegraph office and it is now found that all the energies of eight operators are required to cope with the new and existent business passing through the office (says the Menzies " Miner "). Fortunately the recent additions to the establishment afford the public as well as the operators ample room to transact business in the most expeditious way but, owing to the unsatisfactory condition of the line between Menzies and Coolgardie, comparatively long delays are often experienced. The local Press suffers particularly from this defect, as important messages are sometimes delayed in transmission. The Menzies officials in no way seem responsible for the vexatious delays that occur, but it is no uncommon thing for a message from Perth to Menzies to take four or five hours in reaching its destination. Those who have recently travelled along the telegraph route between here and Coolgardie will be surprised — not at delays occurring but at messages getting through at all. More linemen are needed now the long promised extensions are being made and, until the Government moves in this matter, Mr. Fisher and his staff will not have a fair opportunity of displaying their capabilities".

On 21 April, the Goldfields Morning Chronicle reported on progress of the line to Lawlers - with a date line of 13 April at Lawlers:

"The material for the Niagara - Lawlers telegraph line has begun to arrive. A number of poles and a quantity of wire was delivered at the local post-office on Sunday, and the brackets, insulators and remaining part of the material is expected early next week. The constraction party are still about 100 miles from Lawlers and at the present rate of progress will not finish their work for four or five months at the earliest. This line is anxiously looked for at Lawlers and, in the interests of the public, the Telegraph Department should put on more men and expedite the work".

The West Australian of 3 May announced that the line to Lawlers had reached Redcastle and a Telegraph Office had been opened there (1 May). Other reports anticipated that the slow progress to close the gap was due to the hardness of the ground.

The Goldfields Morning Chronicle of 3 July 1897 reported that:

"Mr. Gunning, of the telegraph branch was at Leonora on Monday 21 June to get his bearings for the erection of the telegraph line. The men are within a couple of miles of Leonora, erecting the line from Malcolm to Lawlers and as this town is to be connected by a loop wire, he wanted to get it finished to save coming back. It is intended to run in a couple of miles of wire but the department has neglected to forward the materials and Mr. Gunning is afraid that he will not be able to complete it for a couple of months as he will have to go on to Lawler's and finish the local portion afterwards".

Finally, on 31 August 1897, the Coolgardie Miner conveyed the long awaited news:

"Mr. W. H. McGregor, the Postmaster at Lawlers, wired the Postmaster-General yesterday that the telegraph line between Niagara and Lawlers had been completed and that the office connection had been fixed at 6 o'clock on Saturday afternoon (28th). The wire also stated that the line was working satisfactorily and that the inhabitants were gratified at the completion of the work".

Mr Gunning reiterated that the country he had come through is as hard as it could possibly be. Mr Richard Knuckey had been the Foreman for the task and, at the reception, reiterated the difficulty by saying "that during his 27 years experience of telegraph line construction he had never seen such a belt of hard country as exists between Lawler's and Niagara". Quiet a comment from this magnificent man because he was one of the leading forces in constructing the Overland Telegraph Line.

In his Speech to the Opening of Parliament in June 1899, the Governor noted that it was proposed to extend the telegraph from Mount Margaret to Laverton.

The Murchison to Goldfields line (Cue/Mount Magnet to Lawlers).

The bicycle mail route between Lake Darlot which was established in 1895 was later replaced with a mail run between Cue and Lake Darlot via Lawlers.

The Day Dawn Gazette of 14 November 1895 asked for a telegraph line to be constructed from Cue (in the Murchison) to Lawlers. Indeed a significant number of public meetings and deputations were held at about this time requesting that the Government construct a telegraph line from Mount Magnet to Lawlers. Newspapers frequently carried reports about these meetings.

The Western Mail of 8 May reported that "in answer to questions, Mr. Illingworth said he had secured the promise of the speedy erection of the telegraph line from Mount Magnet to Lawler's, that he would ask for better accommodation for the local schoolmaster and also for another public well. He said he could not promise to support Mt. Magnet or Cue as the starting point for the railway to Lawler's until he had looked fully into the matter".

The Murchison Times of 6 May 1896 reported:

"We received, yesterday afternoon, the following telegram from Mr. E. H. Wittenoom, the Minister for Posts and Telegraphs, who is at present visiting Geraldton:—" I am surprised to read in the telegrams that Mr. Illingworth stated in reply to a question at Mount Magnet that he had secured the promise of the speedy erection of the telegraph line from Magnet to Lawlers. Please contradict this statement. I have never made Mr. Illingworth a promise in the matter and never heard of him in connection with it until about a fortnight since. I had some correspondence with the Mount Magnet people on the subject some time ago and sent them a reply before Mr. Illingworth mentioned it".

Later Mr. Illingworth admitted that it had been Mr. Wittenoom's predecessor he had spoken with.

During 1896, the mail run between Cue and Lawlers was again changed - this time starting from Mount Magnet en route to Lake Darlot via Lawlers. That link lasted for six years.

On 1 June 1896, the West Australian carried the following announcement:

"NEW TELEGRAPH LINES.

Recognising that no important centre, however remote, can live in this age of quickness without telegraphic communication, the Minister of Post and Telegraphs, Mr. E, H. Wittenoom, has had under consideration for some time past the connection by telegraph of several goldfields centres. Among these has been Lawler's, from both Menzies and Mt. Magnet thus making a circle from Perth to Perth, via the central goldfields towns and the Murchison towns. The exact route has not been decided on; in fact, the Minister admits that nothing has been definitely arranged.

With a view, however, to keeping up with the times, and so that there may be no unnecessary and vexatious delays, material sufficient to do this work has been ordered. Some people, it is understood, desire to see the line run only as far as Lawler's from either Menzies or Mt. Magnet; but it is considered that, if the line is carried to Lawler's from either of these points, the distance that would have to be covered in completing the circle would be infinitesimal compared with the good which would be derived from the extension".

 

The Inquirer of 10 July 1896 reported that "residents are indignant at the action of the Minister in recommending a telegraph line from Mount Magnet to Menzies via Niagara and Mount Malcolm, instead of via Lawlers and Mount Malcolm. If this route were taken it would meet the requirements of almost the whole of the East Murchison district, whereas the proposed line takes in a very sparsely populated country. It is recommended here that the Minister be asked to reconsider the matter, and grant a line as suggested. A weekly mail route had been established some time before linking Cue to Lawlers via Lake Darlot". The opposition to the Government's preference was widely condemned in many public meetings and by the Press.

On 28 July 1896, the Government announced that "an indent for the material for the telegraph line from Mount Magnet to Lawlers had been despatched to London. The work, however, would not be commenced until the railway reached Mount Magnet".

On 28 August 1896, the Inquirer noted that the survey for the telegraph line from Lawlers to Mount Magnet had been commenced on the previous Monday.

 

Line from Coolgardie to Norseman and Dundas.

With the discovery of the Dundas Goldfield, requests began to be made to extend a line of telegraph south from Coolgardie. For example, the West Australian for 5 January 1895, summarised some of the arguments a deputation used to make the case to the Minister of Mines as follows:

"Now that the mining industry at Dundas and the Norseman has reached large and flourishing proportions with every prospect of future growth, your deputationists are of the opinion that the time has arrived for the erection of a telegraph line.

It is needless for us to point out how much the telegraph has tended to encourage the mining enterprise in other parts of the Colony and we look for precisely the same results in our own great and growing district as have followed elsewhere on the provision of this convenience and absolute necessity. That our mines are rich and permanent and that the district is a widely auriferous one, practical miners and geological authorities, as well as those representing large English interests who have purchased or are purchasing mines, are convinced and therefore we cannot think that you will regard our request for a telegraph line from Esperance to Dundas, extending to the Norseman, as premature or unreasonable.

In view of the rapid increase of settlement in and around the Norseman, your deputationists would point out the desirability of laying out a townsite there with as little delay as possible. This would prove a gain to the colony through the revenue and a great advantage to those who are contemplating taking up their permanent abode in the locality - of whom there are many".

A follow-up deputation to the Minister of Mines on 21 January emphasised the need for a telegraph line in the following way:

"Obviously a telegraph line, if it is to be of the greatest use, should be an extension of the Coolgardie wire through the Norseman and Dundas to Esperance or it might be to Eyre. Such a line would not only bring the Dundas field into communication with the rest of the colony, and thus encourage the development proceeding everywhere, but it would also largely relieve the congestion of work which now causes so much delay in connection with the Coolgardie line.

Telegrams from the Eastern colonies to Coolgardie could be conveyed either by the present route or through Esperance or Eyre to Coolgardie via Dundas. It would otherwise divert much of the ever-increasing traffic which is offering a problem the Telegraph and Postal Department will have to devote its highest intelligence and best energies to speedily solving. The line would be yet another link between two separate sections of the goldfields and might in time - and most probably would - be continued through to the Murchison. As to the increase in the accommodation and general facilities at Esperance Bay itself, one of the through stations on the overland telegraph line, these are obviously necessary at the present time, both as a matter of public convenience and of fairness to the officials whose position at best is not a particularly enviable one".

On 2 March 1895, the Coolgardie Miner noted that "The population of Dundas and surrounding districts is increasing rapidly, the majority of the arrivals being by way of Esperance. I think I will be quite safe in prophesying that in two months time the district will be augmented with an addition of twice the number of its present population. The powers that be are doing their best to meet this altered state of affairs and, in a few weeks, Dundas will be placed in telegraphic communication with the outside world".

An Afghan firm was awarded the contract to carry the telegraph materials and to erect the line from Coolgardie to Norseman. That line was completed on 6 May 1896 and communication back to Coolgardie was established immediately. The Post & Telegraph Office opened the following day.

The line was immediately extended further south to Dundas and a Post & Telegraph Office opened there on 3 June 1896. The Western Mail of 5 June reported:

"The telegraph line has now been extended to Dundas and a Post & Telegraph Office was established at that place on Tuesday. The Coolgardie-Dundas telegraph line carries two wires, one of which will comprise the local section of the new intercolonial line while the other will be devoted to local business. Only one wire has, however, up to the present been completed for the whole distance. It was at one time contemplated to continue the line right through from Coolgardie to Esperance, but it is not now intended to complete the unbridged section between Dundas and Esperance unless the business which would be sent over that section were the line in existence should prove to be be great as to inconvenience the lines on the roundabout route".

Unfortunately disaster struck and on 19 May 1898, the Dundas Post & Telegraph Office was destroyed by fire.

On 24 July 1896, a newly formed Progress Committee at Widgemooltha instructed their Secretary to communicate with the Postmaster-General with a view of having telegraphic  communication established. It was pointed out, as the wire now passed our very doors, and as there were over 100 leases and a population of nearly 500 on the field, surely the powers that be could find no reasonable excuse for giving the residents means of communication with the outer world. A Post & Telegraph Office was opened on the Coolgardie-Dundas line at Widgemooltha on 18 October 1896.

On 6 November 1896, the Perth Inquirer reported the following story:

"Lost in the Desert.

Yesterday the Postmaster-General (Mr. R. A. Sholl) received a report from Widgemooltha, a telegraph station midway between Coolgardie and Dundas, stating that the telegraph line 14 miles south of that place had been cut. On reaching the spot indicated, one of the linesmen found a man lying on the ground in a very exhausted condition. After the unfortunate fellow had revived a little, he informed the telegraph official that he had been lost, but after wandering about for some time he had luckily struck the telegraph line and, after many attempts, had managed to climb the post and cut the wires in order to secure relief".