Australia - South Australia/Northern Territory.
Telegraph Offices along the Overland Telegraph line.


The Telegraph Offices included in the table below were located on the Overland Telegraph Line - see the map in each of the construction sections. Darwin Telegraph Office is discussed separately.

The distances of each station along the total of 1,973 miles from Post Augusta to Palmerston are shown for each entry. Repeater stations were set up about every 250 km along the line. At these, telegraphists repeated each message to the next station. The four linesmen based there patrolled the section of line assigned to that station.

In his Report printed in the Adelaide Observer of 11 January 1873, Todd noted that " in the interior we have six persons at each station, viz., the Stationmaster, Assistant-Operator and four men. There are also about 20 horses — draught and saddle — and in most cases a team of bullocks besides spare bullocks for food. The stations are all well provisioned - most of them up to the end of 1874".

The more remote stations (everything is relative!!!) became self sufficient villages. Once each year the station received a delivery of supplies - carted there by camel train.

In the 1930s, the repeater stations were transferred to the nearby town Post Office.

Alice Springs.

The site was chosen because it was near the top of MacDonnell Ranges. There were fine running permanent springs for nearly one and a half miles in length.

Distance: 1,036 miles from Adelaide of the 1,973 miles of line.

Alice 1
Alice Springs Telegraph Station about 1880.
Part of the Macdonnell Ranges can be seen in the background.
Battery
The Battery Room with its wide verandah viewed from the north of the station.
Source: Northern Territory Library hdl: 10070/54317
.
Alice 2
The stockyards at the Alice Springs Telegraph Station about 1880.
Alice morse The Telegraph Operator at Alice Springs sending a message in morse code along the line to the next repeater station about 1924-25.

Strips of paper can be seen in the waste bin under the table. These would have recorded messages received like those shown elsewhere on wheatstone forms and overseas delivery forms.

Provenance: Gundersen.

 

Letter 1 Cover sent from Alice Springs to Southwark, Adelaide on 4 January 1881.

Has two partial strikes of an Alice Springs date stamp on the front - one cancelling a 2d De La Rue sideface with inperforate left margin.

Letter 2 Reverse side of the above cover with a "walk down the line". Date stamps for:
  • Peake on 13 January;
  • Beltana on 23 January;
  • Railway (Port Augusta??) on 25 January;
  • Thebarton on 27 January.

An amazing collection from the OTL - probably a unique cover and very rare.

Prestige Philately September 2011 Lot 464.

Barrow Creek

The Telegraph Office was opened on 24 August 1872. On 18 December 1914, the Office was upgraded to a Post & Telegraph Office.

The building was a substantial stone structure of eight or nine rooms and roofed with galvanized iron. The stone work was estimated to be 700 yards in length - and it was erected by one man!! Todd visited the Station about the middle of 1872.

The site was chosen because it was immediately north of Forster Range. There was surface water there, which could be regarded as permanent, but in the event of it failing, water was obtainable by sinking at a depth of 10 or 12 feet.

A major incident at Barrow Creek was the 1874 attack by aboriginies which killed two station staff.

Distance from Adelaide: 1,207 miles or 1,973 kms.

BC about 1927
Barrow Creek Telegraph Office about 1927.
Teleg ops
Telegraph Operators at Barrow Creek about 1925.
Source: State Library of South Australia 62578.
BC today
Barrow Creek Telegraph Station in the 21st century.
Barrow Creek was not issued with a special date stamp for use with telegraphic business. The Office used a squared circle date stamp from South Australia on all telegram-related matters.

Only one example of the use of this date stamp is recorded during the Telegraph Office period to 1914.

Rated: RRRR.

Barrow Creek
13 April 1910.
Squared circle date stamp
applied to a 1/- brown POSTAGE
long stamp from South Australia
during the Telegraph Office period.

The South Australian Register of 24 February 1874 describes a bit of history involving Barrow Creek:

Mr. R. C. Watson, the former Telegraph Master at Barrow's Creek, on the Adelaide to London line, has sent to the Melbourne Argus the following clear contradiction to a crucial part of Andrew Hume's apocryphal story:

Some time towards the end of the year 1872, Hume arrived at Barrow's Creek Telegraph Station, on the Overland line. He had come from Tennant's Creek, a station some 145 miles further north (i.e., nearer Port Darwin), and then stated to me that he had seen a large number of horses and cattle straying on and near Powell Creek and Newcastle Waters. As in duty bound, I communicated by wire with the Superintendent in Adelaide, who directed me to engage Hume and send a man with him to endeavour to recover the stock, all of which belonged to the Government. Hume was engaged and after 88 days absence he returned to Barrow's Creek on April 4, 1873, where he remained until June 8, 1873 and positively never left the station for one single day.

In the extract he is made to say that he left the line near Tennant's Creek, and started westward on January 3, 1873. Travelled for 45 days, when he met (Adolf?) Classan. Remained with him nine days. Returned to Tennant's Creek for foolscap, &c., to enable Classan to write certain things. This return journey occupied 14 days. Went back, and the journey from Tennant's Creek to Classan took him 31 days to do. Waited there 35 days — total 134 days — not to speak of the time he remained at Tennant's Creek when he came for the paper. Thus, according to Hume, he was with Classan on the 134th day after the 3rd January, 1873. I can most satisfactorily corroborate my statement by reference to diary written at the time, by official record in the Telegraph Office, Adelaide, and other means. It will be seen that Hume asserts he was with Classan, and was not, consequently, anywhere else, on the 134th day after the 3rd January, 1873, whereas he was in fact at Barrow's Creek Station for 47 days of the latter part of the said 134 days; and I am as sure as of anything I never saw that he was at Tennant's Creek Station some ten days before he came to me, and that he came directly to Barrow's Creek when he left Tennant's Creek".

Beltana.

The Telegraph Office opened on 2 July 1871 as one of the three repeater stations in the southern section. By then, poling was complete and much of the wire had been fixed. In January 1873, Beltana had only a small iron hut as a temporary accommodation but it was planned to build a station.

Distance: 355 miles of 1,973 miles.

 
Charlotte Waters.

The Telegraph Office was opened in January 1878. Prior to that, it had served as a repeater station in Knuckey's section A. It was a substantial stone structure of eight or nine rooms and roofed with galvanized iron.

The site was chosen because there was a chain of beautiful lagoons with fresh water in Duffield Creek which was a tributary of the Finke. Knuckey had discovered these lagoons on 10 January 1871 and named them Charlotte Waters in honour of Lady Charlotte Bacon, the mother of Harley Bacon the storekeeper in Knuckey's Section A of the Central part of the line.

 

CW 1

In the event of the failure of the immediate water supply, other permanent waters were available. In addition, tanks to hold 20,000 gallons were constructed at the station. Mr. Knuckey also reported there was good building stone there.

Distance: 804 miles of 1,973 miles.

CW 1925
Charlotte Waters in 1925.
Source: National Librry of Australia B62538.
Daly Waters.

The Telegraph Office was opened on 11 August 1872. It was a large and substantial log house of six rooms, roofed with galvanized iron. Building stone and lime had not been procurable.

Distance: 1,605 miles of 1,973 miles.

Daly 1890
Daly Waters Repeater Station in 1890.
Source: National Library of Australia.

Daly Radio
Daly Waters NT.
1941
Used on a cover from the Daly Waters Radio Station to Melbourne.

Very rare cover.

Elsey.

The Telegraph Office

In 1920, during a discussion about history, a person raised the question as to whether the Elsey Station spoken of in the book "We of the Never Never" could be classed as being in the Never Never. The answer was NO because, if one so desired, he might have a telegram each day from the Elsey Telegraph Station.

 
Staffing

An amazing document showing the staffing in the 1880s at Elsey and D.W. (Daly Waters).

It would be interesting had the document been dated - G. Dewar had left on 8 July ....

Katherine.

A similar building to that at Daly Waters was built at the Katherine. It was a large and substantial log house of six rooms, roofed with galvanized iron.

Distance: 1,771 miles of 1,973 miles.

 
Kath phono
Katherine Phonograms.
3 August 1979.
 

Palmerston.

The Telegraph Office was opened in March 1869 as the northern end of the possible Overland Telegraph Line. In March 1873, the Palmerston Office was relocated as the Port Darwin Telegraph Office.

 
Peake.

The Telegraph Office itself was actually built from stone in January 1871, under Todd's instruction, as a store in which to keep the rations. On 24 June 1871, tenders were let for the supply of building materials for the Peake Telegraph Station itself - for the cost of £75 1s 11d. The station at the Peake - which began as one of the three repeater stations in the southern part of the line. It was a substantial stone structure of eight or nine rooms and roofed with galvanized iron. On 1 October, 1871 the bricklayers were still busy completing the Station-master's residence and offices. When those were finished and trees planted round about, it was apparently "a very pleasant-looking place".

In January 1872, Mr. A. Baldock, formerly of Goolwa, was appointed as the Stationmaster at the Peake — a position rendered vacant by the death on the Overland Line of Mr. Kraagen.

Distance: 636 miles of 1,973 miles.

Peake TO
Peake Telegraph Office in 1872.
Source: State Library of South Australia B11364.
Pine Creek.

Pine Creek was not listed as being on the line even as late as September 1872. This omission was surprising because of the gold mining operations in the immediate vicinity especially north at Yam Creek. The Telegraph Office did however open in November 1873, closed soon after only to reopen in July 1874. It closed again on 19 August 1881 - and then re-opened on 1 September 1884. It then closed so as to merge with the Post Office on 30 September 1889.

Distance: 1,825 miles of 1,973 miles.

Pine Ck
Pine Creek
Pine Creek.
5 May 1908.
 
Powells Creek.

The first station built at Powells Creek was only a temporary hut at because the building materials were still being held at the Roper River. It was a repeater station. A more permanent Telegraph Office was opened on 1 March 1874 with Mr. C. H. Johnson as the Station Master.

Distance: 1,467 miles of 1,973 miles.

Powells Creek

Powells
Powell Creek SA.
Squared Circle postal date stamp.
12 October 1908.

Possible to have been used on a telegram.

 

Southport.

On 4 August 1873 the Argus carried the report "The Southport Telegraph Station has long been finished but there is no operator yet stationed there or at Pine Creek".

The Telegraph Office was finally opened on 21 August 1873. It was the first Office on the line south from Palmerston.

 

Southport
Southport Post & Telegraph Office about 1886.
Southport 1870OTL employees at Southport about 1870. Waters
Tumbling Waters near Southport about 1870.
Photograph by Charles Sweet.
Source: State Library of Victoria H24575.
Strangways Springs.

The Telegraph Office at Strangeways commenced operation as one of the three repeater stations on the southern section of the line. By January 1873, the operator at the Strangways Springs was lodged at Messrs. Warren & Hogarth's Station but it was planned to build a station. Todd was also considering that perhaps it might have been desirable to remove the operator from Strangways Springs to Mount Hamilton which would better divide the distance between Beltana and the Peake.

Distance: 545 miles of 1,973 miles.

 
Tennants Creek.

The first Telegraph Office built at Tennants Creek was only a wooden hut of three rooms. It was opened on 24 August 1872.

At that time, it had not been decided whether the station should be located there or at Attack Creek. The building materials including galvanized iron for roof and were on the spot.

Tennant Creek was the station to which the first telegrams were sent from Adelaide at the end of June 1872 to be carried to Port Darwin by horse express.

Distance: 1,354 miles of 1,973 miles.

TCabout 1900
Tennants Creek Telegraph Station about 1900.
 

Tennant
Yam Creek.

Yam Creek was the name of a temporary Telegraph Office opened shortly before 26 August 1872 for the receipt and dispatch of messages. It was also the name of the contiguous gold-field which bordered Yam Creek. The Telegraph Office was regarded as being the intermediate station between Katherine and Port Darwin. Construction was completed during January 1873. It was a substantial three-roomed hut built of cypress pine and roofed with galvanized iron.

Distance: 1,854 miles of 1,973 miles.

For further details on Yam Creek see elsewhere.

Yam Creek
Yam Creek Telegraph Office about 1879.
Source: State Library of SA B5788.

In 1872/73, temporary stations were placed during the wet season at the Alberga, between the Peake and Charlotte Waters, and at the Elsie, between the Daly Waters and the Katherine.