Telegrams in Australia: 1854-1988.

This site aims to record the details of the development of the telegraphic system in Australia. It hopes that it can contribute to the general understanding of the people of Australia and those overseas who have a positive feeling about this wonderful country and its tantalising history.

RECENT NEW ADDITIONS - as of 13 March 2023.
  1. Introduction of a hover option for additional explanations or clarifications. So far only used for Victoria lines. So when word(s) appear in red, place your cursor over it/themWell done! (don't click).
    Hyperlinks are still blue.
  2. New South Wales - major revision and new maps for all lines and connections (in progress 80% complete) and some Telegraph Offices also revised. Any comments, additions or corrections welcomed.
  3. Major new find: NC-TO-2 - complete Colonial period form with LH part for recording a file copy of the transmitted message. Superb condition.
  4. Not new but always fun to be up to date - check in to the Tit Bits page regularly.

Note: hover over words in red to obtain an additional comment. Click the words in blue for hyperlinks to information elsewhere on that page or somewhere else on the site or to an external source. If the last, return to the site by using the back arrow in your browser.

Amongst the many details given are:

All of these stories - and a host more - can be found among the 1300+ pages on this site. Use the menu at the top (and described below) to find narratives, to open pages, to read telegraphic stories in old newspapers, to read original reports and documents and to see old Offices, scenes, events, etc.

Only some of the history has been recorded or analysed in the various books and articles written by various people and many of these sources are invaluable and a reflection of the professionalism of their creators.

For example - the Overland Telegraph Line from Adelaide to Darwin - perhaps one of the greatest engineering feats of the world. Think of a Government today saying to a person:

"build a line of telegraph from here to there. There is no job description but you should select some men, some horses and camels. We have no idea what is in the middle and we have little idea of what you need to survive. Kangaroo is quite tasty apparently. Don't worry about OH&S concerns and there is no environmental impact study. Just do it. The line is going to be about 2,000 miles long. Oh - one more thing: Good Luck".

BUT - we have little idea how such a massive development which served Australia so exceptionally well for about 100 years ended. It just sort of faded out of consciousness - as did so many of the undertakings - large and small. There was no closing ceremony. Some people remember that "we had not really used that line for a few years - don't know what happened".

People visiting Bondi Beach or Cottlesloe Beach don't know they are probably treading on a telegraph cable leading to the deep ocean. Where was your nearest telegraph station?

To complete the story I need your assistance. Thanks to those of you who have already provided information and data which have been unobtainable elsewhere. Every little bit counts!!

Please contact me at with stories, corrections, information about forms or your local office, etc. I will get back to you.

All suggestions welcome.

Using the site:

  1. Placing (not clicking) your mouse/cursor above one of the components of the main menu at the top of each page will activate the primary sub-menu;
  2. move your cursor down this sub-menu to select a topic of interest and click that.
  3. sometimes hovering the cursor above a primary sub-item will activate a secondary sub-menu - so select your topic from that.
    The most commonly used secondary sub-items will relate to types of telegram form or to features of Telegraph Offices. Try calling up the overview of Telegraph Offices or the datestamps for one of the Colonies.


Use the first main menu item "Home, Index, site details" and go down to index. Think of a topic and select the first letter of that word.


A telegraph is a system used to transmit and receive a messages over a long distance.

A telegram is the message resulting from that transmission. The word "telegram" was created by the American newspaper Albany Evening Journal on April 6,1852, when the following paragraph appeared: "A friend desires us to give notice that he will ask leave at some convenient time to introduce a new word into the vocabulary. It is "telegram" instead of "telegraphic communication". 

An article in the London Star in 1858 described the distinction as follows: "A correspondent of the London Star writes: An epigram, a diagram, a monogram and an anagram - but an autograph, a lithograph, a photograph and a telegraph. What is the principle? When the compound denotes the character of the writing, it takes gram. When it denotes the means it takes graph; In the case of a telegraphic message, the means of transmission are indicated. Therefore the proper word is a telegraph. Do not be misled by the Government "telegram" - an illustration of the proverb "that a little learning is a dangerous thing".

An electrical telegraph system uses electrical current and magnetism to convert codes to represent words (generally typed into the system using a key or a keyboard) into electrical impulses. These impulses are transmitted over a metallic circuit (overhead wires or underground/submarine cables) to a distant location. At the receiving end, the impulses are converted back into magnetic fields to operate a mechanical device to make a sound or operate a device converting the impulses into a written document of some type - either onto a tape or a (telegram) form.

13 March 2023.

All suggestions welcome.

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