New South Wales - Colonial period: 1858-1900.
Lines in the Riverina-Murray region.

The Riverina-Murray region of New South Wales is defined in this site as being bounded by the region:

  This map extends to the Far West region. This map extends to the Central West region.  

This map extends to the Gawler - Overland Corner line.

This map extends to the South East region.
This map extends to several Victorian lines.  


The need for a telegraph line through this region was emphasised by the increasing demand for telegraphic communication in the Colony - and in such a short time. For example, in the Sydney Morning Herald of 11 July 1859, the demand on the single line to Albury, which had been opened at the end of October 1858, was emphasised: "Yesterday there was a sudden break in the line, just as a message was passing through. A second wire from Sydney to Adelaide via Deniliquin is greatly needed, not only to lighten the work on the present line in time of great pressure, but to guard against total stoppages, which generally happen, at the most inconvenient times".

Even the Governor, in his address when opening the Parliament in September 1859, included a statement about the need for such a line to improve the flow of information especially with respect to the mail:

"The Governor-General stated in his speech on opening Parliament, that the Government proposed to extend the southern line of telegraph from Gundagai to Deniliquin, with a view to the wire being connected with the Victorian lines at Echuca, and to thus providing a direct communication with Adelaide. Should this proposal be carried out, it will serve to remedy the great inconveniences at present suffered from the delay in the transmission of messages sent from Adelaide on the arrival of the mail steamers with English news.

Great dissatisfaction has been expressed throughout this colony at the non-arrival of messages which had been duly forwarded from Adelaide and unaccountably detained at one or other of the intermediate stations, those intended for the Press being kept back for several hours and sometimes scarcely anticipating the arrival of the mail steamer in our harbour. These failures have been so frequent and systematic that an official enquiry has been directed to ascertain their cause, and to obviate their recurrence. Whatever blame is due on account of these failures appears to rest with the Adelaide or Victorian lines as the circuit with New South Wales has never been interrupted and the officers of the department at the stations in this colony have waited both day and night to transmit any messages that were received".

The priority for line construction in this region was therefore:

For other lines, there does not appear to have been a clear plan for development as there had been in Victoria and South Australia. Stations in the last two named Colonies were opened at points where the extent of population, or the probable requirements of telegraphic communication, had indicated a particular course was desirable or necessary. Stations were constructed in proximity to large and valuable pastoral districts. The New South Wales approach - especially in the Riverina-Murray region - was reactive rather than proactive. All priority lines led from Albury or to/from Deniliquin or to Wentworth.

The lines in the Riverina-Murray region of NSW are described as follows:

1: The Gundagai - Wagga Wagga - Deniliquin - Moama line.

1.1:. Gundagai - Wagga Wagga.

1.2: Wagga Wagga - Deniliquin.

1.2.1: Jerilderie.

1.3: The Private line from Echuca to Moama and Deniliquin.

1.4: The Government Deniliquin to Moama line.

1.5 The Great Riverine Demonstration.

2: North west from Gundagai and Wagga Wagga.

2.1: Narrandera.

2.2: Carrathool.

2.3: Junee to Wagga Wagga.

3: Deniliquin north to Hay and Booligal.

3.1 Deniliquin to Hay.

3.2: Hay to Booligal.

4: The line from Albury along the Murray

4.1:. NSW-Victoria crossing points.

4.1.1: Corowa - Wahgunyah.

4,1.2: Mulwala - Yarrawonga.

4.1.3: Echuca - Moama - Deniliquin.

5: Line construction between Deniliquin and Wentworth.

6. The line from Wentworth to South Australia.


1. The Gundagai - Wagga Wagga - Deniliquin - Moama line.

There were a number of discussions and propositions brought forward in 1859 as to the possibility of constructing an alternative route for the telegraph line to Melbourne and to Adelaide. The Sydney Morning Herald of 17 March 1859 is one of those early propositions.

On 7 September 1859, the Sydney Morning Herald noted that there was a sum placed on the forward Estimates

"for constructing a line from Gundagai to Deniliquin, connecting there with the line passing through Echuca, Sandhurst and Castlemaine to Melbourne. This line would afford us a duplicate route to Melbourne and will be useful when the line between Melbourne and Albury is broken down - as it usually is about once a week - somewhere in the neighbourhood of Wangaratta.

A cross-country line runs from Castlemaine to Ballaarat, connecting there with the Western line of Victoria which runs to Portland and the South Australian frontier. By passing messages from Sydney to Adelaide via Gundagai, Deniliquin, Castlemaine and Ballaarat, it will be possible therefore to avoid Melbourne; but at Ballaarat the traffic to the west all converges on the line - at present a single one - which stretches from there to the South Australian boundary, and this line is overworked under the pressure of English mail advices, having to forward all that is due to Melbourne and to Sydney, as well as to all the intermediate towns".

In an excellent review of the early telegraph developments in NSW, the Empire of 5 December 1859 states PROPOSED LINKS: ... From Gundagai via Wagga Wagga to Deniliquin, a distance of about 200 miles, at an estimated cost of £15,000, connecting the Deniliquin Company line with the New South Wales system. The purchase of the Deniliquin and Echuca line, at a cost of about £8,800, will provide additional means of communication with Melbourne and Adelaide by way of Ballarat".

The long delayed Estimates passed by the Assembly in May 1860 authorised (inter alia) the line from Gundagai to Deniliquin by way of Wagga Wagga. The wires were to be carried "from Gundagai, on the Albury line, to Deniliquin and the line from the latter place to Echuca, which was constructed by private enterprise, will be purchased by the Government. The effect of this extension will be to obtain another means of communicating with Melbourne and Adelaide, by way of Castlemaine and Ballaarat, as the wires from both those capitals unite at Echuca".

In the Gazette and various other sources in June 1860, the following advertisement appeared:

"The Government have advertised for tenders to be sent in until Tuesday, 24th July, for the construction of upwards of 750 miles of telegraph:

lst. From Gundagai to Tarcutta and Wagga Wagga to Deniliquin, an estimated distance of 220 miles.

2nd. From West Maitland via Singleton, Scone, Murrurundi, Tamworth, Bendemeer and Armidale to the boundary of Queensland, an estimated distance of 400 miles.

3rd. From Bathurst via Sofala, Tambaroora and Louisa Creek to Mudgee, an estimated distance of 97 miles.

4th. From Bathurst to Orange, an estimated distance of 36 miles.

The payment to the contractor will be made in monthly installments to the extent of £90 per cent on the value of the work certified by the Assistant Superintendent of Telegraphs to have been completed, and the remaining £10 per cent when the entire contract is satisfactorily completed".

A contract for the 220 mile Gundagai to Deniliquin line via Wagga Wagga was accepted on 27 August 1860. The cost per completed mile was £16 10s for the first 35 miles (Gundagai to Tarcutta) and £46 per completed mile for the rest of the line. It was also agreed that, when this line was completed, the Government would take over the private 45 mile Deniliquin - Echuca line under an arrangement existing with the company.


1.1 Gundagai to Wagga Wagga.

The line from Sydney to Gundagai via Goulburn - part of the Southern line to Victoria - had opened on 28 August 1858.

The Wagga Wagga Express published the following note in December 1858:

"We are informed by a highly respectable party, that a letter was received last week respecting the formation of a branch line of the telegraph to this place (Wagga Wagga). The Government will give one-half the cost of constructing the line, provided the inhabitants subscribe a like sum. The Government also undertakes to keep said line in repair and maintain it, the line together with the profits becoming the property of the Government. There has been a large sum subscribed for this purpose by some of the inhabitants of this place, and we have no doubt that the necessary amount might be collected in a short time, provided something was done towards forwarding this enterprise. We hope, therefore, that some of our leading men will take this matter in hand and call a public meeting of the inhabitants during the coming week".


1.2 Wagga Wagga to Deniliquin.

On 23 October 1860: The Bendigo Advertiser described the beginning of the next section of this line extension as follows: "The contractors are busily engaged in operations for extending the telegraph from Deniliquin to Wagga Wagga. The line seems to take a north-westerlySeems to be a wrong direction - north-easterly would be more appropriate. course on leaving North Deniliquin. The work will be completed in four or five months when the Deniliquin Telegraph Company will hand over their line to the Government". From this report, at least some construction activity took place from Deniliquin.

The Pastoral Times of 3 May 1861 reported:

"We have adverted on more than one occasion to the slow manner in which the telegraph line from Wagga Wagga to Deniliquin is being completed, and we expressed our surprise at the line not having been commenced at both ends. We now find that it was the desire of the contractor to begin at Deniliquin and Wagga Wagga simultaneously but he was foiled by the Government whose inspector, it was thought, could not do his duty at both places. As it would be only giving this official a little extra riding, we can hardly understand this to be a justification for retarding the work. Red-tapeisin seems as prevalent under responsible government as under the old regime.

The posts are erected and the wire stretched now to within fifteen miles of Mr. James Kennedy's, on the Billabong, about fifty-six miles from Deniliquin. As the wet season is now about to commence, the contractor, by the delay which has already occurred, will find the labour of dragging the posts, which are sometimes carried as far as eight miles, considerably augmented".

The Pastoral Times of 13 July 1861 reported:

"the line has been completed to Deniliquin from Sydney. There is now a duplicate line from Gundagai to Melbourne and, as the chief fractures in the main line from Sydney to Melbourne have been between Gundagai and the latter city, the interruptions in telegraphic communication which have occurred so often to the annoyance of the public may be greatly lessened, if not completely remedied.

We are to have a branch line to Hay on the Murrumbidgee and we hope to see that line extended to Adelaide.

The Deniliquin Telegraph Company is the only (public) body in these colonies that has attempted, by individual enterprise, to supply the wants of the public in regard to telegraphic communication. The distance of Deniliquin from the seat of Government (in Sydney) precluded the inhabitants from ever hoping that a line would be made by the proper authorities. On the 20th of this month, we believe, the company will hand over their line to the Government".

In his 1861 Report, Mr. Cracknell (Superintendent of Telegraph) notes that giving "two distinct routes between Gundagai and Melbourne (is) a result which has proved of great advantage when interruptions have occurred on the direct line via Albury". McGowan, in his 1864 Report (p. 4) agreed as follows: "The interior circuit via Echuca, Deniliquin, Wagga Wagga etc is found to be peculiarly valuable in connection with the intercolonial (New South Wales) business, at times when the direct line may be interrupted at any part of the route, and conversely a similar advantage is secured when a break occurs on the northern or interior line". The correct strategyPrivate Enterprise: 1;
Government initiative: 0.
was therefore achieved.

In December 1864, the bushranger Morgan ambushed a road contractor's camp near Ky(e)amba (a short distance south west of Wagga Wagga) and tried to steal money and property - of which there was only a small amount. He then set fire to the tents and waited for the mail coach - which also proved to be unprofitable. He then left with four hostages and intercepted another mail coach which also proved useless. On leaving, Morgan had two telegraph posts cut down and the wire severedProbably on the line from Wagga to Deniliquin near Jerilderie. - thinking that he would stop communication. But the wire leading the other way from Wagga to Albury was still open - thus allowing communication to Albury and thence to Deniliquin.

1.2.1: Jerilderie

As the line had been constructed from Wagga Wagga to Deniliquin, questions were raised as to whether any intermediate stations should be incorporated. A strong case was made in the Pastoral Times of 24 December 1864 on the basis of a unique argument - bushrangers:

"We are trying to get a telegraph station here, and a number of persons have offered to subscribe liberally to guarantee the Government from loss in so doing. I believe something handsome has been put down, approaching £200 a year. Of the necessity for a station I have no doubt - commercially speaking. It would have the effect of making known the movement of the highway men and, the more they are surrounded by telegraph stations, the sooner they would be taken. I reckon a telegraph station equal to an additional local corps of police.

Morgan is now, it is supposed, between Jerilderie and Albury. If hemmed in on the triangle formed by Jerilderie, Albury and Wagga Wagga, and these place's were connected by telegraph stations, I do not see how he could long remain there untaken. I hope that the Government will well weigh this and act on it forthwith — depend upon, it is worth consideration. The country is not so bad but that every inch of it could soon be searched and the murdering villains that infest it taken and hanged.

Writing from one of Morgan's occasional haunts, we ask why, as £1,000 reward have failed, £10,000 are not offered for the apprehension of each of these villains or of £25,000 reward for the capture of Morgan, Hall, and Gilbert singly - that is £25,000 each. Would this not be better than allow this part of the country to be under the terror created by such villains as Morgan, Hall. Gilbert, and Co? Here we. have Station Managers crying out for special police protection and the time will come, unless Morgan and his companions in crime are taken and their rule put an end to, when other parts of peaceful Riverina will be over-run by the villains. It is high time to settle the freeholders on the land, not to infringe upon country that the squatters alone can render valuable, but there is abundance of country of little or no use to them that could be sold off immediately. As this cannot be accomplished in a day or a month, the Government should offer £25,000 for the capture of each of the leading robbers, and I have heard a number of young men declare that companies could be formed to hunt down the villains for such a reward. The prize would be worth the risk, and the men would be taken, I have no doubt, which would do much to put an end to the enormous police expenditure now going on. ...

Jerilderie is getting a bad name, undeservedly, I think, as one of Morgan's outposts. I do not believe that he is encouraged here by any one and, if assisted or protected by any one, it is from fear. In the vast districts of Riverina, with a scattered population — with numbers walking about idle throughout the year who may or may not be Morgan's sympathisers, it is not difficult to understand how the highwayman escapes capture. Every man feels that he is bound to protect his own life first — this is natural enough. Many have shut their doors against the tramps, will give them nothing, neither shelter or food. Those who do so, Morgan makes a target of and what wonder that he sends sympathisers among the outcasts? Mind, I do not justify those whose moral power is thus undermined. I deeply regret it. But I give both sides of the question and it is for the executive of Government to devise a remedy. Hitherto they have failed to do so and it is high time that something new and better should take place than the red-tape routine which has so singularly ended in not accomplishing its object. A new path should be struck out, if only to renew hope in the strong arm of the law".

At one stage in 1879, Ned Kelly and his gang escaped from the area around Beechworth to Castlemaine and then into New South Wales. The Kelly Gang sought to travel in the Gundagai to Albury region. Full details of this fascinating part of their movements can be read elsewhere. In part, that reference describes the telegraph lines operating in that area in New South Wales at that time and the difficulty they posed for the Kelly Gang:

"To understand the above, it is necessary to bear in mind that Jerilderie is situated between Deniliquin and Wagga Wagga and that Urana is between Jerilderie and Wagga Wagga. There is, when the wires are in proper order, double communication with all these places, as from Melbourne there is a wire through Albury, Wagga Wagga, Urana to Jerilderie and a second line from Echuca to Deniliquin to Jerilderie. There is thus a complete circuit from Melbourne to Albury, Wagga Wagga, Urana, Deniliquin, Echuca and back to Melbourne. It would appear as if the outlaws had forgotten this, and if they have cut the wires between Jerilderie and Wagga Wagga, have done so under the impression that it cut off all communication, whereas, as a fact, Jerilderie still communicates with Melbourne, via Deniliquin and Echuca".

The planners of the telegraph lines were really marvellous networkers with a view to keeping their lines fully open.

Further work continued from Deniliquin in 1866 to the north-east. The Pastoral Times of 1 July 1865 reported "We hear that the Government have acceded to the request of several gentlemen resident near Jerilderie to open a telegraph station in that town. The usual guarantee will be required that the revenue shall meet current expenses of the office. The guarantee in this instance has been fixed at £200". Quite soon after - on 25 November 1865 - the Pastoral Times followed up the matter with "A correspondent from Jerilderie says: "Can you help us in the matter of a telegraph station being opened here? We have petitioned for the appointment of a station master and extension of the line to this township which now passes but a short distance offThis line would be the Wagga Wagga to Deniliquin line. and we have pressed our willingness to furnish the usual guarantee, but as yet no answer has been received. Is patience our only resource or do officials require ??"(last word indecipherable). Whatever the word was, the Wagga Wagga Express of 28 April 1866 reported:

"the Superintendent of Telegraphs, Mr. Walker, has arrived in town on his way to Jerilderie and Moulamein, at both of which places he will open the stations in the telegraphic extensions to those towns. After accomplishing this duty, Mr. Walker will inspect the line now in course of construction to the South Australian border, there to connect with the direct line through that colony to Adelaide"

A telegraph line between Jerilderie and Urana was also constructed - although much to the chagrin of one poor beast. Freeman's Journal of 5 June 1880 reported that the telegraph wire between those two locations was broken when a swan came into contact with it.

It was in February 1879 that Ned Kelly and his Gang wanted to rob the Bank of New South Wales in Jerilderie and, while there, inflicted extensive damage to the Telegraph Office.


1.3: The private line from Echuca to Moama and Deniliquin.

Discussion of the very important and historical Deniliquin-Moama - Echuca line is provided elsewhere. This was a private line erected and paid for by the community. It ran from Echuca - to which place the Victorian Government had extended its lines to the Murray in 1858.

By mid-1858, a 51 mile line had been constructed from Deniliquin south to Moama by a private company called the Deniliquin Telegraph Company. On 14 January 1860, the Yass Courier reported that "the total receipts of the Deniliquin and Echuca Telegraph Company for the transmission of messages since the month of March last, when the line was first opened, have been £633 3s. 5d".

The line was purchased by the NSW Government on 1 August 1861 at a cost of £2,820/8/- giving the company a well deserved 10% profit. This was one of the very few examples of private interests investing in telegraphic communication in Australia's history.


1.4: The Government Deniliquin to Moama line.

Additional lines were constructed in the 1860s from Deniliquin to Moama to meet with the Victorian line at Echua. The first additional line was constructed in 1864 - the same year as Echuca was linked by the railway to Melbourne - and so provided a second telegraphic link between the two Colonies. In the Gazette of 10 June 1877, a tender was accepted from J. Smalley to transfer the telegraph wire between Moama and Deniliquin from old poles to poles along the railway line. The tender also required the erection of an additional wire from Echuca to Deniliquin.

On 29 August 1876, the Legislative Assembly voted, in the Appropriation Bill, the sum of £2,000 for an additional wire between Moama and Deniliquin. This line was opened on 23 November 1876 and was soon to become a very busy line.


1.5: The Great Riverine Demonstration.

On 2 May 1863, the Pastoral Times printed a long review of a major movement - Great Riverine Demonstration - which sought separation of the area from New South Wales. The proprietor of the Pastoral Times was David Jones - one of the main supporters of the separation campaign. In part, the newspaper (Editorial?) cited the Telegraph facilities as examples of their discontent.

"The long projected demonstration in favour of the independence of the Riverine district was held on Tuesday last at Deniliquin ... the resolution put was 'That in the opinion of this meeting, the great and important pastoral district lying to the north of the Murray, commencing at a point at or about the 147th degree of longitude, bounded on the north by the southern boundary of the colony of Queensland, on the west by the eastern boundary of South Australia - viz the 141st degree of longitude - to its intersection with the Murray and on the south by the river Murray (to be known as Riverine Australia) has for a long series of years been subjected to very serious inconvenience and injustice from the Governments of New South Wales ...

Although the Riverina district possessed but a small population, that it was on the propeity of this district that the welfare of the colony depended. (Hear, hear). But what did he find? He found millions of money raised in the colony for the construction of railways and other public works at distant parts; but what amount of public revenue had come to them? He found that their rivers were unbridged, their roads were unmade and, in fact, everything left undone which ought to have been done long ago. The Government of New South Wales had neither the courage to acknowledge their error nor amend their conduct ....

Mr. Robertson, in seconding the motion added: Was it expected that the great producing interest, the pastoral interest, would be endeavoured to be cribbed, cabined and confined by avowedly hostile legislation? No; it was fondly, but foolishly, thought that the new constitution would be their salvation and that Sydney would prove a faithful guardian of their rights and privileges. Foolish, delusive hope! She had proved a very stepmother. Their infant townships had struggled into existence without her encouragement and without her aid.

Take the history of Deniliquin - how had the Government assisted in her rise and progress? A lock-up with cells to be compared only to the black-hole of Calcutta, tardily succeeded the ring-bolt in the calf-pen of historic renown; and this, with a miserable unceiled court-house, were the only two public buildings erected by their paternal Government in Deniliquin up to the present time, although the township had been in existence eleven years.

The bridge was built by private enterprise; so was the telegraph line. The Government Telegraph Office was a room in one hotel; the Post Office and police barracks were in another. The old court house fell into premature decay about six months since and subsequently the courts had been held in the Masonic Hall - also built by private enterprise. The new Court House and gaol, after slumbering two years since the moneys were voted, were now in hand, but were of insufficient size. He looked upon the proposed iron bridge as an ironical attempt on the part of the Government.

Nor had any other town in the district been more favoured than Deniliquin. Moama, Moulamein, Balranald, Wentworth and Hay had all alike been treated by the Sydney Assembly with cold indifference and criminal neglect. After many years agitation, they had got district courts but, had they criminal or civil business in the Supreme Court, they must still make the charming journey to Sydney or 870 miles to Goulburn, to the nearest circuit hall of the Supreme Court; and that over roads as nature made them; and over rivers and creeks unspanned by the simplest bridges, except at those few places where the duty neglected by the Government had been performed by private citizens. The money which had been spent by them in such weary journeys to the halls of Justice might be made up again, the inconvenience they had suffered from deficient postal and telegraphic accommodation might be forgotten, the daylight robberies of our bank and stores induced by their unprotected condition might cease to be fretted over, and their losses by horse and cattle depredations might have been made up again, but who could recall the lives which had been lost owing to the unbridged state of their creeks and rivers? "


2. North-west from Gundagai.

The region to the northwest of Gundagai begins with the artificial line incorporated into the map of the region to assist description. Like a magpie flying overhead in a suburban setting or a Brush Turkey visiting gardens from one house to the next in that suburb, the fences (and so the lines) are artificial markers. Immediately below the line in the above map is the region with Junee and Narrandera and the region above the line includes Temora, Cootamundra and up to Ungarie. The telegraph issues for the second of these places are discussed elsewhere. The whole areas must however be regarded as contiguous.

No telegraph offices were opened at Leeton or Griffith - just telephone services in 1914 and 1915 respectively.


2.1: Narrandera.

In October 1875, a tender was let to Mr. William Corneille for the construction of a telegraph line from Wagga Wagga to Narrandera. The Sydney Morning Herald on 26 January 1876 "great surprise is expressed at the telegraph line now being erected from this place (Wagga Wagga) to Narrandera following the flooded ground, and being liable to be swept away annually". The Telegraph Office at Narrandera opened on 24 July 1876 (1 August?).

In 1882, that line was extended from Narrandera to Hay.


2.2: Carrathool.

There is little information about the construction of the telegraph line or the opening of the Telegraph Office at Carrathool. It is probable that the Office opened at the Railway Station in August 1882 when the railway line was constructed from Hay.


2.3: Junee to Wagga Wagga

The history of the telegraph line to and the Telegraph Office at Junee is closely tied to that of the Railway. On 6 July 1878, The Ministers for Works and for Education and Justice proceeded from Sydney to Junee by the first train to that place and declared the railway line open. It had, according to reports, been constructed from Hay which seems to be odd. On the same day, the Telegraph Office was opened at the Railway Station and was called the Junee Railway Station Telegraph Office. A Receiving Office was also opened at the station on that day. A Post Office was opened at the Station on 3 September.

The Railway and Telegraph lines also went through to Wagga Wagga.


3: The Deniliquin to HayLang's Crossing Place. and Booligal line.

In February 1861, the old name of Lang's Crossing Place was changed to Hay. It was an important town in the area being the crossing on the Murrumbidgee River of “the Great North Road” - a major stock-route. It was also connected by the river to Gundagai. By 1860, steamers were travelling up the Murrumbidgee to Lang's Crossing Place - with some going on to Gundagai.


3.1: Deniliquin north to Hay.

Reasons advanced for the line.

The Sydney Morning Herald of 26 June 1860 noted "The good people at Hay seem determined to have the wire extended from Deniliquin. They have the sympathy and wishes of success of the residents in this neighbourhood, who are not so short-sighted as to desire the failure of the project because they are not at present directly to participate in the benefits which its establishment will confer. Telegraphic communication is absolutely wanted - and the sooner the better for all parties".

In another article soon after, the SMH (3 July 1860) reported the following argument:

"A meeting is to be held at Lang's Crossing early next month, to take into consideration the subject of extending the electric telegraph from Deniliquin to that place, an undertaking of the utmost importance to this portion of the colony and looked upon, in a mercantile point of view, a not unprofitable speculation.

Lang's Crossing Place is rapidly becoming one of the great internal centres of communication in New South Wales. It is already considered by the settlers of the Lower Murrumbidgee and the Lower Lachlan as a sort of head-quarters for obtaining information about travelling stock, the majority of which, both fat and store, crossing the river at this spot. The distance from Deniliquin to Lang's is at the most only eighty miles and the cost of making such a line could not be more than from £4,000 to £4,500.

Throughout nearly the whole distance, the ground is perfectly level and timber suitable for posts is to be found in the locality. Were it desirable to make this line by private enterprise, the money would not long be wanting but considering that, unless united with the Government lines, it would be almost useless, and the Government, having expressed themselves adverse to the construction of lines by private companies, it is intended to petition the legislature to sanction a sufficient expenditure of public money for the carrying out of this important public undertaking.

As to the necessity for the proposed line, there can hardly be two opinions for, as the Government are now advertising for tenders for making a line from Gundagai to Deniliquin via Tarcutta and Wagga Wagga, which line is not to come down the Murrumbidgee, this, the most important pastoral district in the colony will, without this small branch line at once proceeded with, be entirely cut off from all rapid communication with other places. Calculations with respect to proposed business are usually so fallacious that I shall not by such means attempt to prove that the line will pay; but the residents here are well aware that the line will not lack business as they are all more or less connected with Melbourne, and their affairs are so dependent on the changes of the markets that the expense of sending electric messages will be very cheerfully incurred as soon as ever communication by such means is established with the consumers of fat stock and the sellers of store stock.

The Government have never done anything yet for us in making roads or constructing bridges, whilst so much has been done for other localities, so that we have the greater claim on them in the reasonable demand that we are about to make, and shall, no doubt, when supported by our representatives, be enabled to carry our point".

In a follow-up article, the SMH of 8 August 1860 reported on the land sales held during July and the implications:

"The upset price of the acre allotment was £4 and, although several of the lots are subject to inundation, the average price obtained was £5 14s. 3d. per acre. This sale shows more than ever the opinion held by the public of the importance of the situation of Lang's Crossing and ought to induce the Government to pay attention to our desire to get the telegraph extended from Deniliquin to the Murrumbidgee. A meeting was held at Lang's last week, when a unanimous opinion was expressed in favour of the new line of telegraph and petitions to the Government were drawn up on the subject. These are now in course of signature and will be presented as soon as possible".

Line construction.

On 15 October 1862, Mr. Arnold moved in the Assembly to place on the Estimates £5,600 for the construction of the Deniliquin to Hay telegraph line. It was agreed, under a guarantee arrangement with the residents, that the Government would receive five per cent on the outlay.

Tenders were called for the erection of the telegraph line between Deniliquin and Hay in January 1863. The cost of the 80 mile line submitted in the successful tender was £43 per mile. On 21 December 1863, the Sydney Morning Herald reported that the wire was stretched from Deniliquin to Conago while the poles were up for a distance 12 miles beyond Conago.

The Pastoral Times of 27 February 1864 reported:

"We are glad to hear that this new line is progressing towards completion with great rapidity — the posts and wires being now within 16 miles of Hay. It will be remembered that this line — a distance of 82 miles — was commenced but three months ago. It will be in working order for the public use in three weeks from this date. These are facts which speak so highly for the contractor, Mr. Macquarie, as to preclude compliment.

We are assured that, although the work has been done in the most superior manner, the line would have been much sooner constructed had it not been for the difficulty of obtaining timber within reasonable distance.

The station at Hay will be a very neat building and might now be completed but for the difficulty of getting the small but necessary quantity of stone from Bendigo. Even with this further difficulty to contend with, it is anticipated that the receiving station and the whole line will be completed in the course of six weeks. The people of Hay will then be able to congratulate themselves upon having taken the first real step in the progress of civilisation; and it is to be hoped they will not allow the telegraph wire to terminate at their now somewhat important town".

The Telegraph Office opened in Hay on 7 May 1864.

The Pastoral Times of 18 June 1864 reported on the Hay Telegraph as follows:

"It is reported that this line is paying as well as its supporters expected. It will be remembered that the Government of Sydney refused to construct the line unless some parties possessing means became responsible for a return of five per cent on the outlay—viz. cost of line and working expenses. The line and the station cost between £5,000 and £6,000.

The eight persons who have become sureties will not, it is apprehended, have much to make up even if the Government is shabby enough to call upon them to do so. Considering, however, that so little is done by the Government for the Riverine districts, and bearing in mind the large amount of revenue they receive from us, they will "cap the climax" if they call upon the Hay men to make up any deficiency that may arise in relation to this line".

Perhaps not to the general public - but the Sydney Morning Herald of 22 October 1878 reported the significant event that "A turkey broke the line of telegraph 25 miles from Hay".

The Empire of 13 April 1867 wrote an editorial about Government receipts and expenditures. In part, the article noted:

"while the cost to the department must be vastly increased by the extension of the wires to places where public convenience does not require them, those extensions which have long been urgently needed, not only for public convenience but as a means of protecting life and property, continue to be called for in vain. From the trunk line at Deniliquin, a branch wire has been extended to the village or township of Hay, formerly called Lang's Crossing Place. This extension of some sixty or seventy miles can be of no possible service to the general public and has been manifestly sanctioned to suit the convenience of a few private individuals".


3.2: Hay to Booligal.

The extension of the Deniliquin to Hay telegraph line north to BooligalHere classified into the Central West region for convenience. made sense in terms of both proximity of the townships and their agricultural interests. It also reflected the acknowledgment of the need to extend telegraph lines to other regions in the Colony.


The Guarantee System with reference to Booligal.

"In reply to Mr. Suttor's question in the Assembly (asked on behalf of Mr. Phelps), the Postmaster-General said that the Government would erect a temporary telegraph line from Hay to Booligal on the (5%) guarantee system" (18 June 1875).

The Riverine Grazier of 30 June 1875 elaborated on the more general context of the guarantee for the district:

"The Government stated in reply to questions put to them in the House last week, by Mr. Suttor, for our hon, member Mr. Phelps, that they intended extending the telegraph line from Hay to Booligal if the parties benefited by it would guarantee five per cent per annum on the cost of extension. They also said, in reply to the same hon, member, that no application had ever been made for a bridge over the Murrumbidgee at Balranald.

We are not about to find fault with the determination of the Government to continue the telegraph wire from this town to Booligal but we certainly think that the imposition of the terms in question will prevent the residents of that town from enjoying the convenience of telegraph communication. It would doubtless be a very foolish thing for the Government to expend the public money in a way that would be unremunerative and unbeneficial and they are acting wisely in first securing a paying percentage on the cost of making and working the line in question. At the same time, if it should turn out that sufficient security is not forthcoming and the line should not be made, they should ask themselves who is to blame for all this!

It will be found, we think, that the Government are themselves to blame for this line not having been made and being a source of revenue to the country long ago, and they will be still to blame if this state of things should continue much longer. It cannot be expected that the residents of Booligal will guarantee five per cent to the Government, inasmuch as the business of the town would not justify them in doing so, except they were patriotic enough to put their hands deeply into their pockets, pro bono publicoi.e. for the public good., and without any hope of being repaid in any way. The only way of making as much by the line as will pay cost and working expenses, is by inducing the proprietors of the surrounding stations and the residents in the district generally to patronize it, by sending and receiving their messages by it.

The Government cannot expect to do this as long as they keep the approaches to the town in their present condition. It is impossible to reach the town from the back country at the present moment, except by swimming on horseback, and this too with considerable danger and much discomfort. All stock passes now through the Bank station and crosses the Lachlan on Whealbah bridge and thence by Gunbar to Hay - thus escaping the road leading into Booligal but travelling at least thirty miles farther. This is not a matter of choice but of necessity, for they could not go by the direct and surveyed line of road. We have pointed this out so frequently in our columns, and endeavored to secure for it public attention that we are heartily tired of the matter. No person at head quarters seems to take any interest in the subject, so long as the County of Cumberland and the seat of Government get their little tastes satisfied, Riverina may go to Jericho for aught that Sydney, or the Department of Roads and Bridges care, if it will only pay its annual rent and the large sums annually received for public sales into the Treasury at Sydney to keep up a population that laughs at our sufferings.

This is a nice state of things and a kind way to treat a people that have such strong claims on the paternal care of the Government of the country. We ask no favor from the Government beyond a just share of our own money to render our roads and bridges fit for traffic and that is denied us. The principal part of the business to be transacted by the Booligal line of telegraph will be connected with the movements of stock, and all matters related to station properties, and by keeping the road in question in such a condition as it is now, and ever has been, no stock can come near the place and, from the route they have to travel, it will be more convenient to send a man forward to Hay with a telegram than to run the risk of sending him to Booligal through such a quagmire as is the road from that town to McDonald's gums.

Till a sum of £5,000 is expended on the road, it will be unwise for the residents around Booligal to bind themselves to pay five per cent of the cost and working of a telegraph line connecting their town with Hay, except they have made up their minds to pay dear for their whistle. It is tantalizing them only for the Government to say "we will give you the pleasure of telegraphic communication with your merchants in Melbourne and your very indulgent and kind friends in Sydney, for we have a most lively and deep interest in the welfare of your district and your comfortable and material prosperity. If there be anything else you want, just let us know at head quarters by a wink or nod of your heads and you shall have it at once. One thing only we have to request you not to ask and that is the making of a road through the lake behind your town. We really could not think of anything of the utile for you but we shall be only too happy to indulge you with "the dulce".

Well they know in Sydney that a line of telegraph connecting Booligal with Hay and the capital will not pay before the road is fit for travel and we say advisedly that the promise of making such is only made to tantalize the residents of the district. It is nothing short of humbug, moonshine, rot, to say that we will give you a line of telegraph, if you will pay for it, but we will do nothing to enable the Residents beyond you to reach the office so as to send their messages. We have sufficient faith in the good sense and business capabilities of the residents not to believe that they will ever give such a guarantee, till they first have the road in question made and then, when it is made, no guarantee will be required for the line will pay its own expenses. We are glad to see that by their reply to Mr. Suttor, they implied, if the people of Balranald make an application for a bridge over the Murrumbidgee at their township, the Government will not be unwilling to receive it with favor. This hint should not be lost sight of by the residents in that rising township. They should make such an application without longer delay while the Government are in a charitable mood; and before the day comes when they have retired to the cave of Adullum or shut up their bowels of compassion. They have even gone the length of saying that, as soon as possible, they will 'dredge' the river, which, we suppose, means 'snagging' it and so render it navigable at all seasons for steamers. This is a good thing and we trust it will be a reality before the next season comes round.'

Happy Balranald! Miserable Booligal!"

The Albury Banner of 3 July 1875 (for some unknown reason) reported "The Postmaster-General has notified that a telegraph line will be opened shortly, on the guarantee system, between Hay and Booligal. This will be a great boon to persons travelling with and dealing in stock". Perhaps the report should ave started with the famous words "Once upon a time ...".

In the Legislative Assembly on 29 August 1876, a vote was taken to include £4,200 in the Appropriations Bill to construct a telegraph line from Hay to Booligal.

Soon after that vote, the Riverine Grazier on 11 October 1876 published a note to the effect that "at the wharf reserve meeting on Thursday evening last, the question of telegraphic extension to Booligal was mooted by the chairman but no definite action taken. It is to be hoped the residents will not allow this matter to lapse for want of a little attention, especially as we understand a sum of £4,000 has been promised by the Government for the work".


Contracting to build the line to Booligal.

The Pastoral Times of 28 October 1876 reported that "The contract has been signed for constructing the telegraph line from Bourke to Wentworth. Mr. Bayley is the contractor. The telegraph line from Hay to Booligal will be constructed forthwith". That fell through.

On 9 December 1876, the Sydney Morning Herald summarised a large number of advertised tenders including "Construction of telegraph line from Hay to Booligal 50 miles to be completed in 5 months".
A Tender was awarded to Mr. W. Wright for this construction later in that month. It was not unfortunately the end of the sad chapter as revealed by the announcement below.

The Sydney Mail of 7 April 1877 conveyed the news that "We regret here to see that the contract for the telegraph between Hay and Booligal has been cancelled. The Government would benefit us greatly by pushing on the telegraph line to this town".

Tenders were again called in April 1877 - closing 1 May - for "Erection of a Line of Telegraph from Hay to Booligal, an estimated distance of 50 miles". Perhaps there was a contractual issue because, on 5 May 1877, the Sydney Morning Herald reported"

"The Government have advertised for tenders for telegraph extension from Hay to Booligal, to be completed in four months from date. We have no post-office here to convert into a Telegraph and Post Office when the wire reaches us.

I hear that a site has been partly fixed upon for that important office. The Government would confer a great favour by giving us a building worthy of the name. These offices, combined with a sadly-mourned-for savings Bank would give at least two officials sufficient work. We have no bank here, consequently the labouring portion of the community around here have no inducement to treasure up their savings. We have one Government building, a court-house and lockup very unpretentious in appearance. The Hon. Postmaster-General could not give Booligal a more acceptable Christmas-box for 1877 than the building combining the three offices referred to.

Booligal is important, not only as being on the proposed line of railway extension to the Darling, but also as a postal town. The mails to Bourke, Hillston and Wilcannia are made up here, causing hard work to the officials, who often seek "sweet, balmy sleep" just before the dawn of day. At present the Post Office is connected with a store here, but the large Government business done warrants a separate building".

The Sydney Morning Herald on 30 June 1877 updated readers that "We are unfortunate in the telegraph matter, for although it is six weeks since Mr. Baker, the contractor, should have commenced work, he has not shown up yet".

But there may have been still a glimmer of hope because the Riverine Grazier of 18 July 1877 printed, with feeling: "We have heard nothing of late of the line of telegraph which it is said to to be constructed to Booligal. I greatly fear that this matter will receive the same 'prompt' attention which has been displayed in the matter of roads. Ah, well it is pleasant to live in hope, at any rate; we may get it some day".

But we did hear something just two months after that forlorn plea for help. The Riverine Grazier of 12 September 1877 reported on the present situation of extremely poor project management and its implications:

"Ten months ago we were told that the contract for erecting the line of telegraph from Hay to Booligal had been taken by someone or other and, in due course, the successful tenderer (Mr. Wright) made his debut and left without doing more than looking at the road.

Five months afterwards, we were informed that Mr. Baker's tender for the same work had been accepted in the place of the previous contractor, who had refused to go on with it, finding, most likely, that he had underestimated the difficulties in his way. Now we hear that Mr. Baker says that he is unable to find teams to draw the poles and that he in turn will be obliged to throw up the work.

It does appear very strange to us that the public should be deluded with the prospect of this very necessary work being done within a reasonable time and, at the end of twice the length of the contract time in which it was to have been completed, not a single thing has been done and the probability is that fresh tenders will have to be called for.

Contractors should make themselves acquainted with the particulars of the work and the whole difficulties in the way of its execution before they tender for it and not rush blind folded into a contract which they cannot execute. They not only lose their own time and incur considerable expenses, which might be avoided, but what is of far more public importance, they delay an urgent work for the completion of which the public have been long looking. There may be penalties attaching to nonfulfilment of the terms of a contract, or for withdrawing from it altogether, but they can by no means satisfy the public for the inconvenience to which they have to submit for such inconsiderate and unbusinesslike way of proceeding. Mr. Baker could have learned his difficulties long ago, and should have immediately either thrown up his contract or gone on with the work. We know pretty well that no person in Sydney or elsewhere out of the district could have proper ideas of what had to be undergone, and expenses with which the erecting of the Booligal telegraph line is connected and we were not a little surprised that any one would tender for it at the figure mentioned as the amount of the contract of Mr. Baker or his predecessor.

But now that it is pretty generally understood that the latter gentleman's tender has been departed from, we must press the authorities to place the work once more before the public; and we are certain of competent persons immediately offering to construct the line in question. We hope there is no back-stairs influence at work in the matter but its lengthened and unnecessary delay opens the door to many unpleasant and suspicious remarks. The Government must not expect to have the line constructed on terms as reasonable as those of lines running through a district where the poles can be had within a mile or two of the spot where they are to be erected. In the present case, the poles will have to be drawn by bullock teams a distance of fifty miles and, in the existing condition of the country, this cannot be accomplished except at very great expense. But the matter of a few hundred pounds in executing a work so imperatively demanded must not be long considered by the Government, and especially too in a district that has never been honored by a profuse expenditure of even a tithe of the money sent from it to the public treasury.

During the past two months, grass has grown fast and sufficient feed could have been had for bullocks on the route along which the poles must be carried and the ground was in a good state for bearing the weight of the load. But now the splendid fall of rain with which we are being blessed will render it a very difficult and tedious journey, and this means more money. Still the work must be done and, if the Government will again call for tenders for the work, we can answer for it that competent parties are ready to undertake it. Much dissatisfaction exists about the delay and we must confess that there are good grounds for it. Two Government officers have been camped here for the last five or six months waiting the commencement of the work and they have had nothing to do but suck their sugar stick, and live in the fond expectation of soon being able to do something useful for the pay they receive. The amount of their pay during the past months of idleness, added to the amount of Mr, Baker's tender, would go a considerable way to bring it to a sum for which the work could have been remuneratively executed, and this must be remembered when the next tender is accepted. It is far from satisfactory to the gentlemen referred to, we well know, and it is certainly still less so to the public who are expecting the work to be done in a reasonable time".


At last construction begins!!

A development was reported in the Riverine Grazier of 21 November 1877: "Mr Cracknell, Superintendent of Telegraphs in New South Wales, paid Hay a flying visit on Saturday and Sunday last and, we are glad to learn, has succeeded in making satisfactory arrangements for the construction of the telegraph line extension to Booligal. We understand that an early start may be expected to be made with this desirable work".

The Sydney Morning Herald of 28 November 1877 described an interesting scenario in the Booligal region:

"Messrs Burton and Taylor, the contractors for bridges between here and Mossgiel, are busy preparing to do their part of the work, and now have numbers of men engaged in preliminary operations preparatory to push on the principal work. The weather is now perhaps too favourable for speedily finishing these contracts.

I hear that the same firm have the contract for supplying telegraph posts between Hay and this town. I am informed also that, almost immediately, they will commence trimming and drawing posts from the pine ridge, a few miles from here.

I notice that the Dutch in Java use a tree called "copack" for telegraph purposes. The tree is useful as well as ornamental. It is a pity the Government do not use some such trees for telegraph purposes across the plains in New South Wales. For instance, they might be used on the "Old Man" plains between Deniliquin and Hay and on the "One-tree" plain between Hay and Booligal, and thence across the plains to the Darling. This would break the monotony of the dismal-looking plains which are almost treeless and without even hillocks to relieve the eye. I notice that the "copack" requires hilly and dry soil to grow well upon and, as for dryness and heat, this climate would surely in these respects suit any tropical trees. We have had no rain for the past eight weeks and, with the thermometer ranging from 75° to 97°Between 24°C and 96°C. in the shade, the grass is fast becoming dry".

Some brightness did shine at last!! "The contractors for the extension of the telegraph line from Hay to Booligal, planted the first pole opposite the telegraph station here on Saturday last and have since been engaged in vigorously prosecuting the work under the supervision of Mr. Madden. About three miles have already been poled and, it is believed, that in six weeks - at the outside - telegraphic communication will be established between Booligal and the rest of the world— that is, providing the department are not behind time in appointing an operator, and in making other necessary and suitable arrangements for the conduct of the business of the station at Booligal" (Riverine Grazier 23 January 1878).

The hope expressed previously in July 1877 may indeed have well founded after all because another twist in the story was soon to be printed (only 9 months later) in the Sydney Mail on 13 April 1878:

"Twelve months last month (March) we were to have had the telegraph line via Hay. No less than three contractors have tendered for the work; two never tried it, and now the third is doing as well as can be desired, considering the drawbacks he has been annoyed with. Mr. Madden, the telegraph superintendent here, informs me that shortly the line will be within sixteen miles of Booligal and, by the end of May, the long-looked-for telegraph to Booligal will be an accomplished fact. It is generally thought that the Government is making a mistake in regard to the posts, viz., only allowing twenty to a mile, that is one every eighty eight yards. The strain on those already erected is tremendous; a few days back in straining the wire (I believe No. 8 is used) it broke, and the men had to go back a distance of three miles to resplice it, at a loss of time and money. On plains like we have here, with nothing to break the force of the wind, there should be at least six or eight posts more to a mile".

The Booligal line was completed in July 1878.

See elsewhere for the Booligal to Hillston line in the Central West region.


4. The line from Albury along the Murray.

In the Legislative Assembly of 18 October 1860, Supplementary Estimates were being discussed. Amongst these was an amount "for the extension of the electric telegraph from Deniliquin to the eastern boundary of South Australia via Moulamein, Balranald, Euston and Wentworth: £25,000". Background discussion on this telegraph line along the western part of the Murray, which would create a direct line of telegraphic communication between Adelaide and Sydney, is included elsewhere and a description of the line construction is included below.

The other priority for line construction was to extend telegraph lines to the west from Albury along the border with Victoria. In part this policy was not just aiming to create a second approach to the planned direct telegraphic link with South Australia but also, in part, to meet the needs of intermediate areas which were important for inter-colonial traffic.


4.1: The NSW-Victoria crossing points.

4.1: Corowa - Wahgunyah.

Corowa (NSW) is on the northern bank of the Murray River opposite Wahgunya (Vic). The Victorian line to those two places is described elsewhere. The telegraph line to Wahgunyah was completed in 1861.

There were a number of such "twin town" arrangements. Albury-Wodonga was an important connection as was another further west along the Murray at Echuca (Vic) - Moama (NSW) just below Deniliquin.

The Murray River was a critically important mode of communication for the settlers all along its banks. It was used to transport all goods up and down. The picture to the right shows a typical boat which plied its trade - here carrying wool bales as can be seen stacked on the Corowa wharf.

  Corowa ship
Typical river transport loading wool bales from the wharf
(in the background) at Corowa about 1906.

The first major activity to extend the line along the Murray from was the construction of a 35 mile line from Albury to Corowa via Howlong.

Telegraph line from Albury.

"The contractors for the erection of the telegraph line from Albury to Corowa via Howlong are pushing operations vigorously. Many miles of the road are already cleared of overhanging timber and about two miles of the posts are already erected. About forty men are employed on the works, nearly all of whom are camped at the Sergeant's Lagoon between Dight's Hill and Albury. Some are engaged sinking the post holes which are sunk miles in advance of where the posts are erected, while others are felling posts and others erecting. Altogether things are going ahead in first class style. Now that the preliminary difficulties are surmounted, the erection of posts will be completed at the rate of about a mile a day so that we may expect the whole distance to be finished by the end of May".
Ovens and Murray Advertiser of 13 April 1878.

The Wahgunyah Telegraph Office was opened on 8 February 1861 while the Corowa Telegraph Office was opened on 21 January 1873. As Corowa is on the opposite side on the Murray River from Wahgunyah, the opening of the Corowa Telegraph Office enabled a connection from Sydney via Wodonga and Beechworth to Corowa/Wahgunyah. Of course telegraph charges would have been very high because intercolonial rates would apply to any messages sent from Corowa - hence the frequent visits by the business community of Corowa to Wahgunyah to send messages to Melbourne for example.

There was however some lingering doubt about the role of the Howlong office. The Ovens and Murray Advertiser of 28 May 1878 reported:

"It appears to us somewhat singular that, notwithstanding the telegraph line between Albury and Corowa is completed and in working order, an important place like Howlong on the direct route is still left out (telegraphically speaking) in the cold. One would certainly think that the wires having been fixed, the government would be desirous of drawing as much revenue as possible from them. Such, however, appears not to be the case. It is evident to all acquainted with the matter that Howlong and its neighbourhood would largely supplement the receipts and, as we understand, that Mr. Wm. Hamilton has been appointed to fill the position of operator, the sooner he is enabled to commence his duties, the better for all parties concerned".

The Ovens and Murray Advertiser of 20 June 1878 elaborated on the situation:

Albury, Howlong, and Corowa Telegraph.

It may be taken as a certainty that the public will now very shortly be admitted to a full participation in the benefits to be derived from the above line of telegraph. With a view of affording increased accommodation at Corowa for the above and postal business, the Government have resolved to erect a new building sufficiently capacious to meet all requirements, to which end they have purchased from Mr. Levin a suitable site. They have also determined that an office for the receipt and dispatch of telegrams shall be forthwith opened at Howlong. The adoption of these two steps will be hailed with the utmost satisfaction on the part of the public".

One of the benefits was of course an intercolonial rate for telegrams from Corowa to Sydney.


The Kellys — A Scare.

"Some consternation was caused yesterday morning when the news was brought to Beechworth that the telegraph wires had been cut on either side of Howloug. The news turned out to be quite true and at once fears were entertained that the gang intended to stick up the bank there.

It appears that the lines were cut on the Albury side not far from the township in two places, whilst on the Corowa side three posts were cut down and the wires mutilated.

A repairer was sent out and the five policemen in the place went out also. In the afternoon communication was restored between Albury and Corowa but, strange to say, nothing could be got from Howlong. Late last evening the wildest rumours were afloat, the principal being that three police men and the bank manager at Howlong had been shot. We could get no reliable information on the subject up to the time of our going to press and regard it as a mere rumour. There is no doubt as to the cutting of the telegraph wires but whether this was done by the gang or by some of their confederates to put the police off the scent, we know not".
(Ovens and Murray Advertiser, 25 February 1879).



4.2: Mulwala - Yarrawonga.

The line to Mulwala originated in Jerilderie and passed through Berrigan. The first pole on this line was erected on 6 July 1881 at Jerilderie under the supervision of (the ubiquitous) Mr. Knuckey from the Telegraph Department. Messrs. J. and H. Harris invited all people present to partake of refreshments in honour of the occasion.

The Telegraph Office opened at Mulwala on 22 August 1881 while that at Yarrawonga (on the Wood's Point Line) opened on 30 September 1882.


4.3: Echuca - Moama - Deniliquin.

This line across the Murray River at Echuca and its extension consisted of two phases:

    1. a privately funded and managed project by the residents of the area;

    2. a buy-out initiative by the N.S.W. Government.

The story about the whole interesting episode is reviewed separately.


5. Line construction between Deniliquin and Wentworth.

By the mid-1860s, telegraph lines in N.S.W. extended to:

  • Queensland (1861).
  • Albury (1859).
  • North Central: no lines to 1865;
  • Central West: Forbes via Bathurst (1862);
  • Central West: Mudgee via Bathurst (1861);
  • South East: Kiama (1862) on the coast and inland to Braidwood (1861), Kiandra (1860) and Cooma (1865);
  • Riverina - Murray: Deniliquin (1859 - private line), Wagga Wagga and Urana (1861) and Hay (1864).

There were no telegraph lines:

  • anywhere near Bourke - the link to Fort Bourke being planned from about 1866.
  • to the west of Deniliquin or to the north (except Hay).

Hence, if future plans were to contemplate communication with the area comprising nearly half the Colony of New South Wales, some links had to be at least planned.

Finally the Maitland Mercury of 27 September 1864 was able to report:

"The Government have decided to call for tenders for the extension of the telegraphic wire direct to Adelaide. The line will run down the Murray from Deniliquin, via Moulamein, Balranald, Euston, and Wentworth and from the latter to the frontier, at which point it will be taken in hand by the South Australian Government. In the estimates of 1861 a vote of £25,000 (on loan) was taken for this service ; but delays arose, only recently terminated, as to the proportions in which the revenue from the line was to be divided between the two Governments. These difficulties having been overcome, the work will be commenced without delay, at a cost, it is supposed, of little more than £15,000. Upon its completion, we shall have a second, as well as a direct and independent line, for the transmission of the English news from Adelaide, and shall be saved the occasional interruptions between this and Adelaide, via Melbourne.

Tenders will be called for the construction of the line immediately upon the termination of the official negotiations now in hand. The work will probably take about eight months to carry out.

The only telegraphic extensions now in progress are lines from Wellington to Dubbo, a length of thirty-five miles; and from Braidwood to Araluen, a length of twenty miles".


Deniliquin to Moulamein.

On 21 May 1863, the Pastoral Times commented:

"We hear that the Government are about to connect Deniliquin with the South Australian line via Moulamein, Euston and Wentworth by telegraph. This will be the means of having a second line to Adelaide, avoiding the Mount Gambier and other districts contiguous to the sea where the line is often broken. If this line down the Edward—the money for which has long since been voted - is carried out, it will prove a great service to Moulamein, especially as a road for travelling stock is about to be proclaimed via Oxley, the Lower Lachlan and Maude, on the Murrumbidgee, to Moulamein and thence across the Murray. It saves about sixty miles in distance for stock travelling, in which case Maude and Moulamein promise to advance a little; and we would again advise the Government to sell the land forthwith at both places, and thus give them fair play in the race for advancement. Deniliquin promises too, to become a central station for several lines up and down the rivers of Riverina .

In late 1864, work on a line to Wentworth (i.e. to Moulamein) began in earnest in NSW. Cracknell stated that "it will provide the means of communication with Adelaide direct instead of through Victoria". Balranald was the end of a mail line which ran to Wagga Wagga as well as being a main crossing point over the Murrumbidgee for stock from South Australia.

The Moulemein Telegraph Office opened on 9 May 1866.

The Pastoral Times of 23 June 1866 reported "Your (Moulamein) correspondent has much pleasure in being priviliged to mention the extension of the electric current to this town and opening of the telegraph station on 9th May ultimo. Since which time many of our leading flock owners and business community, appreciating the numerous advantages derived by the public of other places through this most convenient agency, have patronized the "Spark" and, judging from appearances, there are good grounds for belief that our new station master, Mr. J. P. Olson, has been tolerably well engaged since his arrival amongst us. The whole of the wire to complete the line on to Wentworth which, when finished, will place the Metropolis in direct communication with Adelaide, has arrived and the contractcor, Mr. A. McCauley, who has suffered much from delay occasioned by drought and scarcity of feed and water for the cattle and horses employed in the cartage of material to carry on the works, has at length been enabled to resume work vigorously and the extension between Moulamein and Balranald is now in a forward state and will, it is believed, be soon ready for another official opening at the last mentioned place".

Moulamein is located about 50 km north - east of Swan Hill (on the Murray River in Victoria) where a Telegraph Office had been opened on 9 May 1866. There was however, no consideration given to constructing a telegraphic link between the two places in the late 1860s. Too busy.

Moulemein to Balranald.

On 26 January 1866, the Pastoral Times reported that "The telegraph works are now progressing the line towards Balranald". The Balranald Telegraph Office opened on 20 October 1866 (some reports give the date as 29 October).

While all the activity in Balranald was focussed on the construction of the telegraph line through that town en route to Wentworth, another important occasion occurred: the Leichardt Search Expedition Expedition arrived at Balranald on 13 July 1865. Two weeks later, they reached Pooncarie on the Darling River. "They complained of the total absence of feed and scarcity of water along the route from Balranald. One of the camels has been drowned while one fell lame and was left behind. The members of the party were all well, and, after testings few days, purposed pushing on to Menindie" (Sydney Mail 19 August 1865).


Balranald to Euston and Wentworth.

The Pastoral Times of 28 July 1866 reported that "The Telegraph does now show some signs of intended completion, as the offices are being reared apace, and the wire is being fixed to the poles. One of the inspectors says communication may be open with Adelaide in a fortnight—time will show". In 1867, the line was extended to Euston and Wentworth - which was then the only town of any size or consequence on the Darling from the Murray Junction to Fort Bourke. For example, the Goulburn Herald of 23 February 1867 reported that "The construction of the direct line of telegraph between this colony and South Australia is in progress at both ends, and has been pegged out on this side to within 11 miles of Euston, and the poles are now being set up. On the Wentworth side of Euston 33 miles have been completed - leaving about 45 miles to finish. This length will be completed in about six weeks or two months". A month later, the Goulburn Herald of 27 March 1867 updated progress with "The great line to South Australia is now completed to within ten miles of Euston on the Balranald side, and to within seventeen miles on the Wentworth side of Euston. The line is expected to be completed in about a month from the present time. Direct communication will then be had with Sydney and the intermediate stations—a great boon".

Mr. Cracknell, with the Head of the Post and Telegraph Office in Moama - William Camper - set up the Wentworth office as a repeater station for there would "be no reason for a full Telegraph Office for many years".


6. The line from Wentworth to South Australia.

Wentworth is located at the junction of the Darling and Murray rivers and is about 100 kms from the South Australian border. There was no need envisaged for a telegraph station to be opened there and a repeater station was adequate for all purposes - at least until 1890. There were, however, two critically important reasons for the line being extended to Wentworth from Deniliquin:

The local community at Wentworth held a meeting on 7 November 1862 with the ostensible and principal object of the meeting being to memorialise the Governments of New South Wales and South Australia to extend telegraphic communication to Wentworth:

"You are aware that several years ago such an item did appear in one budget, so that the N. S. W, wire should meet the S. A, one at the boundary near Wentworth. The money for this purpose was actually voted years ago but, owing to the backwardness of your Government, the vote has lapsed. Happily, however, its resuscitation is a matter of no difficulty. Is it that we are not sufficiently democratic and do not howl and abuse the reigning powers, that we do not obtain our just rights? If we were of those fatal destroyers of modern civilisation, what a list of grievances could we not append, and what voice would not be given to them by some local demagogue, if unhappily the breed existed in the 'salt bush' ... noted:

Within the last few weeks, the notification that tenders ware called for for the conveyance of mails betwixt Wentworth and Mount MurchisonChanged name to Wilcannia. reached Wentworth so late in the month that it was impossible for the present energetic contractor, R. Driscoll, to have his tender in on time. I suppose that the good people in George Street have no idea that Her Majesty's mail is sometimes conveyed by men in puris naturalibusIn a purely natural state - i.e. naked. but such is actually the case, as the individual alluded to needs to ride miles and miles stripped to the 'buff' so close came one swimable creek after the other. And, not withstanding those difficulties, and the immense rounds he had to take to keep outside the backwaters, he performed his mail service efficiently, whilst that from Fort Bourke to Mount Murchison was discontinued tor three months.

Well then, this man, owing simply to his living at a distant point of the colony, cannot obtain next year's contract, unless through the clemency of the Postmaster-General. As the speaker already alluded to remarked, the electric telegraph would do away with many of these injustices and secure a direct telegraphic communication betwixt Sydney and Adelaide, which cannot be considered otherwise than desirable".
Sydney Mail, 29 November 1862.

The Victorian Government was also contemplating the benefits of extending their lines to Wentworth. The Argus of 22 March 1864:

"the rivers Murray and Murrumbidgee are now very low, so much so that the steamers Bogan and Albury experienced considerable difficulty in their last downward passage. There is another flood coming down the Darling, however, which will probably enable the Albury, which sailed on Saturday, to proceed as far as Fort Bourke, for which place some of her cargo is consigned ... In consequence of the rapidly increasing trade between Melbourne and the Darling, I think it would be greatly to the advantage of the Melbourne mercantile interest if the Victorian line of electric telegraph was extended from Swan Hill to Wentworth, which, with the railway to Echuca, would secure to Melbourne nearly the whole of the Darling trade, the greater portion of which now passes through Adelaide".

The Maitland Mercury of 27 September 1864 noted that "The Government have decided to call for tenders for the extension of the telegraphic wire direct to Adelaide. The line will run down the Murray from Deniliquin via Moulamein, Balranald, Euston and Wentworth and from the latter to the frontier, at which point it will be taken in hand by the South Australian Government.

In the Estimates of 1861, a vote of £25,000 (on loan) was taken for this service. Delays arose, only recently terminated, as to the proportions in which the revenue from the line was to be divided between the two Governments. These difficulties having been overcome, the work will be commenced without delay at a cost, it is supposed, of little more than £15,000. Upon its completion, we shall have a second, as well as a direct and independent line, for the transmission of the English news from Adelaide and then we shall be saved the occasional interruptions between this and Adelaide via Melbourne.

Tenders will be called for the construction of the line immediately upon the termination of the official negotiations now in hand".

The Pastoral Times of 10 June 1865 announced that the contractors for the extension to Wentworth and the Adelaide border, commenced operations on Thursday (8 June). Well done but ...

"The South Australian contractor is now twenty miles this side of Wentworth, having completed his portion of the line from South Australia to that township, and he is now engaged in going on with the work until he meets the New South Wales contractor who is (as New South Wales generally is in her public works) a long way behind. The Government of the latter colony have agreed to pay the South Australian contractor for his work in N.S.W. and will endeavor to hasten the opening of the line to Wentworth from Adelaide and Sydney. The line when completed will put Deniliquin in direct communication with Adelaide, the beginning of the line being in Deniliquin" (Pastoral Times, 21 July 1866).

The Sydney Morning Herald of 23 August 1866 reported that "During the past month, that portion of the direct line to South Australia between Wentworth and the boundary has been completed and the Wentworth station will be opened probably in the course of a week or two. The remainder of the direct line is progressing favourably and it is expected that the Balranald station will be opened in a fortnight or three weeks".

The Pastoral Times of 20 October 1866 reported the sad news that "The insolvency of Mr. McAuley, the contractor for the telegraph line from Wentworth to Deniliquin, has prevented the line being opened between the latter town and South Australia as soon as it should be. The section of the line between Wentworth and Adelaide has long since been finished.

Telegrams can now be had at Deniliquin from Wentworth, by way of Adelaide and then through Victoria - which would of course involve three payments, viz., one to the South Australian Government, a second to Victoria and the third to New South Wales. We should thus pay very dear for our whistle. It is expected that, in about four months, the line will be finished between Deniliquin and Wentworth when we shall have but one rate to pay".

The Sydney Morning Herald of 23 October 1866 expanded on this report: "The extension of the direct line to Adelaide via Deniliquin and down the Murray to Wentworth is being carried on by sureties of the contractor, who succumbed under the difficulties which he had encountered as a consequence of the long drought and other untoward circumstances. We understand the work is now progressing satisfactorily".

The 20 October 1866 article in the Pastoral Times also noted:

"Two operators will be stationed at Wentworth, one on the part of South Australia and the other will represent New South Wales, the latter receiving two-thirds of the gross sum charged for messages between Sydney and Adelaide by this route — the New South Wales Government having made about two-thirds of the line. There will thus be two main trunk lines between Sydney and Adelaide, one through New South Wales and Victoria, and the other through New South Wales and South Australia, along the Edward and Murray from Deniliquin.

We shall soon connect Fort Bourke, it is expected, with the other lines which will be of immense service in stock transactions, in particular, as well as in the navigation of the Darling. Information can be had by these means of the rise and fall of that uncertain river, so as to enable the shipmasters to ascend or descend it without the risk of being left high and dry while pursuing their avocation.

Mr Cracknell, the Chief Superintendent of Telegraphs of New South Wales, will be again in Balranald in about four months time to open the office there and he will, we believe, then proceed to Wentworth and other stations on the borders and put them all into good working order.

The telegraph department of our Government is decidedly the best managed of all the works of the colony and we hear that the lines return about 7% after paying working expenses and they will become more valuable as population increases in the interior; they cannot have any opposition lines as they will all be in the hands of the Government. We may, therefore, look forward to payable returns at a higher rate than usual. The Government of New South Wales go upon the principle of requiring guarantees from local parties who may be desirous of securing the benefit of telegraph extension—every local office must pay its expenses, or the parties giving the guarantee must make the deficiency up between the receipts and the expenditure — a hard rule in many instances. We cannot see that it is a just one, unless the general principle of expending Government moneys in the districts where the moneys are raised was followed, in which case we in the interior should fare much better than we do at present".

The Armidale Express of 27 April 1867 reported "The great telegraph line which is to connect the capital of this colony with that of South Australia is just completed. The opening of this line will be a great convenience to the people who are accustomed to communicate by telegraph in both colonies, and especially to the Press as the Press messages containing the news received from England by way of the branch boat from King George's Sound, have hitherto come through Melbourne. It is intended to have the line ready for the transmission of the messages to be brought by the next branch mail boat".

The direct telegraph line between Sydney and Adelaide was officially opened on Saturday 11 May 1867. The Goulburn Herald of that date noted that several messages had passed direct between Adelaide and Wagga Wagga during the week.