New South Wales - Colonial period: 1858-1900.
Lines in the north-central region.


The north-central region of New South Wales is defined in this site as being bounded by the region east of Bourke, south of the Queensland border and west of the first telegraph line to Queensland.

The map of the region below shows the main telegraph lines and the telegraph offices opened to about the mid-1880s. The lower part of the map joins to the south-east region (so the Bathurst to Forbes line is described in that region), the left of the map joins to the north-west region beyond Bourke while the right of the map joins to the north-east region which is east of the first telegraph line to Queensland.

The colours used for the telegraph lines on the map indicate the broad time periods with details of developments provided below:

North central

To 1862:

On 21 February 1859 the Department of Lands and Public Works advertised in the Government Gazette for:

"tenders for the supply of material (wire excepted) and for the workmanship necessary for the erection of a line of Electric Telegraph from Parramatta by the line of Railway or main road according to the Superintendent to Bathurst ... the Government supplying the telegraph and binding wire in Sydney".

The advertisement also called for Tenders for the construction of a line to Newcastle from the Blacktown Road.

Construction of the 123 mile line began on 23 May 1859 and was the Bathurst Telegraph Office opened for traffic on 29 December 1859. Intermediate stations were opened at Penrith on 23 March 1860 and at Hartley on 23 April 1860.

In 1851, Edward Hargraves had found gold found in quantity and announced his find in a hotel in Bathurst. Other discoveries were made during the 1850's at Sofala and Hill End. Hence, Bathurst was the first gold centre in Australia.

Bushrangers soon became numerous in the area from the late 1850s. In 1862, John Piesley was the first of the bushrangers to be hanged in Bathurst Gaol. Ben Hall - one of the most famous bushrangers (although a local of Murrurundi) - carried out his first robbery (with four of his friends) in Bathurst in October 1863. From 1862, Cobb & Co. relocated the centre of its operations to Bathurst. There was, therefore, throughout the period from the mid-1850's a significant need for telegraphic communication to serve the gold prospectors as well as to monitor law and order.

A branch line was constructed from a point just north of One Tree Hill (now Mount Victoria) to Mudgee in 1861. At that time, the Telegraph Office had not been opened at One Tree Hill (that happened in 1868) and there were no intermediate stations before the line reached Mudgee. The reason why this line was constructed was that Mudgee was also significantly affected by the discovery of gold and it was therefore was a more convenient point than Bathurst for many prospectors. The opening of the telegraph office in 1861 was soon after Mudgee had been proclaimed a municipality.

In his Report for 1861, Cracknell makes special note of a new line from Mudgee. At that time, it was not decided whether to take the line to Muswellbrook or to some place north - even as far as Murrurundi. It was felt that the further north the connection was moved, the more advantages would accrue. It was always considered that Cassillis should be on this junction line. Finally the line did go through Cassillis and joined the main line at Murrurundi having linked through Merriwa also. The Murrurundi to Mudgee line was completed about February 1866 (see 1865 Report) and was seen as ensuring more regular communication with the Northern stations in the Colony and with those in Queensland.

In 1862, a line was commenced running to the north-west from Mudgee. It opened in that year to Wellington - 48.5 miles for a cost of £43 per mile. The Wellington Telegraph Office opened on 12 September 1862.

The lines were soon extended west from Bathurst to Orange and then Forbes - the completion of this line being late October 1862. A Telegraph Office was also opened on the goldfields at Sofala (actually three months before the opening of the Post Office).

1863-1872:

Immediately after the line from Mudgee to Wellington had been opened at the end of 1862, work commenced to extend the line to Dubbo. This construction was completed during 1863. This line was one of several which had been underwritten by the inhabitants of the district. They were responsible for the annual payment of 5% return on the capital used for the lines after the provision for the working expenses.

Also during this period, three extensions were constructed to the west from the main north-south line:

The announcement of the opening of the Gunnedah Office simply mentioned the date (7 June 1869) and that "the charges will be the same as to Tamworth — namely, 6s. for ten words and 4d. for each additional word".

Extensions of the gold mining telegraph lines to Dubbo and through Hill End were also constructed. Dubbo was at the cross-roads of important coach links from east to west and from north to south. Indeed, the stimulus for growth about the 1860s was the increased trade brought about by the Victorian gold rush.

After 1872:

The first major construction activity in this period was the push from Pilliga to Brewarrina and thence to Bourke. The distance covered by that line was considerable and there were many difficulties with its construction. It did, however, open up a considerable area of New South Wales for later development.

The link between Pilliga and Walgett appears to have been completed in 31 July 1876 when "Mr. Phelan, the Pilliga telegraph operator arrived and established telegraphic communication through the relay by sound".

Access to Bourke was important as it was an important post and mail coach centre for services along the Darling River to Wilcannia and along the Macquarie River to Dubbo.

The line was extended north from Merriwa to Cassilis and Coolah and then on to Coonabarrabran. Tenders were accepted on 22 August 1874. By February 1876, the contractor had 10 miles of line constructed north from Coonabarrabran. This line was intended to provide an important back-up to the main Sydney-Brisbane line for use in emergency situations.

The line linking Coonamble to Pilliga was completed in March 1875 - although many in Coonamble considered this to be a waste of resources as the main business was south to Dubbo, etc.

Other construction activities included adding telegraph stations along existing lines or adding branch lines to extend the existing lines to service special areas.

In March 1875, the inhabitants of Warren requested that the line to Dubbo be extended by 80 miles to their town. They pointed out that after the bridge at Warren was completed, large numbers of overland stock would be crossing there. They were also prepared to sign the guarantee bond with the government.

On 6 January 1876, the Brisbane Courier reported that the construction of the line from Warialda to Goondiwindi had commenced. The Warialda Telegraph Office opened in 1877.

The Sydney Morning Herald of 21 October 1881 reported that "a large and influential meeting had been convened by the Mayor for the purpose of protesting against the decision of the Postmaster-General to construct a line of telegraph to connect Coonamble and Dubbo, via Warren instead of Gulargambone and Gilgandra as applied for ... is (was) an injustice to the people of these towns and will not meet the requirements of the public. Several speakers addressed the meeting forcibly pointing out the great injustice that was likely to result to the people of the Castlereagh districts generally if the proposed line be adopted".

In November, the local community again expressed its opinions when " Mr David McCullough, Mayor of Coonamble, accompanied by the Member for the Bogan, Sir P. A. Jennings and Mr G. E. Cass, waited on Mr Cracknell, the Superintendent of Telegraphs, urging the advisability of erecting the direct telegraph line from Dubbo to Coonamble via Gilgandra. The Superintendent promised to recommend the matter to the Postmaster-General".

On 26 November, tenders were called for the erection of a Telegraph Line from Dubbo to Coonamble via Gilgandra and Gulargambone. Date for closing was 14 December 1881.

In 1882, the line from Dubbo to Coonamble via Gundagai was constructed. Few details are recorded. On 3 June 1882, an advertisement appeared in the Australian Town and Country Journal for:
"12 MEN for Telegraph Work, new line from Gilgandra to Coonamble; wages 8s for nine hours work. None but good axe men need apply. M. O'KEEFE, Telegraph Contractor, Telegraph Camp, Dubbo to Coonamble".