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

The north-east region of New South Wales is defined in this site as being bounded by the region east of the first telegraphic line to Queensland and down to the Sydney-Parramatta line.

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 while the left side of the map joins to the north-central region which extends to Bourke. For reference, some lines and telegraph offices from the north-central region have been added.

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


North east

To 1862:

Prior to the construction of the first line to Queensland in 1861, the basis of the NSW telegraph routes were established.

On 21 February 1859 the Department of Lands and Public Works advertised in the Government Gazette (p.423) for:

"tenders for the supply of material (wire excepted) and for the workmanship necessary for the erection of a line of Electric Telegraph from a pint on or near the Blacktown Road to Windsor and thence to Wiseman's Ferry, Wollombi, West Maitland, Maitland and Newcastle ... the Government supplying the telegraph and binding wire in Sydney". 

This contract, and another advertised simultaneously for the line to Bathurst,

"had to be completed, and the works handed over to the Government within six months from the notification of the acceptance of the Tender, time being considered of the essence of the contract".

Telegraph offices were established at Wollombi and Morpeth in 1860 as part of the need to connect to Newcastle in the same year. At that time, Morpeth was an important river port for the export of coal and timber.

After the first line to Queensland had been completed, a new line from Glen Innes to Grafton on the coast was constructed. Grafton had been established in 1851 and was the centre for a timber industry exporting to a variety of markets.

The telegraph line from Grafton was not without its problems - the Sydney Morning Herald reporting on 19 April 1862 that " The works on the Grafton and Tenterfield telegraph line have lately been brought to a stand-still through the "sudden disappearance" of the sub-contractor. They were to be resumed so soon as the men could have an interview with the contractor, Mr. Faviell.

The Grafton Telegraph Office was opened in late 1862.



During the next 10 years, Uralla was added to the main line and extensions were constructed to Tamworth and Inverell.

Perhaps the main extension was that from Port Macquarie to Armidale. On 28 June 1869, the Macleay Herald published the following details:

Believing that our readers would be interested by having a few particulars respecting the telegraph line placed before them, we have pleasure in making the following remarks.

The whole length of the line, from Port Macquarie to the  office in Armidale, is 125 miles and 17 chains. It measures 28 miles from Port Macquarie to Kempsey.

It was commenced by Mr. Edmondson, the contractor, about the 16th of August in last year, and finished about the 16th of May, 1869. The line crosses the main line of road in several places, and at others diverges a considerable distance from it. In carrying the line up Jogla Hill — a distance of four miles — great difficulty was experienced, but the greatest task of all was the sinking of the post-holes from Woolimombie to Mr. Hargreaves' station — the holes having to be blasted out of bluestone.

Two masts have to be erected at the Hastings river, and one at the Macleay, to make the line complete. These will carry the line at a sufficient height to allow vessels to pass under it. Mr. Rutherford, who we understand is working for the Government, is erecting the masts, and expects in the course of a few days to have those at the Hastings finished.

Mr. Walker, the Assistant Superintendent of Telegraphs, passed through Kempsey on Wednesday last, in company with Mr. McLerie, having left Armidale the previous Friday and followed the line all the way down, for the purpose of inspecting it. Mr. Edmondson carried out his contract under the official superintendence of Mr. Scott, who was assisted by Mr. McLerie.

In a few weeks it is expected the line will be opened for communication. Mr. Walker, the Superintendent of  Telegraphs, has visited  Port Macquarie and taken a house in Clarence Street, belonging to Mr. Cavenah, as an office. The instruments have arrived and will be shortly set up. It is understood that a gentleman from Yass has received the appointment of operator.


1873 onwards:

After 1873, construction slowly extended lines all along the coastal side on the Great Divide:

The planning of these lines was influenced by the agricultural and dairy industries which were developing along the coastal regions. The new lines also slowly developed into an additional line from Queensland to Sydney to support the main line through Armidale and Tenterfield.