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

The South East Region of New South Wales is defined in this site as being bounded by the area east of the Southern line from Sydney to the Victorian border.

This map extends north-west
through the Central West region of NSW.
This map extends north
along the Northern line to Queensland.

This map extends west through the Riverina-Murray region of NSW.

This map includes the Southern line to Albury.
This map extends to the Melbourne-Albury line in Victoria.
  This map extends south-west to
the east Gippsland region in Victoria.
This map extends to Gabo Island.

1. Overview.

2. The line to Wollongong.

3. Along the coast from Wollongong to Eden.

4. Lines south from the Southern to Braidwood to Queanbeyan.

4.1 From Goulburn.

4.2: From Yass.

5. The lines through the Alpine region from Gundagai.

5.1: Kiandra.

5.2: Cooma.

6. Lines south of Cooma to Bombala and Cooma.

7. Gabo Island.


1. Overview.

In the Legislative Assembly of 9 December 1859, the following exchange took place in Question Time:

"Mr. Gordon asked the Minister representing the Secretary for Works, "Whether it is the intention of the present Government to extend the telegraphic communication from Campbelltown, or the most convenient point on the Southern line, to Wollongong, Kiama and Shoalhaven; and if so, when the work will be commenced?"

Mr. Black replied that it was not the present intention of the Government to extend the means of telegraphic communication to the places named.

Mr. Gordon: For what reason?

Mr. Black: That would involve discussion".

A few days later, on 15 December 1859, the Illawarra Mercury followed up Mr. Gordon's questions:

"We are inclined to think, however, that Mr Gordon's question was not extensive enough. We are of opinion the Telegraph ought to be extended the full length of our coast, from Wollongong to Twofold Bay. Further than this, we are of opinion that, if the Government of Victoria could be induced to join in the undertaking, that the line should be extended along the coast right on to Melbourne.

A little explanation of the details of this scheme may not be out of place. The line would not be more than 600 miles in length and, at the latest contract price, would cost but £30,000. It would pass through the following places with stations in the principal towns, viz. Wollongong, Shellharbor, Kiama, Shoalhaven, (station at either Green Hills or Nowra), Ulladulla, Broulee, Moruya, Clyde River, (station at Nelligen), Bega, Merrimbula, and to Eden — the last point of communication on our coast. From the main coast line, there might be branches extended to the Araluen Diggings and Braidwood, from Moruya and Nelligen; from Braidwood to Queanbeyan, and to Cooma and Bombala, from Bega and Eden, and a branch line might, when the new line of road is opened, be extended from Shoalhaven to Goulburn.

... Then it must not be lost sight of that the great desidiratum, a reliable second line of telegraph from Sydney to Melbourne, would be placed within the reach of the merchants of Sydney and Melbourne, by the carrying out of this scheme far better than by the plan now in execution — putting the second line on the same posts as the first line. The great cause of obstruction to communication is accidents to the line caused by bush fires, the felling of trees on the line and by malicious injury by the aborigines and others. To all these casualties the double wire will be as liable the single — therefore, to a considerable extent, the outlay in putting up the second wire will be thrown away. But this would not be the case if a second line was brought down the coast. That line would not, from the nature of the country, be so subject to the casualties we have alluded to as the present overland line to Melbourne, at least so far as our territory is concerned, whilst it would have the great advantage of extending the use of the telegraph to an additional number of people".

The Illawarra Mercury of 13 August 1861 contained the following article which provides the blueprint of a vision for telegraph line development in this region of New South Wales:

"In another column will be found an advertisement convening a meeting of the inhabitants of the Wollongong district to take steps to place the claims of this district for an extension to it of the advantages of Telegraphic Communication with other parts of this and the adjoining colonies.

Two years ago we urged this matter upon the attention of the residents of the South Coast. Now, as then, we regard it as a question of great importance to our welfare as a community in every respect; and we are as confident, not only that we have a right to demand the extension to us of this means of communication, but also that the Government would find it greatly to their profit to carry it out.

At the meeting on the 15th, which was disappointingly attended except for a large number of influential citizens, the significance of the district - and the south coast below - economically and with size of population were discussed. In reference to Wollongong alone:

The meeting pointed out that "The line had already been laid down more than half way to Wollongong and, when that was completed, the main expense would be the station, which would be comparatively small ... the telegraph wire from Sydney already reaches to Campbelltown, a distance of about thirty miles from Wollongong and will shortly reach near Appin, a distance of only twenty miles from Wollongong. The wire would have to be extended over ground favorable in every respect as to cost, with an ample supply of post timber in the whole route".

In terms of a long term strategy for the south coast region of New South Wales: "Sooner or later the Telegraph would extend to Eden, and it would then follow as a matter of course that the intermediate districts would derive the benefit of it:

He believed that, exclusive of coal, the exports from Kiama were equal to those of Wollongong;

Dr. Alley, who had paid much attention to the matter, had said that the exports from Shoalhaven were equal to either of the former places.

Further south there was Ulladulla with a population of 700 or 800, and which seemed to be the outlet for the population of lllawarra, for there were the offshoots settled there of many of our respectable families.

He then came to Moruya which was a splendid district, as must be admitted by anyone who had visited it;

and further south there was Merrimbula and Eden. If the Telegraph was once established to the latter place, the Government would find it to their advantage, to extend it to Cape Howe where most of vessels engaged in the southern trade were in the habit of passing".

Another article advocating the Wollongong to Eden line of telegraphs is the Illawarra Mercury of 27 August 1861.

A letter to the Editor of the SMH, on 26 March 1862, advocated for a line from Campbelltown to Wollongong and down the coast as an aid to the ships travelling up the coast to Sydney.


2. The line to Wollongong.

On 3 September 1861, the Kiama Examiner published a letter from the Department of Works dated 20 August which stated in part:

"In reference to your letter of the 17th instant, enclosing a petition from the inhabitants of Wollongong and its neighborhood praying for the extension of the Electric Telegraph line to that town, I am directed by the Secretary for Public Works to inform you that a sum of money has already been voted for the Estimates of 1862 for connecting Wollongong and Kiama with the main Southern Telegraphic Line".

On 18 February 1862, the Public Works Department issued a notice, which appeared in all Sydney papers, to the effect that "The proposed line of telegraph to Wollongong and Kiama will leave the Great Southern Railway, opposite Appin, via Rixon's Pass instead of Douglass Park and Mount Keira". A few months later, a letter from the Public Works Department was read to the Assembly informing them that "the new line of telegraph to Kiama was being constructed along the proposed new line of road from the Macquarie bridge to the Minamurra River". That did not however clarify the matters for all interested parties. On 7 June 1862, Councillor Russell of the Shellharbour Municipal Council stated that "the contractor for clearing the line for the erection of the telegraph posts was at a stand-still at the Macquarie bridge, and waiting for the Council to point out the new line of road from the said bridge upon which the telegraph was to be erected". The council took action and instructions were given to Surveyor Taylor "to attend upon the contractor for the purpose of pointing out the proposed new line of road".

Progress of the Wollongong line:

"A gentleman who came overland yesterday informs us that the contractor for the erection of the line of telegraph between Campbelltown, Wollongong and Kiama, has already commenced the work between the railway line and Appin" (Illawarra Mercury 21 March 1862).

"The clearing of the line for the telegraph is progressing vigorously and has reached within a short distance of the Cabbage Tree. It is therefore expected, by the end of the present week, that the whole line will be cleared to Wollongong. The stretching of the wires, it is believed, will be commenced to-day and, as the posts have been fixed or the post holes dug throughout the greater part of the distance, and the line will be stretched at the rate of seven miles a day, a very short time will see communication opened with the metropolis" (Illawarra Mercury 20 May 1862).

The telegraph line to Wollongong was completed in early July 1862

3. Along the coast from Wollongong to Eden.

Wollongong to Kiama.

The Kiama line was installed at a time of major change in the area. Most inhabitants were from Northern Ireland and given "clearing leases" to develop wheat farming on the rich volcanic soils. By 1860, the emphasis on wheat was beginning to change to dairy farming. Coal was becoming another major endeavour with significant deposits of high quality coal being discovered. As well, work was well underway on developing the basalt quarries - especially using the Irish Catholics - for providing ballast to the railways as well as hollowing out a place for Kiama Harbour. With so much Government-related work, a telegraph link to Kiama was vital.

By 1862, a number of lines had been erected in this region and more were in the process of construction. In the Legislative Assembly of 30 May 1862, it was stated:

"the telegraphic posts which are now being erected on the southern coast line, instead of being of seasoned iron-bark or other suitable timber, are only green saplings. Most of them have not been even charred at the end fixed in the ground and that they cannot possibly last above a few months. They are, in general, exceedingly crooked and the bark, having been only partially stripped off, some of them may be expected to grow. The others will be rotten in a short time and then we may, in the Assembly, hear from the honorable Minister for Works a statement as to the worthlessness of colonial timber and the advantages to be secured by importing telegraph as well as signal posts from the eminent firm of Hart and Sons of Brigg, Lincolnshire".

The coastal line via Wollongong to Kiama was completed in mid-October 1862.

Kiama to Jervis Bay.

There were some water hazards which had to be avoided south of Kiama. They were Jervis Bay and Lake Conjola. The former was avoided by stopping the line from Nowra above St. George's Basin and taking the line south-west. That allowed a branch line to be constructed subsequently to the Jervis Bay Lighthouse.

Telegraphic developments noted in the Legislative Assembly at about this time included:

Construction of other telegraph lines in the general region focussed both on completing connections especially with alternative routes and on major economic activities:

A connection was made from Terrara (Nowra south of the Shoalhaven River) to Greenwell Point. The News and Shoalhaven Advertiser (1 March 1876) described the construction and the possible result as follows:

"It will be seen by our advertising columns, tenders are invited from parties willing to supply the posts required from Terrara to Greenwell Point. The contractor, Mr. T. Boyle, arrived in Terrara a few days ago, and his party sank the first post-hole close to Mr. Bindon's shop yesterday morning. From the Point across to the Pilot Station, the continuity will be maintained by means of a submarine cable across the mouth of the Crookhaven River. So that it is probable, unless the Telegraph Department is as sleepy as it used to be some time ago, in a few weeks we will be able to send telegraphic greetings to our cousins and well wishers at the Point, the most important of which will probably run thus:
Counter Petition burned by the public executioner: great excitement—the grand staircase at Boston House blown up by gunpowder—Central Shoalhaven a Municipality at last: first Mayor, Abraham Davis—brick bats flying through the air in most strange disorder —Copperhead is missing

The connection to Bulli (1877) was important because of the major coal mining activity which had been started in 1862 and the consequent shipping of the coal to various destinations from the Bulli port.


Jervis Bay to Moruya.


Construction of the Lighthouse at Cape St. George (near Jervis Bay) was finished by about mid-1860's and the lantern had been fixed. It was anticipated that it would soon be brought into use. It would then be able to flash its light and record the passing of vessels - but not communicate with the authorities if any real emergency eventuated. A mere 18 months later, the Shoalhaven News of 20 January 1872 reported on a public meeting held at Mr. Wheatley's Star Hotel in Milton on the previous Monday (15th). Its purpose was to petition the Government to extend the telegraph line from Jervis Bay to the newly erected lighthouse at Ulladulla:

"The hon. member for the Shoalhaven district (James Warden Esq) in a few remarks stated that he had had an interview with Mr Byrnes, who appeared to be favorable to the extension of the line to the Ulladulla district, but the tone of the public meeting went to show their just claim to this extension without being called upon to enter into any guarantee; should they require an additional operator at Milton, they will have no objection to give the usual bond for the extra services. As regards the extension to the lighthouse, the Government have long since pledged themselves to carry out the recommendation of a Parliamentary Committee appointed to enquire into the subject of Telegraphs and Lighthouses some few years ago".

The Gazette of 22 May 1874 called for tenders "from persons desirous of contracting for the erection of a line of electric telegraph from Cape St. George to Ulladulla, an estimated distance of 35 miles, to be completed in two months at the rate of not less than 5 miles per week".


The coastal route from Kiama to Nelligen - inland from Bateman's Bay - was important for the many communities which were being established as well as for maritime safety and reporting;

Tenders were call in February 1876 for the construction of a telegraph line between Moruya and Bateman's Bay. On 25 March 1878, £2,500 was placed on the Estimates for the construction of a line of Electric Telegraph between Milton and Nelligen.

In the floods of January 1887, the telegraph line to Nelligen was washed away.


There were two lines into Moruya - one from Nelligen and the other from Araluen.

From Moruya to Eden.


The Bega Gazette of 16 May 1868 reported the following:

"It may not be generally known that an Electric Telegraph line passes within twelve miles of Bega. The line from Gabo Island is progressing rapidly and will shortly be completed. It is now within a short distance of Eden.

Although we have the Electric Telegraph, as it were, passing our very door, yet to the inhabitants of Bega it will be of no practical use or benefit. Considering the irregularity of our mails -- and this must, of a necessity, be always the case where we are entirely dependant upon the uncertainty of steamers and the carnalities of the sea for the delivery of our letters, etc — it would therefore be very desirable that the Telegraph should be extended to the township - the distance is but short and the work inexpensive. The Government will readily accede to the request of the inhabitants if they will guarantee the working expenses of the line - that is, if the cost of messages sent through the wires during the course of twelve months does not cover the working expenses of the line, the inhabitants will be required to make up the difference. So it will depend upon the use made of the wires whether there will be anything to pay by the people or not. We feel quite confident that, among the business people and principal settlers of Bega, that the amount required from each individual as a guarantee would be but trifling while the importance and value of the service to be rendered cannot be too highly estimated.

We would earnestly recommend the project to the serious consideration of the inhabitants. As men deeply interested in the fluctuation of the markets, the advantages of telegraphic communication with the metropolis is of the last importance to them. At the present moment, the latest date from Sydney is ten days old.

How any commercial or trading community could rest contented with this unsettled and precarious communication with the metropolis - and a line of Telegraph within twelve miles of them - is a almost inexplicable mystery. One would suppose that self-interest would incite activity and energy on the part of our store-keepers and farmers. Surely it requires no very great amount of intellectual perception to see that the interests of the whole community, individually and collectively, are concerned.

If the inhabitants intend that Bega should advance, progress and prosper, let them connect themselves with the chief market of the colony; let them bring themselves within half an hour's converse with their agents and friends in Sydney.

The Electric Telegraph must find a terminus at Bega. The sooner it is accomplished, the greater credit due to the people, and the longer it is delayed, the more opprobium it will reflect upon the members of the community".

On 9 June 1868, the inhabitants of Bega had an impromptu meeting at the Court-house with Mr. Cracknell as he was passing through. He explained that the government would allow the extension to Bega on the condition that the residents met the guarantee of 5% of the outlay and the salary of an operator. As the proposed line was only short (coming from Moruya) the guarantee would be "trifling" - something like £66. "At all events, £100 per year would be the extreme. Hence the residents should apply to the Postmaster-General, giving the names of those who were willing to enter the required guarantee. He would almost safely predict the completion of this line in three months time. He felt quite sure that in a fine, popular district like this, the line would more that support itself. He would do all he could to forward the wishes of the inhabitants".

Contemporaneous momentum in this regard increased as shown by:

"Telegraphic Extension: Bega to Eden.

We have this week to communicate the pleasing intelligence that this line has been sanctioned by the Government and that, as soon as the bond is signed, operations will be commenced; so that in about three months, Mr Cracknell, the Superintendent of Telegraphs, to whom the district is indebted for pushing the matter forward, will most likely redeem his promise given (as some of our readers may remember) at the meeting at the Court-house, to come up and open the line" (Bega Gazette of 27 June 1868).

"The inhabitants of Bega have entered into a bond for the extension of a line of telegraphs to connect that place with the metropolis on the guarantee principle" (Sydney Morning Herald 15 July 1868).

The telegraph line from Bega through Merimbula to Eden was opened by Mr. Cracknell on 18 October 1868.

There have always been some inhabitants of Bega who are lateral thinkers. Concerned about the bond they were forced to accept by the Government for the provision of their line of telegraph, the Bega Gazette of 29 October 1868 reported on behalf of those lateral thinkers:

"Several of our townsmen have bound themselves to pay a certain amount per annum in the event of the telegraphic receipts not reaching a certain sum. Now the way to assist this branch, and make it prosperous, is this:

Let everyone who sends a message, to which there will be a reply, add, "reply by telegraph to be paid at Bega". Bega people can charge their Sydney or other correspondents with the amount of the message and have a private settlement. Since it is no odds to outsiders whether they pay for telegrams at Bega or elsewhere, by making all messages payable at Bega the local receipts will be materially augmented and the liability of the tradesmen decreased".

Merimbula and Pambula

The line from Bega to Merimbula - an important coast station - opened in October 1868.

On March 1869, £200 was placed on the Estimates for the construction of a line from Merimbula to Pambula - which had been guaranteed. This date was well after the line had been extended to Eden. Hence, with such a small amount involved, the construction might have involved some sort of link and connection.


4. South from the Southern line to Braidwood and Queanbeyan.

4.1 To Braidwood.

Gold had been discovered in the region of Braidwood in 1851 and the region soon became home to thousands of prospectors. Although that in itself was sufficient reason to construct a telegraph line, the situation in the region was made increasingly difficult through the operations of bushrangers. Indeed this situation led to Australia's first Royal Commission which was appointed to inquire into the involvement of police officers (especially the Superintendent) and district officials in the protection of the bushrangers.

On 27 September 1859 in the Legislative Assembly, Mr. Robertson stated, in reply to a question, "he understood that a proposition about to be submitted to the Government by inhabitants of Braidwood, for a branch line of electric telegraph from Goulburn to that place, paying a proportion of the expense, and any such proposition would be favourably entertained". The 55 mile line from Goulburn to Braidwood was budgeted at the end of 1860 at a cost of £4,000.

"Only one of the lines authorised to be carried out last session has been put in hand. The extension from Goulburn to Braidwood, a length of about sixty miles, has been contracted for by Mr. Thomas Hatton, at £41 per mile The work is not yet commenced, but it is to be completed within ten months of the acceptance of the tender" (Sydney Morning Herald 21 June 1861). Constructed in November 1861 (find more)

The Braidwood Dispatch of March 1862 reported "On Sunday last, in consequence of something being wrong with the wires between Braidwood and Goulburn, Mr. F. Mackel, the inspector of the line, went for the purpose of finding out what was the matter. He reached Boro at eleven o'clock where he remained until one, waiting for the line inspector from Goulburn; he then proceeded on and, when within about eight miles from Goulburn, he found that the wires had been displaced from five poles in succession by some boys, one of whom he succeeded in catching. He conveyed the boy, whose name is John Payten, to Goulburn and brought him before the police magistrate on Monday, and he was sentenced to forty-eight hours imprisonment in Goulburn gaolWhich we remember from the entry for Goulburn is close to the place chosen for the Telegraph Office.".

On 11 February 1864, in an answer to a question in the Legislative Assembly, Mr. Forster said that "the Government had determined on removing the head-quarters of the south-eastern police district from Cooma to Braidwood because the latter was a more important and populous district, that it was more easily accessible and that it enjoyed the advantage of telegraphic communication".

Deterioration of equipment was always a problem with the provision of telegraphic services. In October 1867, the Braidwood Independent reported "We notice that many of the posts along the Goulburn line of telegraph are badly decayed in the ground and cannot in consequence be of much further service, and unless shortly substituted by others must, with a strong wind, come to the ground and thus interrupt the communication".

4.2: To Queanbeyan.

From Goulburn via Braidwood.

Although an avowed priority for the Government, the answer to a question in the Legislative Assembly on 5 August 1862, was "that no steps had been taken in the matter of telegraphic extension to Queanbeyan, beyond placing a sum upon the Estimates and that the extension would be made conditional on the carrying out of arrangements satisfactory to the Government in regard to local contribution".

The next extension in the region was in 1864 from Braidwood west to Queanbeyan. Queanbeyan was the economic, social and legal centre of the region at that time but it was quite isolated from the rest of the world! In 1860, it took 13 hours to communicate with Sydney. The linking of Queanbeyan to the main line was therefore accorded high priority especially through the active support from the local community - namely an arrangement with the residents that the Government shall receive five per cent on the outlay.

A Telegraph Committee was established in Queanbeyan and, when the Goulburn-Braidwood link was announced, a push was made to have Queanbeyan linked to the main line also. The Government backed the plan as long as Queanbeyan residents guaranteed 5% of the construction cost.

In support of the principle to develop alternative routes, the Legislative Assembly in October 1862 approved the inclusion in the 1863 Estimates of £2,600 for the construction of a 35 mile telegraph line between Braidwood and Queanbeyan. Elsewhere the cost is noted as being £37 per mile. Hence a sum of £1,300 is inferred for the Office and equipment.

In January 1863, tenders were called for the erection of a telegraph line from Braidwood to Queanbeyan along the new line of road via Molonglo. The work is to be completed in four months from the acceptance of the tender. The Braidwood News of March 1864 reported "The whole of the timber along the line from Braidwood to the Shoalhaven River, a distance of six miles, is now cut down and the poles are laid down the same distance. A very large number of the post-holes are dug - therefore we expect the line from Braidwood to the river will be completed in the course of a few days. Suitable timber for the poles appears to be very plentiful along the greater portion of the line but the greatest difficulty on the route exists about two miles this side of Mr, Cole's where the forest for some considerable distance represents a timber wall with scarcely room to place one's hands edgeways between the trees". Soon after, the Golden Age of 31 March 1864 noted "the line of telegraph is but slowly progressing. The line is cleared for a distance of ten miles from Braidwood, at about which part of the way, the clearing party is now at work and the post holes are dug and the posts laid about four miles out of Braidwood. It will be some time therefore before the line can be completed".

What was not generally realised at that time was the route would provide an alternative route from Goulburn to Gundagai.

Mr. Bellhouse was the Superintending Inspector. By the beginning of May 1864, Mr. Murphy, the contractor for the line of telegraph from Braidwood to Queanbeyan had laid his timber up to within nine miles of the latter town and was probably about to commence the work of putting up the posts.

The construction of the line from Braidwood to Queanbeyan was completed in August 1864 and, after a delay occasioned by the non-arrival of some instruments, the line was opened by Mr. Cracknell about 18 August.

From Yass

In December 1875, the Government proposed to appropriate £3,000 from the loan fund to construct a line linking Queanbeyan to Yass. On 9 December 1876, the Sydney Morning Herald summarised a large number of advertised tenders including "Construction of telegraph line from Yass to Queanbeyan 45 miles to be completed in 4 months". A tender was awarded to Mr. M. Kinsheia later in that month.


4.3: To Araluen.

On 14 April 1864, the Legislative Council voted expenditure for the 25 mile telegraph line from Braidwood to Araluen. A contract was taken in July 1864 for this Braidwood - Araluen extension at the price of £64 per mile. A tender to construct the Telegraph Office was called in September 1864.

"Mr. Backhouse, the contractor for the telegraph line to Araluen, is making considerable progress; the wire will begin to be stretched next week, and will be soon continued to Moruya" (Empire 26 November 1864). The Bombala Telegraph of 8 December 1864 noted that "The wires are now stretched to Araluen and telegraphic communication will probably be in operation at Araluen gold-field within a week. So soon as this is effected, the line is to be continued to Moruya".


4:4: From Moruya to Araluen.

The Bombala Telegraph of 12 December 1864 reported on the extension of the lines along the coast. After anticipating the extension of the line from the Araluen gold-field to Moruya, it stated "We trust the Bega and Eden constituents will avail themselves of the present opportunity of raising a guarantee and urging upon Mr. Egan the desirability of inducing the authorities to cause an immediate extension of the line to Bega, Merimbula, and Eden. No doubt that, for such an undertaking, the shipping interest would be as totally protected thereby might be induced to come down with a handsome subsidy towards the amount subscribed for a guarantee. The telegraph once opened to the Bay, we should soon have its extension to Bombala and Cooma".

Not so fast!! On 16 April 1868, the Legislative Assembly placed £2,500 on the Estimates for the construction of the telegraph line from Araluen to Moruya (coast lines). The line was constructed from Moruya north-west to Araluen.

So, after nearly four years:

"Mr Dixon, the contractor for the Araluen and Moruya telegraph, has arrived and will at once commence his contract. No one for a moment disputes the value of telegraphs but how the proposed one is to pay it is difficult to see. We certainly want many things in the district far worse indeed. We never particularly asked for it whilst things we do ask for, how seldom are they obtained. As the wires are coming so far, it is a pity not to let them be connected with Bega direct for the sake of the sea-board" (Bega Gazette 5 September 1868).

By mid-October 1868, the line was not quite completed. The line was within six miles of Araluen and Mr. Dixon was making "very great progress".

Construction of the line was, to the extent possible, along the ranges to avoid repeated crossing of the river. The first obstacle to be overcome was to transverse the Moruya River. The wire crossed the river near the ferry in a span of over 300 yards at one length and then crossed the Shannon View Estate. This crossing was achieved by erecting 60 feet high posts on either side and suspending the wire between them.


5. The lines through the Alpine Region from Gundagai.

On 4 January 1859, it was announced that "£1,200 had been placed on the estimates for 1859, for the purpose of extending the telegraph to Tumut and Adelong - provided the inhabitants will subscribe a like amount".

5.1: Kiandra

Gibson's Plains was the location of a significant gold field and was attracting prospectors from Adelong, Tumut, Braidwood and many other places. About this time, the place was renamed to Kiandra. It was also often referred to as the Snowy River Goldfields because the river now known as the Eucumbene River was called the Snowy River in the 1850s.

Some estimates claimed there was more that 10,000 people at Gibson's Plains in the early part of 1860. The Assistant Commissioner associated with the Southern Gold fields was instructed to proceed from Adelong to the Gold fields and Police were being moved from Adelong and Tumberumba. In the Legislative Assembly of 24 February 1860, the Minister of Lands noted that "the Government were waiting for the report of the Commissioner before they appointed a gold escort to Kiandra ... As soon as the productiveness of these gold-fields shall be fairly established, we hope that the Government will make every exertion to secure rapid communication. Considering how profitable our electric telegraph has been, certainly a little speculation might be allowed in extending the lines". On 2 March 1860, the Sydney Morning Herald was reporting "Everyone speaks in glowing terms of the Snowy River gold-field. The want of communication between the field and Adelong and Tumut is very much felt".

On 3 March 1860, Mr. Hay addressed the Legislative Assembly in the following honest and caring terms and argued a humanitarian case for constructing a line of telegraphs to Kiandra:

"he rose more for the purpose of pointing out what he believed to be an emergency with which any Ministry now formed would have very speedily to deal {and of showing how much the country was likely to suffer from the want of a strong administration much more than the business of legislation upon those important measures to which allusion had been made}. He referred to the state of things which existed in the southern parts of the colony in connection with the discovery of gold at Kiandra.

He knew that country well, and he believed great difficulties were likely to meet the Government in connection with its administration there in the course of a very few weeks. At the present moment the attention of the Government is required more than anything to be directed to the improvement of the police force of the colony. (Hear, hear) Unless something were done to reinvigorate that body, we should have a state of things existing during the next six months, in the southern part of the colony, fearful to contemplate. Already, he believed, great distress had taken place. It was not possible that there could be any protection for the multitudes who, in a very short time, would be congregated there and pressed as they would be, either by the severity of the climate or by the difficulties to which they might be exposed. It behoved the Government to take the earliest measures for protecting the lives and the property of the people in that part of the country. (Hear, hear)

He was quite certain the police we now had were not sufficient to meet the state of things which would arise if his impressions as to the character of the discoveries lately made were correct. He would also take leave on the present and last occasion he should have for the next few weeks to point out that it was extremely necessary some measures should be taken for the protection of life from the effects of the storms likely to take place in that exposed country in the course of the next few months. He knew the climate well. It was not merely from the amount of snow which fell in that country, but from the character of the storms which took place there and which it was almost impossible for an unprotected traveller to face that danger was to be apprehended.

There was no precaution such as those which ought to be taken. He was of opinion that one or two of the principal lines of route ought to be marked in such a way as to enable the traveller to find his way if overtaken by the snow-storms by which he believed hundreds would be overtaken in the course of the ensuing winter. If precaution were taken by the erection of poles, in the manner known to many exposed districts in Scotland and England, a great deal of human life would be spared and much suffering avoided during the next few months. These posts might be erected in such a manner as to serve also for the support of the telegraphic wire. He thought it would be extremely desirable, in the course of the next summer, to construct a telegraph to Kiandra, if the discoveries turned out as he expected they would. Had he not drawn attention to this matter, he should have felt that he was abandoning a duty incumbent on him".

The Sydney Morning Herald of 13 March 1860 followed up on part of the suggestion from Mr. Hay and raised two reasons as to why a telegraph line should be constructed to Kiandra (the Snowy River field):

"There is good ground for believing that next spring an immense rush will be made to this region if the news continues favourable. There will then certainly be new discoveries and, as the Rev. W. B. Clarke, the eminent geologist, has stated that if the country all round about the Alps is auriferous, it is not idle to suppose that, before the end of the year, an immense addition may be made to our stock of gold. It will be the duty of the Government, in the meantime, to take care that what can be done legitimately to advance the labours of the diggers, to secure their safety and to satisfy the natural desire of the public for speedy intelligence, shall be done. We have before advocated the extension of the telegraph to Kiandra, right into the heart of the gold-field. The cost, which in this case would be inconsiderable, is a secondary matter - to preserve life is one of the most sacred obligations of a Government. And if, as has been asserted, snow storms come on suddenly about the Snowy River and cover the ground to a depth of many feet, the telegraph would not only serve to warn intended diggers from the spot, but point out a line of retreat to those suffering from inclemency of weather.

Another aspect of the case presents itself which ought not to be passed over. The loss to the community when a gold-field proves a failure, cannot be well estimated. The rush to Rockhampton was not only the cause of individual, but of public loss. Thousands of people were withdrawn from the ordinary pursuits of trade and industry, homes were broken up, health and hopes alike were shattered, and the colony received a severe blow. The telegraph would have prevented all this, by flashing the news that the Rockhampton mines, to use the diggers' expressive phrase, were a "shicer". And so here, although we do not anticipate failure, a telegraphic line to the Snowy River would be a public advantage. If the diggings were worked out, a rush would be prevented, and if rich ground were opened up, the news would at once be known throughout the colony, and enterprise would regulate itself accordingly. The Government in power, at the time of the Rockhampton rush proved itself equal to the emergency, and the present Government, which is composed of nearly the same members, will, we hope not lack that promptitude of action which the circumstances of the case demand".

On 14 March, 1860, the Empire printed two extremely relevant and important items related to the Snowy River Goldfields with implications to constructing a line of telegraphs:

  1. a report from Mr. Cooper M.L.A. following his visit to the Snowy River goldfields. Amongst other comments, Mr. Cooper "recommends the setting up of a line of telegraphic posts from the diggings to this hollow, and thence to Tumut. This we believe the present Government, immediately on their accession to office, took steps to accomplish, believing that the posts to be set up for the wires will be equally useful to persons en route, in guiding them in the proper direction they are to take. We have no doubt but, that for this purpose, they will be found extremely useful if care is taken, that the line is carried over the most eligible road to the diggings".

  2. a letter to the Editor: "Mr. Hay called the attention of the House of Assembly the other evening to the probable serious consequences, which may arise from the present rush to the Snowy diggings, and suggested that a telegraphic communication should be opened to these diggings. It is to be hoped that this able suggestion may be carried out with as little delay as possible ... Let the telegraph proceed with speed, to shew how fast Government can work for once;
    along this line of road, at distances of ten miles, let tents be placedThis idea extended the strategy she had advocated in relation to the Victorian goldfields in late 1854. under the charge of some duly appointed person. This would enable the diggers with swags to move on; and, let me tell you, these are the sort of men that make the earth yield out her treasure ... Let the Postmaster-General immediately establish a branch Post Office at the diggings and an arrangement could be easily entered into that the gold escort should convey the mail-bags to Sydney, without causing any additional expense to the Government. Again, the money order system should be instantly put into operation, so that heads of families and others could, without loss of time or trouble, make remittances to their wives and families; numbers of poor women have come to me since I came to Sydney, in need and want, having had no remittances from their husbands at the diggings; and this would not be the case were the money-order system in operation". The letter was signed CAROLINE CHISHOLM!!!

At this time, there were many discussions about which route should be taken for a road and a line of telegraph to the Snowy River fields. It was pointed out that the fields were closer to the seaboard than they were to Sydney and so perhaps a port on the coast could be the start of a good route. There was of course the Southern Road followed by the coaches through Goulburn, Queanbeyan and Cooma while the gold escort diverged from Adelong. All options for a road had significant difficulties. But "it did not follow that the best route for a branch telegraph would be also the best route for a branch road; though this might happen to be the case. But the electric fluid is so nimble, that it can make a long detour with no perceptible loss of time".

On 15 March 1860, The Empire reported:

"the (new Forster) Government are fully sensible of the importance of taking immediate action and determined, to the utmost of their power, to protect the lives and interests of the thousands congregated on the diggings. The Forster Government, we are informed, had called upon Mr Cloete, the Chief Commissioner of the Southern Gold-Fields, to visit the Snowy River and Kiandra Diggings and to report as to the state of their population, prospects, and requirements. They also had had under their consideration, a proposition for the construction of a telegraph line from the gold-fields to Gundagai via Tumut and had desired Mr Commissioner Lockhart to report ... The Government have also, with a view to guiding people from Kiandra, in the event of snow-storms, determined to place a line of posts from that place - towards Bridle's Station, on the road which follows the right bank of the Tumut River to Tumut. The posts will be erected to the distance of 20 miles from Kiandra - a distance at which people will be beyond the reach of snow. They are intended to be 25 feet out of the ground and so placed and constructed as to be suitable for the conduct of a telegraph wire and answer for a line towards the Tumut and Gundagai".

At about this time there were reports that "still richer diggings have been discovered at the head of the Tumut, about ten miles distant from Kiandra" as well as "The Government has decided to establish a mail to the diggings and to approve £1,000 to set up a telegraphic line, the posts of which will serve also as guides to travellers". As the former of these, the field (at New Chum Hill) quickly proved to be a failure.

Still discussions continued as the the route for the telegraph: "With respect to telegraphic communication, this might be achieved either by way of Adelong or Gundagai, the distance in the one case being only seventy-five miles and the country offering no obstructions of any moment. The telegraph, moreover, would prove of immense utility in preventing horse and cattle stealing, crimes which at present appear to be carried on with impunity. But the project for telegraphic communication and also the matter of a new direct route for the escort will, no doubt, be duly brought under the notice of the Executive at the proper time".

As the Government discussed, those who lived in the Kiandra area and knew the dangers of the approaching winter at the highest populated area in the Colony (and later know as the highest in Australia) were becoming agitated. For example: "If our Governments struggled less for power and more for the welfare of the people they would, before this, have published reliable reports from their Gold Commissioners. And, moreover, they would have accomplished a telegraphic line from Kiandra to the nearest high road, following the highest points of the plains and the crests of the leading ranges, so as to offer a line of retreat to the population in the event of a heavy fall of snow. This work could be completed by fifty men, supplied with horses to drag the poles, within three weeks, and a wire could be borrowed from one of the neighbouring double lines. I anticipate something nearly as horrible as the retreat from Moscow if no preparations are made to meet an emergency which we have reason to anticipate, and of which our diggers have had so little experience" (Sydney Morning Herald 21 March 1860).

Three days later, the same source reported that:

"Concerning the guide posts which we mentioned in our last paragraph on the subject, we are given to understand that they are in course of erection from Kiandra to Russell's Station, twelve miles, and in another direction over the plain, fifteen miles. The Government, however, have not decided on the telegraph, thinking that the Assembly might object to such an expenditure without their authority and sanction. Preparations though, are being made to have all the necessary material ready for the telegraph, so that when the money required is voted it can be at once expended.

The information received by the Government from private persons corroborates what has been stated in our columns as to the lawless conduct of some people on the diggings. The duty of the escort too would seem to reduce the efficiency of the police, for it is stated that a woman at Kiandra stabbed three men and that there was nobody to arrest her".

The Sydney Morning Herald of 14 April 1860, in a review of action being planned in all areas to overcome the political and administrative ineptitude, noted that

"The large population already collected on the Snowy River gold-diggings and the dangers to which the miners will be exposed from the heavy fall of snow in the winter, have pointed out the desirability of connecting these goldfields with Sydney by a telegraphic line. It is accordingly proposed by the Government to carry a telegraphic wire from Kiandra, by way of Tumut and Adelong, to join the southern line at Gundagai. As no commencement has yet been made upon the work, it is not probable that the line will be completed before the winter sets in but, in the meantime, the erection of the posts will be of the utmost service as they will direct the way to diggers who may be desirous of returning. Tenders have also been called for the immediate erection of guide posts for three miles from Kiandra. across the plains, towards Russell's Station and on the Tumut side posts, to be eventually used as telegraph posts, are to be erected from Kiandra for fifteen miles along the road to Tumut by Yarrangobilly".

To the Editor of the Herald.

SIR — The Kiandra and Adelong line of telegraph, so much needed and so often promised would, if the Forster Ministry had remained in office, have been at least commenced by this time. I regret to say, though no one doubts the very urgent necessity of at once running this line, and that it will pay a handsome return for the outlay, nothing has yet been done in forming it.

In Victoria, every facility is given to the public and the rapid growth of that colony in importance ought to prove to our Ministers that there are some things they may copy with advantage. The Snowy River diggings is now an established fact and well known to be one of the richest diggings ever discovered. To develop these riches, our Government should leave nothing undone and, of all modern inventions, few aid in such undertakings more than the Electric Telegraph.

I am, Sir,
Sydney, March 23rd.

Two months later, the road from Michago to Cooma and from Russell's to Kiandra had been surveyed and orders had been issued for a survey of a road from the Tumut and Kiandra line to Yass.

On 4 June 1860, the Sydney Morning Herald recorded that "The tender of Mr. W. Tunks had been accepted for the construction of the telegraph line from Gundagai to Kiandra. The line is 87 miles in length and is to be completed within three months of the signing of the contract for a sum of £50 per mile". On 12 June, the SMH added "Some opposition was offered in the Assembly to the expenditure, on the ground of the telegraph being a luxury, the possession of which ought to be preceded by the construction of a good road to the diggings. But it was advocated as likely to be extremely useful when a large population were settled on the Snowy River, not only in conveying intelligence as to the success of the miners, but also in furthering the ends of justice in the event of any disturbance arising".

The Gazette announced on 9 July 1960 that Mr. Patrick Dall had been appointed to be Inspector for the erection of the electric telegraph line from Gundagai to Kiandra and Mr. Charles Mooney was appointed to peg out the line from Gundagai to Kiandra.

On 21 July, the Sydney Morning Herald recounted "The only telegraphic line at present in course of construction in this colony is that from Gundagai to Kiandra, the contract for which was taken a few weeks ago. The large population, which will shortly be assembled on the Snowy River diggings, will probably ensure a large amount of business to the telegraph and thereby repay the cost of its construction. The facility of communication afforded will be of great importance to the police authorities in furthering the ends of justice in the event of any disturbance.

The posts are fixed as far as the town of Adelong, about fourteen miles from Gundagai, and during this week the stretching of the wire was commenced. The length of the line will be about eighty seven miles".

On 4 August 1860, construction was still underway. A wonderful insight was revealed in the Freeman's Journal of that date:

"The Adelong Mining Journal states that the contractor for the Kianda branch telegraph is carrying on his work in a very spirited manner. A new township has been formed by the very necessities of the case and without government intervention at the foot of the Talbingo HillAt the lower end of the Blowering dam and the top part of the dam to the south - Talbingo Reservoir.

The inflow of people to the gold fields was increasing. On 11 August 1860, the Sydney Mail reported an item from the the Border Post: "the traffic towards the Snowy River is still on the increase. Passengers and bullock teams are constantly arriving from Adelaide, the average time occupied in the journey being about fourteen weeks. Numerous other parties are reported to be on their way up".

Telegraphic communication was opened between Kiandra (the capital of the Alpine region) and Sydney via Gundagai on 16 October 1860 as the spring season was established. It was the first telegraphic line in the colony of New South Wales connecting a gold field with Sydney. As the population at Kiandra would soon after be equal to that of any town in the colony (with the exception of the metropolis), the receipts for telegrams could not fail to yield a good return upon the outlay. The cost of connecting Kiandra with the Southern telegraphic line was £4,350 inclusive of all the apparatus except for the instruments for working.

In July of the following year (1861) communication with Kiandra was suspended for several days owing to a heavy fall of snow in the region. The wire was so embedded in snow that the line inspector at Kiandra was unable to extricate it in order to ascertain whether it was broken.

For further information from Wikipedia see Kiandra.



In September 1858, great numbers of hopefuls were passing through Gundagai on their way to the Adelong goldfields. Hence there was a reason to have a telegraph connection to Adelong. As noted in the SMH of April 1860 (as reported above), the line to Kiandra was to pass by Adelong and Tumut. At that time, therefore, there was a possible chance of a connection. The Empire of 13 March 1860 noted that "We hear that it is intended to establish a branch line of telegraph from Tumut to the Snowy River; and when this is done, we shall be able to receive more direct and reliable information. As matters stand now, the character of the accounts given depends greatly on the success or failure of the persons sending them. But so long as the Mint and escort returns continue satisfactory, we may rest assured that the mining interests of the country are in a healthy condition". Given the expediency necessitated by the size of the Kiandra diggings, no telegraph stations were contemplated at Adelong or at Tumut in 1860. Almost acknowledging that position, on 4 August 1860, with a date line TUMUT,: "Nothing much occurring here except the telegraph is near its completion which will be a great boon to this district".

The Adelong Telegraph Station was opened in 1866.

1868/69 was yet another season for major fires in the Gundagai-Adelong area. A frightening account is as follows:

"Perilous Position:

A telegraph line Inspector has sometimes hard duties to perform. The late bush fires having burned down many of the posts between the Adelong Crossing Place and Mundario, Mr. Smithers started from Gundagai on Thursday morning, the 24th ultimo, to repair the damage done. The day was intensely hot and, while effecting his mission, Mr. Smithers was so overcome by the sun's rays and the heat from the smouldering fires around that he was only able to crawl to the shade of a tree, when he fainted.

On recovering, he found his clothes burned, his hands blistered, and his pocket handkerchief smouldering away in his pocket.
Gundagai Times December 1868.

On 5 January 1878, The Clarence and Richmond Examiner listed a 50 mile line from Adelong to Tumberumba as having being under construction at the end of 1877.

5.2: Cooma.

After the line to Queanbeyan had been completed in 1864, there were two possible routes for a line to Cooma - from Queanbeyan or from Kiandra.

From Queanbeyan:

The Golden Age of 28 April 1864 reported on developments for the line to Cooma:

"On referring to the parliamentary report, in another column, it will be seen that the sum of £3,000 has been voted for constructing a line of telegraph from Queanbeyan to Cooma. However anxious the inhabitants of Monaro may have been for the extension of electric communication some time since, when the head-quarters of the police for the southern districts was stationed amongst us, it is very questionable whether the requisite guarantee could now be obtained. The interest on the outlay for construction and the working expenses of the line would amount to something like £300 per annum. It is very improbable that sufficient business would be done at the Cooma office to cover one-half that amount. We look upon it, therefore, as a certainty that the bond required will not be entered into".

The bond does not appear to have been executed. Tenders were however called in the Gazette in August 1864. But on 9 November, the Goulburn Herald regretted to learn "that a difficulty now arises in procuring the necessary guarantee for payment of working expenses and interest upon the cost of construction of the telegraph line from Queanbeyan to Cooma. The guarantee asked for is only £300 per annum". Who knows what happened then?

In early December 1864, the tender for the line from Queanbeyan south to Cooma had been accepted and in early 1865, the line was being constructed by Mr. George McCauley. On 30 March 1865, the Queanbeyan Age reported:


These works are progressing very satisfactorily although not so rapidly as was at first expected. The line leads over a very stony country, as much sometimes as two days being occupied by the working party in sinking a single posthole. At present sixteen miles are quite complete and the posts and sinking have advanced some miles farther. In a day or two the length of wire stretched will be nineteen miles. And shortly, the works will progress much more rapidly, as the line will come on to easier country".

The Goulburn Herald of 4 August 1965 updated its readers with:

"On Tuesday evening last Mr. Bellhouse, telegraphic line surveyor, completed the work of marking out the extension from Queanbeyan to Cooma. The contractor, we believe, has not yet erected posts for the wires beyond the Bredbo River in the direction of Cooma, although the holes to receive the poles are sunk as far as Bunyan. The contractor has exceeded by many months the time stipulated by the government for the completion of the work - the delay being caused principally by the difficulty he has had to contend with in procuring suitable timber, as well as not being able to hire teams to draw the poles in from the bush when prepared. It is probable that it will be two months from the present date before the line will be opened. The selecting of suitable premises for an office in Cooma has yet to be determined on, and we believe it is very likely that the house adjoining Mr. R. Barr's hotel, which, we understand, has been offered to the bondsmen free of rent, will be chosen as the Cooma telegraph office".

The Telegraph Office was opened in Cooma at 6:30 pm on Saturday evening 7 October 1865 by the Superintendent of Telegraphs.

On 15 August 1868, the Bega Gazette reported inter alia "The circumstance of the sureties of the Cooma line having been lately called upon to pay £111 deficiency is rather a damper upon the guarantee system of telegraphic extension".

On 3 July 1869, the Armidale Express noted that "the bondsmen for the extension of the telegraph line from Queanbeyan to Cooma are called upon by the Government to make good the deficiency on the working of the line during the year 1868, amounting to £170".

From Kiandra:

A telegraph line was also extended from Cooma north-west to Kiandra. Tenders were called for the erection of this telegraph line - an estimated distance of fifty miles. The tender quoted £44 per mile and required the line to be completed in four months. On 12 May 1864 - just after the tender had been agreed - the Golden Age claimed "the folly of this extension is apparent enough; to say nothing of the circuitous character of the route, there are other reasons why the proposed line will be of very little use to the people of Cooma. Why was not the Queanbeyan extension proposed to be carried on to Cooma? There would have been some reason and utility in that". On 6 July, a group of businessmen in Cooma sent a letter to the Minister of Works "whilst (we are) anxious to have the benefit of speedy communication with other towns of the colony extended to Cooma, yet it would be preferable to have the line continued here from Queanbeyan rather than from Kiandra. ... There will be no difficulty in obtaining the necessary guarantee for payment of the interest on the cost of construction and the working expenses if the line is continued from Queanbeyan but we doubt if the guarantee could be obtained for a line from Kiandra to Cooma".
(The Goulburn Herald 6 July 1864).

A fuller account of the situation was included in the Queanbeyan Age of 7 July 1864:

"It has been officially notified that tenders have been accepted for the extension of the Electric Telegraph from Kiandra to Cooma and therefore it now simply rests with the inhabitants of the district to give the necessary guarantee for the cost of construction and the working expenses of the line - this being the condition upon which they, like ourselves, are to have the benefits of the Telegraph extended to them.

In both the local paper and our own columns, the impolicy of the extension from Kiandra, and in particular the comparative inutility of communication so circuitous, has been clearly pointed out. Whatever can be the motive of the Government for preferring the Kiandra extension we cannot imagine. But we are glad to see that the people of Cooma are remonstrating against the proposed line and petitioning the Minister for Works for connection from Queanbeyan instead.

Perhaps in these times of imperative economy, the Government are influenced in their choice of the Kiandra extension by the comparative shortness of the line - the distance from which place to Cooma being fifty-five miles, while the distance from the latter place to Queanbeyan is about seventy miles. But we doubt if tenders were called for the construction of a line from here to Cooma, whether the total cost would exceed that for which tenders are now accepted, and for which the price per-mile in forty-four pounds. The contract hither from Braidwood is being executed at the rate of thirty seven pounds per mile, and the difference between that figure and forty four pounds is in exact proportion to the difference in the distance of the lines from Queanbeyan and Kiandra to Cooma. It is highly probable that the contractor of the Braidwood and Queanbeyan line would continue his work on to Cooma at or about the same sum. Moreover, the people for whose immediate benefit the Cooma Telegraph is to be constructed have the best right to propose by what line it shall come as, afterall, the extension under the terms specified is no favour, seeing that the local residents actually bear the expense.

Our suggestion is that the petition of the Cooma people should be followed by that of the people of Queanbeyan, in which case it is all the more likely to be favourably regarded. Indeed, it is said, that in the event of a refusal of the petition, the bond will not be given for the line via Kiandra at all. The benefits accruing to our own locality from the extension of our line to Cooma are apparent in the increase of business it would bring to this station, and thus the better secure us against deficiency which might otherwise arise in its income".

Very soon after - 3½ years but time is relative - on 16 April 1868, the Legislative Assembly placed £2,500 on the Estimates for the construction of the telegraph line from Cooma to Kiandra. In July 1868, the tender submitted by Thomas Fitzpatrick to construct the telegraph line from Kiandra to Cooma was accepted.

The Sydney Morning Herald of 25 March 1869 reported "the extension from Cooma to Kiandra is within a few miles of the latter place, and this line will probably be ready for opening in the course of next month". No information can be located to explain the significant gap in the time.


6. South to Bombala and Eden.

6.1: Cooma to Bombala.

On 15 April 1864, Mr. Garrett in the Legislative Assembly moved:

"That this House will, on Tuesday next, resolve itself into a committee of the whole, to consider of an address to the Governor, praying that his Excellency will be pleased to cause to be placed on the additional estimate for 1864 a sum not exceeding £8,000, for the purpose of extending the line of telegraph from the proposed terminus at Cooma, via Bombala, Pambula, and MerimbulaNot sure what map Mr. Garrett was using. Eden would have been more direct. ; to the light-house at Eden and at Gabo Island.

A committee had sat on the subject of telegraph extension to the different light houses, and the report that had been brought up was very strong in its recommendation of the proposed extension. The town of Bombala was of sufficient importance to warrant the line being carried in that direction. If the telegraph wires were extended to the light-houses, in cases of shipwreck, steamers could be despatched from Sydney immediately to render assistance.

The Superintendent of Telegraphs gave some information to the committee of the Upper House and explained the cost and manner in which the telegraphic lines could be extended to Gabo Island lighthouse. With regard to the guarantee, he did not believe there would be any difficulty in getting such, guarantee from the people of Eden for the part of the line passing through their district. In case of hostilities, the lines would be of the greatest utility to the mercantile community. He hoped the motion would be dealt with upon its merits, and although it had been proposed late in the session, he trusted the importance would not be over-looked by the House".

There was clearly no urgency to implement those recommendations. On 31 October 1865, Mr. Graham, in the Legislative Assembly, asked the Minster of Public Works "If it is the intention of the Government to extend the line of telegraph from Cooma to Bombala, and thence to Eden, the distance being about 100 miles?". The answer the following day was "that no new works for telegraphic extension are proposed in the Estimates for 1866. ... It was not the intention of the Government to extend the line of telegraph from Cooma to Bombala, and thence to Eden, unless the usual guarantee (a return of 5% upon the outlay for five years) was given by the inhabitants of the district".

Nevertheless, the Sydney Morning Herald of 23 October 1866 had reported "The tender of Mr. K. Dixon has been accepted for the construction of a line of telegraph between Cooma and Bombala, and the work is to be proceeded with at once".


6.2: To Eden (Twofold Bay).

Eden was an important centre for which the construction of a telegraph line was critical. It had been a landing point for hundreds of prospectors en route to the goldfields at Kiandra. There were also major commercial reasons for telegraphic facilities because Eden was a centre for considerable whaling activity.

As shown on the map above, there were two telegraph lines constructed to Eden:

  1. from Bombala;

  2. from Merimbula.

The line from Bombala.

On Tuesday 22 May, 1860 a meeting was held at Eden to decide if the NSW Government should repair the road to the Kiandra Goldfields. Amongst the resolutions passed unanimously was the request for the extension of the telegraph line to Eden. Such a line could be constructed from Kiandra (where the telegraph line was about the finish) through Cooma and Bombala.

Tenders were advertised in July 1867 for "the supply of all materials and for the workmanship necessary for the erection of the line of Telegraph, from Bombala to Eden, Twofold Bay, via Cathcart and Tantawangala Mountain, Pambula and Eden, and estimated distance of 65 miles; to be completed in four months". The Gazette of 2 September 1867 announced that the tender submitted by Mr. Fitzpatrick to construct the telegraph line from Bombala to Eden had been accepted.

The provision lapsed and so on 16 April 1868, the Legislative Assembly placed £2,500 on the Estimates for the construction of the telegraph line from Bombala to Pambula and Eden (coast lines).

Not good news however: on 18 May 1868, the Sydney Morning Herald reported a Court Case in the Supreme Court the previous day of Riordan and others Vs Fitzpatrick:

"This was an action by Charles Riordan, Thomas Liced, James Stanley, Daniel Ryan and James McMahon against Thomas Fitzpatrick for breach of contract and for work and labour, etc. The defendant pleaded, by way of cross action, that he had sustained certain losses by reason of a breach of contract by the plaintiffs; also a payment. The defendant was a contractor for a telegraph line. The plaintiffs were joint sub-contractors under the defendant for the clearing of part of that line lying between Bombala and Eden. The case was not concluded".

Details of the case are included elsewhere. These include details of some of the difficulties in constructing the line because of the harsh terrain.

The Sydney Morning Herald of 8 June 1868 carried a story from their Correspondent dated 3 June: "As you are aware, the line of communication by telegraph between this place and Bombala, via Tantawanglo Mountain, has just been completed by the contractor, Mr. Thomas Fitzpatrick, and in consequence we are now in instant communication with the metropolis. The line has been constructed entirely by a Government grant, without guarantee, and it was the intention at the time of its commencement, or rather when the grant for this line from Bombala was voted, to continue the line to Gabo Island. Whether that intention now exists I am at a loss to inform you".

The line to Eden from Bombala via Tantawanglo Mountain was opened on 4 June 1868. But even for that occasion there was drama:

The Sydney Morning Herald of 3 June 1868 reported "Mr. E. C. Cracknell, Superintendent of Telegraphs, leaves this morning in the steamer City of Hobart for Twofold Bay, for the purpose of opening the line just completed between Twofold Bay and Bombala. Mr. Kebby, who has been appointed Station Master, is also a passenger by the City of Hobart".

On Monday 8th June a fuller story unfolded in the SMH:

"An accident occurred to The City of Hobart (s.) off Bateman's Bay at 8:30 p.m. on Wednesday last (3rd June), she having sailed from this port (Sydney) that morning. The damage to the machinery consists in the carrying away of the main shaft which has been broken at the back collar of the thrust bearings.

The City of Hobart (was) sighted by the Rangatira at 10 a.m., on Thursday, standing to the northward was, from her appearance, supposed to be the City of Hobart which vessel left this past on the morning of the 3rd instant, and some defect in her machinery has doubtless necessitated her putting back to port. Captain Clinch got the City of Hobart round, she being totally disabled and, although there was little or no wind, headed back for Sydney under canvas. The Hunter (s.) was seen entering Wollongong on the same afternoon and, rightly judging that she would ere long be prosecuting her passage south, rockets and blue lights were kept going and at 10 p.m. she got alongside.

The nature of the accident was explained and a request to take on the Twofold Bay passengers promptly complied with by Captain Sullivan. They comprised Mr. Cracknell, Superintendent of Telegraphs, a gentleman proceeding to that locality as an operator, Mr. Solomons and Mr. Doxey, engineer of the City of Hobart whom Captain Clinch deemed it prudent to at once despatch to Sydney by the shortest route to hurry forward the necessary repairs.

Mr. Cracknell, on landing at Twofold Bay, proceeded forthwith to the nearest telegraph stationRemember that there was only one and that Mr. Cracknell was on his way to open it!!. and placed himself in communication with Messrs. Willis,. Merry, and Co., the agents for the Tasmania Steam Company, who in turn obtained the assistance of the Government steam tug. The Thetis got away at 8 a.m. on Saturday, and finally got alongside the disabled steamer and took her in tow at 4 p.m. same date, she then being between Kiama and Shoalhaven. Captain Clinch was making good progress, considering the lightness of the wind, and even the boats' sails were brought into requisition, to increase as much as possible her area of canvas. She arrived alongside the Grafton Wharf at 7 a.m. yesterday in tow of the Government tug Thetis. It is expected that the City of Hobart will sail again for Hobart Town this day week.

Captain Hutton, master of the Thetis, deserves great praise for having succeeded in picking up the City of Hobart so early, especially as the weather was thick and overcast".

So that is the prelude to the sending of the first telegram from Eden.

The Sydney Morning Herald of 8 June 1868 reported a long comment about the telegraph line of which an extract is provided below. Those with an interest in Eden should really read the entire article:

"As you are aware, the line of communication by telegraph between this place (Eden) and Bombala, via Tantawanglo Mountain, has just been completed by the contractor, Mr. Thomas Fitzpatrick, and in consequence we are now in instant communication with the metropolis. The line has been constructed entirely by a Government grant, without guarantee, and it was the intention at the time of its commencement, or rather when the grant for this line from Bombala was voted, to continue the line to Gabo Island. Whether that intention now exists I am at a loss to inform you.

With the exception of the slight stir which was created here for a few months in 1859-60, this place, in spite of its magnificent port, has dragged on a miserable existence. The buildings erected in such haste at the time alluded to, have gradually fallen into decay, the then visitants have migrated to other parts; and some, no doubt, having exchanged an earthly for a heavenly paradise, and thus Eden proper has relapsed into its old and sleepy state—"dozy" is perhaps another word.

Many persons passing this place think it is confined to the barren rock they view from the ship's deck; but, although there is little cleared land in the immediate vicinity of Eden, on the other hand, it is the natural port of shipment from and to the immense pastoral district of Maneroo; and whilst the miserable bar river of Merimbula has its weekly steamer (which is sometimes, and not unfrequently, detained by its being unable to cross the bar in question for five or six days at a time) and the equally miserable and dangerous open roadstead at Tathra is also favoured with a weekly call from a steamer of the Illawarra Steam Navigation Company for the shipment of the agricultural produce of the Bega district, now become of a very extensive character—Eden, or as it has become the fashion in ridicule to call it "Paradise" - languishes on in a sort of dead and alive style pitiable to witness. Neither capital nor the energy to apply it appear to exist amongst its people and, but for the really munificent sum of public money which yearly circulates within it, amounting in all to upwards of £3,400, the people must live, if they can be said to live at all, or to do worse than exist by barter and exchange. As Goldsmith has it:

"No busy steps the grass-grown footpath tread,
For all the blooming flush of life is fled.
And one might almost add—
at each step the stranger fears to wake
The rattling terrors of the vengeful snake".

The place is now, by the completion of the telegraph, in immediate communication with Sydney and much progress is hoped for. Mr. Cracknell came in the Hunter to Merimbula—having been transshipped from the City of Hobart - which unfortunately damaged her shaft for the purpose of passing the work, etc. An excellent house occupied at the Kiandra "flurry" by the Commercial Banking Company, has been selected for the Telegraph office and, as it is in the heart of "the city", no better place could have been chosen. It is accessible in two minutes from the jetty and pier, alongside which steamers and vessels of any tonnage may ride in safety; and thus if, as has been assumed, the shipping interest is that which will profit by the line as well as that by which the line is to be made profitable, that interest has been rightly considered in the selection by Mr. Cracknell of the place to fix his battery. This pier is 240 feet long and was erected by the Government in 1861, and is said to be, and I believe is, as sound as when first opened.

I merely took up the pen to inform you of the opening of the telegraph line, but I cannot lay it down without saying that it has often surprised me that the so-called rich families in Sydney have not patronised "Eden" both for the advantages of its sea-bathing and the unequalled character and healthiness of its climate, to say nothing of the delight most youngsters experience in trotting along extensive sandy or shingly and shelly beaches. True Sydneyites have their Watson's Bay and Manly Beach with Coogee in addition, but none of these can compare with Twofold Bay, or in any way recall to the mind's eye of those who have been in England accustomed to "look and long" for the summer's seaside visit to Brighton or Scarborough or the more cockneyed Remegate and Margrate. Twofold Bay is, as its name imports, a double bay, each of crescent shapes interspersed with inlets abounding in shells of every description, and the other many interesting upheavings from the sea, the two bays together having a run of sand and shelly beach extending to a distance of upwards of five miles.

The line from Merimbula:

In the February 1868 Gazette, it was announced that Mr. Walter Malcolm Scott had been appointed overseer of the Electric Telegraph Line to Twofold Bay.

On 15 August 1868, the Bega Gazette reported a sign of difficulty and trouble:

On 21 October 1868, the line was opened from Merimbula to Eden. Both Mr. Kebby and Mr. Cracknell attended.

The Merimbula to Pambula section was partly supported by the usual community guarantee.


7. Gabo Island

Gabo Island was important for shipping and maritime safety. Although the lighthouse on the island (opened in 1862) was classified as Victorian, the telegraph lines even close to the Gippsland area in eastern Victoria were not constructed until the late 1870s (Bruthen opened in 1880 just after Omeo). Hence, NSW made the telegraph connection - £1,750 being placed on the Estimates in 1869.

There were many problems in the joint arrangement and the joint responsibility was terminated in 1881 - important to read the following report.