Queensland - Colonial period: 1861-1900.
Lines in the Southern section below Rockhampton.


The Southern section of Queensland is defined here as being the region from and including Rockhampton at the 23th parallel, across to Longreach and down to the NSW-Queensland border. Not included is a line from NSW to the Gulf of Carpentaria which was agreed to in a preliminary arrangement between the NSW and Queensland Governments in September 1869.

The construction of lines in this region all stemmed from the East Coast line. They can be described in the following sections:

  1. lines south to and from Tambo - which became the regional centre;
  2. the middle section of Roma to Charleville and the subsequent branches;
  3. lines to the south and west from St. George.

The additional lines in the east to New South Wales are described separately.

The lines to and from Tambo.

As noted elsewhere, a line from Clermont was constructed to the north in 1867 via Fort Cooper (Nebo) to Mackay on the East coast line.

It was soon after extended 110 miles south via Emerald to Springsure (2 April 1872).

An additional line from Emerald passed along the Central Railway line to Retreat and then on the poles of the Copperfield-Springsure line. That work began at the beginning of June 1880 and was completed on 17 July.

On 27 May 1874, the extension of the line from Clermont and Springsure reached Tambo. It was soon constructed further to the south to Charleville (tenders called August 1874 and construction completed on 26 August 1875) to connect with the line from Roma.

Many years later, a 196½ mile line was constructed from Springsure to the south-east to Taroom via Rolleston (13 September 1887). The line covered some difficult terrain and, in the 1930s, it was converted to telephone use. Taroom was then connected to Brisbane with a new second wire running through Miles.

Many lines were constructed after a petition was lodged by citizens in a particular area. A typical petition was attached to the 1874 Report by the Superintendent callinf for a line from Tambo to Blackall:

Petition

In January 1876, tenders were called in the Gazette and in newspapers for a new line to be constructed 62 miles to the north-west from Tambo to Blackall. That line opened on 9 April 1877. Almost immediately, it was extended 103 miles further north to Aramac and was completed in November 1877. This line went through the place where Barcaldine was later founded when the railway line from Emerald was constructed. The possibility of a place called "Longreach" also had not been even thought of at that time. The line from Emerald to Longreach had to wait until the railway was completed in 1891. The line was extended further north from Aramac to Muttaburra (30 October 1881).

2. The Roma to Charleville line and extensions.

The east coast line began at Toowoomba and ran to Dalby (16 January 1863) before going north through Durah and Taroom to Hawkwood.

This line branched in January 1866 from Dalby via Condamine (and perhaps Miles) then west to Roma. The first 60 miles had been completed by June and it was anticipated the line to Roma would be finished during July. The whole Dalby-Roma line was constructed within the enclosure of the Great Southern and Western Railway. That approach, it was anticipated, would serve as protection for the telegraph lines and facilitate repairs as required.

The Roma to Charleville link was completed on 5 October 1874. In March 1888, the Government accepted the tender of H. Hart for the erection of the telegraph line from Charleville to Adavale at a total cost of £29 2s. per mile.

In the second half of 1877, a second line of 90 miles from Dalby to Chinchilla was constructed within the railway fences. This line cost £40 per mile. It was then extended the 110 miles from Chinchilla to Roma, also along the Western Railway line, and was completed by the end of 1878.

Finally a 125 mile line south from Roma was constructed via Surat to St. George. Tenders were called in February 1874, the line was completed on 28 November 1874 and it was brought into operation on 2 December. It was built of cypress pine, ironbark and gum and cost, exclusive of station buildings, £5,349 0s 3d or £42 16s per mile. That line then became one of the two hubs for lines to the south or to the west. On 17 October 1877, a line south from St. George to Curriwillingi was opened.

3. The lines south to New South Wales and to the west.

The first new line built in the south-western region after the Dalby-Roma link was a line from Warwick (on the first line to NSW) to Goondiwindi (10 June 1872). This line created a second line to the south which was used especially after hours. It is uncertain where that line went but it was probably via Inverell or Narrabri and Gunnedah.

That line to NSW was followed over the next 10 years by a number of other lines. In an unusual approach, a 70 mile line was commenced in 1875 from Cunnamulla to the NSW border at Rutherfords. It was later extended north to Charleville - being completed on 10 August 1876. Cunnamulla and the NSW connection were then linked to the Queensland main system.

In the early 1880s, another line was constructed from Cunnamulla but to the west - first across 41 miles to Eulo (commenced 15 December 1880 and completed on 29 April 1881) and then to Thargomindah (6 December 1881). A tender for the line from Eulo had been accepted on 29 December 1880 but construction did not commence until 7 April 1881 because the contractor was forced to cut poles at a considerable distance away from where the line was to be constructed. Soon after, the South Australian Government and businessmen were seriously planning a telegraph line from Farina or Innaminka in South Australia to Thargomindah.

Many years later, Rutherfords was connected south to Bourke to provide another route to the western NSW stations as well as a possible alternative to the south. The countryside between Cunnamulla and Bourke was described later in the Townsville Daily Bulletin as "not being fit to feed a goat".

Finally two lines were constructed from St. George:

An interesting comment on the dedication of line repairers' work to maintain the lines of communication was published in the Courier of 2 July 1886: "an instance of the present condition of the country in the South-western districts is afforded by the fact that, on Monday last, a telegraph line repairer left St. George in a boat to travel across country to find a break in the wires between St. George and Currawildi".

To complete the connections in the south-west of Queensland, a line was constructed in the mid 1880s west from St George to Bollon and on to Cunnamulla. This construction was one of the most difficult of all Queensland lines. It traversed a desert stretching over 100 miles through almost entirely uninhabited countryside. It was however a useful supporting line being an alternative to the Roma-Charleville line. Unfortunately, it was one of the first telegraph lines to be discarded after Federation.

Summary

Each line ran between two nominated places - often two adjacent lines running for miles before diverging to their respective destinations.

A summary of the lines constructed in the Southern region before Federation together with their line numbers is presented in the following table.

Line # From To Note
6 Brisbane Blackall via Charleville
10 Brisbane Goondiwindi via Toowoomba
11 Brisbane Thargomindah via Toowoomba, St George and Cunnamulla
14 NSW border Toowoomba Toowoomba railway to Miles Railway and then to Charleville railway
15 Adavale NSW border via Charleville and Cunnamulla
17 Tambo Normanton via Barcaldine, Muttaburra, Winton and Cloncurry.
24 Mungindi NSW border via St George and Dirranbandi
25 Barcaldine Windorah via Blackall and Isisford
37 Dalby Jimbour  
48 Brisbane Tambo  
54 Emerald Longreach