South Australia - Colonial: 1856 - 1900.
The North-east line.

Todd noted, in the 1866 Public Works Annual Report, tabled in September 1867:

The advisability of having a station at North Adelaide was urged on the Government during the last session of 1866 in Parliament. It would, no doubt, be a public convenience; but, judging from past experience, I do not think it would pay its working expenses. The line, instruments, batteries, &c, would cost £200, to which must be added the cost of a building.

There were three lines which extended from Adelaide or from Gawler to the north-east. These were:

  1. from Adelaide - to Mount Pleasant, Mannum and Eden Valley;
  2. from Gawler - the line via Freeling and Blanche Town and on to Overland Corner;
  3. from Gawler - the line through Kapunda, Eudunda and Morgan to Overland Corner;
  4. the far north-east line to NSW.


SA NE lines

The Adelaide - Mannum and Eden Valley lines.

After the line to Nairne was completed in 1860, a line was immediately constructed north to Woodside. Slowly, the line then went further north to Gumeracha (1862) with Lobethal incorporated in 1864. Probably about this same year, a line was constructed to link Adelaide to Gumeracha. Then, in 1867, the line went east then north with Telegraph Offices being opened at Mount Torrens, Blumberg and Mount Pleasant. In the 1866 Estimates, £1,200 was allocated for "a branch line" to Mount Pleasant. That line was extended to Eden Valley in 1876 at a cost of £600.

It was not for another six years however that the line would be extended to Mannum on the Murray River. The Mannum link was important because of the shipbuilding which was critical to Mannum. The South Australian Advertiser of 15 January 1873 described the final stages of construction in the following terms:

"The extension of the telegraph wire to Mannum will supply a desideratum which has long been felt at this Murray River port. The line has been erected in a very substantial manner, and its utility to the public is only now impeded by the incompleteness of the telegraph station at Mannum. This building, however, is fast approaching completion, and it is expected that telegraphic communication will be opened with Mannnm this week or next, as a special effort is being made to finish the operator's room at the earliest possible moment".

Later however, the importance of Mannum decreased because of the construction of the railway to Murray Bridge in the south and to Blanche Town in the north.

In 1880, a Telegraph Office was opened on the Adelaide to Gumeracha line at Teatree Gully. That site was selected over Millford or Houghton as it was centrally located from Hope Valley, Golden Grove and Modbury. About that time and during the next decade, many mineral deposits were found around Teatree Gully including gold, silver and coal.


The Freeling-Blanche Town line.

On 18 July 1864, a public meeting was convened in Gawler to discuss the best starting point and the route of the proposed telegraph line to Blanche Town. Representatives from Tanunda and Lyndoch Valley were also present. A full description of the very lively meeting was reported in the South Australian Register for 20 July 1864. The Mayor of Gawler was the Chairman and he stated that the object was to endeavour to get the line of telegraph to start from Gawler and proceed via Lyndoch Valley, Tanunda, Nuriootpa, Angaston, Stockwell, Truro and thence to Blanche Town. Arguments were proposed that this line would pass though more populated towns and areas than a line from Freeling and so the first motion put was "That it is the opinion of this meeting that the most desirable route for telegraph communication from Adelaide to the River Murray would be from Gawler via Lyndoch Valley, Tanunda, Nuriootpa, Angaston, Stockwell, Truro thence to Blanche Town as it is by far the most thickly-populated district". The inclusion of the reference to the Murray River reflected the importance of the telegraph connections to the river ports.

The line from Freeling ("with its population in the tens") to Glenock would not serve the same commercial and private interests as a line from Gawler ("with its population in the thousands") through Tanunda and Nuriopta. In addition, the area of the Barossa had a sufficient claim to have a line of telegraph. Mr. W. Duffield, the local M.P. was requested to speak. In part, he said "The question simply was which route will give the greatest accommodation to the most persons? He was not sure that the route from Gawler, via Lyndoch. &c, was not the shortest; but, whichever way it went, Lyndoch must be connected — (cheers)— with the network of wire now fast spreading through the colony. He was sure they would have the support of his colleague in Parliament. Telegraph lines were more expensive than people thought, and £6,000 were required this year and £7,000 next year, to replace old poles; but they must keep pace with the times they lived in and must not be behind hand. The line via Lyndoch, &c, would be one step towards establishing a second line with the other colonies — a thing much wanted, as the present one was often not available from breakages; but if they had two, one would always be available,. The Government of New South Wales had expressed their willingness to make a line to Wentworth and, if South Australia extended her lines, they could be joined which he thought would be a step in the right direction. (Hear, hear.) He would conclude by again impressing on them the necessity of agitation, and then they would obtain what they sought. (Applause)".

In the Assembly on 19 August 1864, a motion from Mr. Buot recommending a line from Freeling to Blanchetown via Greenock was tabled. This motion was later "amended by striking out the names of places making the recommendation general."! The Bunyip of 5 November 1864 reported "By-the-by, we see that tenders are called for the supply of posts for the line from Gawler, (not Freeling) through Truro to Blanchetown.

Finally, in 1865 - the line was constructed from Gawler to Nurioopta and on to Truro (at a cost of £250) and Blanche Town - the last station being the most urgent requirement and so Telegraph Offices were opened in the following year at the intermediate stations. Branch lines were constructed to Greenock and Tanunda. Telegraphic communication between Sydney and Adelaide began in 1867.

As the telegraph became more important and depended upon by citizens, the chances of abuse increased. One such incident occurred in along the north-east line in 1870:

ANGASTON, October 27. "On Sunday morning people going from chapel were almost electrified by observing a placard outside the Telegraph Office announcing the arrival of the English mail, that the French had been victorious and Prussians defeated, the Emperor Napoleon was dead, &c, giving full particulars, so that nearly all believed it, especially as a rumour had been spread the evening before that the mail was in sight. A large concourse read and took copies for friends at a distance; and it is seldom that such excitement is observed in Angaston. The news soon reached the neighbouring town of Nuriootpa, where the excitement if possible rose to a greater extent, the Telegraph-master being immediately requested to ask the Head Station at Tanunda why they had not the news sent. The reply that they knew nothing about it was not deemed satisfactory, and other queries followed, but nothing further could be obtained than that no news had been received. A few doubted the telegram being genuine from the first, knowing from experience that public information cannot be obtained at Angaston station without its being paid for. About 3 o'clock it proved to be a complete sell. The author luckily could not be found, but considerable indignation was expressed by those duped.

The Kapunda-Morgan line.

The most northern of the three telegraph lines to the east was constructed well after the Adelaide-Sydney line had been completed. It was therefore a second inter-colonial line. It was an extension of the main line to the Clare-Kooringa area and branched off at Kapunda.

The telegraph line from Kapunda to Eudunda and hence to Morgan followed the railway line and both were constructed at the same time. By about mid-August 1878, the contractors had erected all the galvanized iron posts for the telegraph line between Kapunda and the North-West Bend, which in appearance and durability are a decided improvement on the cumbrous wooden posts formerly in vogue. They commenced to put in the wire from the river end, and have got it in up to within a couple of miles of Guanidines both were opened on 14 September 1878 from which date both Morgan and Eudunda were in communication with Kapunda and thence to Adelaide. As noted elsewhere, there was considerable disagreement about using a wooden building as a temporary Telegraph Office at Eudunda and a new office was not ready until July 1879.


Far north-east line to NSW: The line from Terowie to Silverton and Broken Hill followed the railway line constructed in 1880s. It passed through Yunta and Cockburn where Telegraph Offices were opened in January 1887.

One of the camps used for building the Overland Telegraph line was at Hergott Springs (established as Maree in 1883 but called Hergott Springs until 1916). Maree and Beltana to the south were both possible branching points for a telegraph line from South Australia running also via Innaminka directly to Queensland - possibly via Charleville.

An interesting use of the telegraph line was reported in the South Australian Advertiser on 8 September 1886:

"a rather smart thing was done at Broken Hill yesterday. One of a well-known firm of Silverton sharebrokers made his appearance at the as soon as the doors were open, and having wired his agents in Sydney to obtain a certain number of shares, handed in an extract from a newspaper of several columns in length, which kept the operator fully employed till about 11 o'clock when a return message was received. By this manoeuvre, other brokers at the Hill and in Silverton were blocked, and knowledge of the information which induced such an extreme measure to be taken was withheld from the Sydney market until the required number of shares were secured. It must have been pretty expensive but probably the game was "worth the candle."

A similar trick is related of a reporter on the New York Herald, who wired through several chapters of the Bible to retain possession of the line and who, on asking for instructions, was ordered by the celebrated James Gordon Bennett, to go "right through to Revelation" if necessary, but not to give up the wires".

The steamer Tenterden, from Sydney, brought 100 tons of wire insulators for the posts on the Silverton telegraph line. The material has been sent on to Menindie.