Tasmania: 1857-1900.
Launceston and Western Line.

The Launceston & Western Line (L&WL) was an important privately-constructed and operated railway line in the development of telegraphic communication in Tasmania.


The L&WL was formed on 9 May 1867 to transport agricultural products from areas in the north of the island to the ships which would take them to Victoria. The suggestion of a railway line linking Hobart and Launceston had originally been raised in 1856 but no action followed. In 1857, the possibility of a Launceston to Deloraine railway was raised and despite the Government reaction in the following year that it was a good idea, nothing happened until 1865 when the Railway Act was passed authorising the line. The condition was that the cost woud be met by the private sector. With no delay, a prospectus was issued seeking private capital. Most of the £450,000 raised came from England. The Tasmanian Colonial government underwrote the interet on the investment and the primary producers for whom the line would be of great benefit agreed to make-up any shortfall between the revenue raised and the interest amount.


The route for the line was surveyed in 1867. An example of the progress of the survey was pubished in the Launceston Examiner on 25 July 1867. The survey was conducted by a young engineer - Robert Paterson of Doyne, Major & Willet. He left Tasmania soon after to accept an appointment of assistant engineer in the South Australian Public Service. In 1869 he was promoted to be resident engineer for railways. In 1870 he reported on possible routes for the Port Augusta section of the Great Northern Railway and then, in 1871, Charles Todd appointed him to be in charge of construction on the troublesome Northern Section of the Overland Telegraph Line. Patterson did a great job in a careful, thoughtful and meticulous way. It was one of the most difficult tasks in Australia's engineering history.

The first sod of the new line was turned by Prince Alfred, the Duke of Edinburgh, on 15 January 1868 and construction commenced immediately. Many delays due to the terrain and the weather kept pushing the completion date back until the railway finally opened on
10 February 1871. The bridge over the South Esk river near Longford was one of the most difficult parts of the constuction.

The tracks were laid 1600 mm apart (five feet three inches - so a broad gauge railway line). That gauge was in contrast to the Main Line railway which had tracks 1067 mm apart. Hence rolling stock could not be used on both lines and an interchange had to be built at Evandale. It remained a break-of-gauge station until the Evandale-Deloraine line was converted to narrow gauge in 1888. An example of the reports on the construction of the railway line is that published in the Launceston Examiner 23 April 1870.

Unfortunately, the company which had built the line was unable to service its loan and so, in 1873, it was taken over by the Tasmanian Government. So commenced the Tasmanian Government Railways.

The Telegraph Offices on the L&WR line.

In 1872, the seven telegraph stations shown in the map below were opened at railway stations along the line:

L&WR line

The Main Line Railway:

A track from Deloraine to Devonport was laid with the narrow guage in 1885. The last broad gauge trip was in 1888.

The line changed name to "The Western Line" and ran from Wiltshire (north-west near Smithton) to Western Junction (near Evandale).


Both transmission forms and delivery forms were printed for use on the railway.