Tasmania: 1857-1900.
First telegraph lines - comment by The Mercury in 1858.

Copied from The Hobart Town Daily Mercury Wednesday 10 February 1858.

The Electric Telegraph

In addition to great natural resources,Tasmania can boast of those scientific appliances which tend so much to advance the happiness and prosperity of a country and foremost amongst which may be reckoned the Electric Telegraph.

On the 16h January, 1857, the first post was erected at Launceston; by the 1st July, the line was completed to Hobart Town, a distance of 124 miles; and on the 9th of the same month the first telegraphic message flew along the electric wire with the speed of lightning, telling the inhabitants of the two cities that science had triumphed over the distance, and that hence-forward, although miles of country intervene, yet for the purpose of social and commercial communications, Hobart Town and Launceston might be regarded as one city.

The main telegraph line consists of a single wire supported on posts at a distance of 20 feet from the ground and insulated from the earth by means of earthenware insulators. According to this arrangement the earth is made to form part of the electric circuit.

Commencing from Launceston, the line following the main line of road passes through the villages of Perth, Snake Banks and Cleveland, the townships of Campbell Town, Ross and Oatlands, thence to Bagdad, Green Ponds, Brighton, and Bridgewater, on to the New Town Road and entering Hobart Town, passes along Barnett Street, down Argyle Street to the Chief Telegraph Office on the Franklin Wharf.

This line was executed by Mr. W.H.Butcher, now Inspector of Electric Telegraphs in Tasmania, at a cost of £62 per mile. There are at present two telegraphic stations on the line, the principal being, as before stated, at the Franklin Wharf, Hobart Town and the other at the P'ost Office, Launceston. Groves' galvanic battery is used for generating the electric current and Morse's recording apparatus serves for the purpose of transmitting and receiving messages.

There are, also, in addition to the main line, two branch lines. One, whch is complete but not open, extending from Mount Nelson to Hobart Town (a distance of five miles), for the purpose of signalling shipping entering the Derwent River; and the other from George Town to Launceston (a distance of 40 miles). This latter branch is in rapid progress, but is not yet finished. The contractors for the Mount Nelson branch were Messrs, Lestage and Carroll and the cost was £57 per mile. The same contractors are engaged in laying down the George Town branch at a cost of £62 10 per mile. In this branch there will be two stations - one at the Lighthouse on the Low Heads for signalling shipping arriving off George Town and the other at George Town for the purpose of transmitting general intelligence and private messages. It is also contemplated in the course of a few months to open intermediate stations on the main line at Campbell Town and Oatlands.

The scale of charges for transmitting messages from Hobart Town to Launceston is as follows :

For not exceeding ten words 5s., for every additional word 2d. Messages for the Press are charged at the rate of one penny per word, for the first thirty words and one half-penny for every additional word.

The number of messages transmitted from the opening of the telegraph in August to the end of January is 1595, and the daily receipts average £3. Before the close of this year there is every probability that the Electric Telegraph will be the means of uniting Tasmania with Victoria, New South Wales and South Australia. It is in contemplation to construct a line from George Town to Cape Grim and thence by submarine cable crossing Bass Strait via King's Island to Cape Otway in the colony of Victoria. Already the necessary soundings have been made by H. M. Steam Sloop Victoria, and with most satisfactory results. The maximum depth between Cape Grim on the mainland of Tasmania and King's Island is 21 fathoms and between King's Island and Cape Otway on the mainland of Victoria the maximum depth is 35 fathoms The total cost of the submarine cable including the laying of it down will not exceed £16,000, which will be paid in equal moieties by the Governments of Tasmania and Victoria. The cost of the overland line from George Town to Cape Grim is estimated at about £8000.

Already the advantages of the Electric Telegraph are being appreciated in Tasmania. To the mercantile community these are inestimable, shipping and commercial intelligence being supplied many hours earlier than by the ordinary postal communication. The thief escaping from justice, and the dishonest insolvent flying from his creditors have been stopped in their careers and in some instances have been compelled to restore their ill-gotten gains.

As a means of receiving important foreign news, the Electric 'Telegraph has been extensively employed by this journal and the capture of Delhi was made known to the public by a "Mercury Extra" and circulated throughout the city of Hobart Town within half an hour after the arrival of the steamer which brought the important news to Launceston,

But great as these advantages are, they sink into insignificance when compared with those that will accrue when the Telegraph is completed to Victoria. It is expected during the next four months, that telegraphic lines from Sydney and Adelaide to Melbourne will be opened and, when Tasmania is added to the list, the whole of the Australian colonies will be united in one grand electric circuit.

To attempt to describe the benefits likely to result from the completion of these great works, appears to us, like attempting to demonstrate the truth of an axiom; we shall contest ourselves therefore, with stating that whenever European news arrives from Melbourne, that news can, within one hour, by means of Electric Telegraph, be disseminated through the capitals of the other three colonies, and should the proposed electric cable be laid down to Point de Galle, the Australian will then be united, not only with each other, but with the whole world.