Victoria - Colonial period: 1855-1900.
The Donald line (No. 4 West) .


The Donald line began at Ballarat and tracked to the north of the Bordertown line before turning to the north-west near Dunolly. The lines constructed to 1861 in this region of Central Victoria are described elsewhere. The Donald line traversed an area which was south of both the Ballarat (No. 8 West) line and the Swan Hill line.

The remaining line development after 1861 for the Donald line is described chronologically below.

Up to 1883, the Donald line had been named the Cross Country line in the various Reports.

This map leads to the Wycheproof line.  
This map leads to the Swan Hill line.
This map leads to the Ballarat No. 8 West line.  


1862 to 1870.

In 1862, it was intended to construct a line from Avoca to Redbank. Indeed on 21 January 1862, the Ballarat Star noted that an item for the extension of the line of telegraph to Redbank for £1,250 had been placed on the Estimates. The Maryborough and Dunnolly Advertiser of 12 March 1862 noted "we are glad to observe that it is proposed to authorise an outlay of £1,250 for the purpose of bringing Redbank into telegraphic communication with the rest of the colony". In August 1862, the Gazette noted that the Commissioner of Public Works had invited tenders for "the formation of a line of telegraph between Avoca and MoonambelRedbank".

This construction was not started for reasons now unknown. In his Report for 1861 (p.6), McGowan stated that the proposal for this line "had been granted principally on account of strong petitions presented to Government from the residents of the places most interested, it being impossible to expect that the probable receipts of the branch will even approximately cover working expenses".

In the Legislative Assembly of 5 December 1862, Mr. Houston asked the Postmaster General if it was the intention of the Government to extend the telegraph to St. Arnaud during 1863. "Dr. Evans stated that a sum of £18,590 had been placed on the Estimates for the extension of telegraphic communication but, in the absence of the Superintendent of the Department, he could not say whether it was proposed to construct a line to St. Arnaud. If the revenue permitted the work to be undertaken, he would have much pleasure in submitting the matter to his colleagues, but at present he could give no pledge".

In the Ballarat Star of 14 April 1864, part of a parliamentary session was reported as follows:

"Mr. B. G. Davies called the attention of the Hon. the Chief Secretary to a promise made by a previous Government to extend telegraphic communication from the towns of Inglewood and Dunolly so as to connect them with Wedderburne, Bealiba, Kingower and St. Arnaud and to ask whether the Government would carry out that promise.

Mr. McCulloch said, in reply, that on searching in his office for a memorandum relative to the alleged promise, he had found no documents. He found however, that a promise had been made to connect Inglewood, Dunolly and St Arnaud by way of Redbank and that promise would be carried out. But he did not think that telegraphic communication was requisite for the small town mentioned in the question of the Hon. member".

In the Legislative Assembly of 16 May 1864, £1,500 was approved for the extension of the electric telegraph from Redbank to St. Arnaud. A contract was soon accepted by the Government for the construction of this line in July 1864 and work was to be commenced at once. The line was completed in 1865 allowing communication from Dunolly via Redbank to St. Arnaud.

A small 7 mile branch line was erected in mid-April 1870 to Majorca from Maryborough.

In addition to gold finds some years previously, silver was also being mined in the mid-1860s from the St Arnaud silver lode by various prospectors including the Freiberg Silver Mine and the St Arnaud Mining Company.


Post 1870.

In the reorganisation of lines during the 1870s to balance the loads on major Telegraph Offices, many of the the connections described previously were dismantled. For example, Daylesford was connected to the main Castlemaine line south of Kyneton at Carlesruhe. Dunnolly became a hub from which one line went to Donald and another went to Swan Hill.

The decision to extend the line to Donald was finally made in conjunction with the extension of the railway line. In May 1877, tenders were called for the survey of the telegraph line from St. Arnaud to Donald.

The Argus of 16 June 1877 reports on a deputation as follows:

"Mr. MacBain MLA, yesterday introduced Mr. J A Meyer as a deputation from Donald to the Minister of Railways, to ask that, in the event of the Government deciding to extend the railway to St. Arnaud, it might be continued on to Donald, a further distance of 23 miles. A memorandum of reasons in support of the application was read by Mr. MacBain, showing that there was a very large amount of settlement in the district. Last year it was calculated that there were 2,555 selectors in the St Arnaud shire who had over 100 000 acres of land under cultivation, while it was estimated that, after providing for local consumption, 1,700,000 bushels of grain required transmission to market. With the construction of the railway it was also urged there would be a large traffic in wool, hides, skins, tallow and timber as the traffic was restricted at present through the carriers charging 50/- per ton for conveying goods the 23 miles to St Arnaud.

Mr. Woods said he had fully recognised the necessity for extending the railway to Donald 18 months ago, when he had ordered a flying survey to be made there. That might be taken as an indication of his individual opinion of the necessity of railway communication to this district. No doubt such lines as this would have to come under the consideration of the Government, as permanent settlement would be impossible without railway communication within a reasonable distance. A railway near a farm enhanced its commercial value by at least 10 percent".

Clearly the telegraph would support these commercial interests and the construction of the telegraph line would be facilitated by using the railway poles.

In February 1879, tenders were called for the construction of the telegraph line from St. Arnaud to Donald. The Correspondent for the Ballarat Courier took a trip from Ballarat to Maryborough and reported his observatiobs on 12 May 1879. In part, he observed "For a few miles the country is not particularly interesting, and is sufficiently described by saying that it is at first poor, then medium quality, lightly timbered (i.e. by comparison with Bullarook) and undulating. The main road is three chains wideAbout 60 metres. and telegraph poles are now being erected to take the wires on to Donald".

This construction work was completed two years later with the Donald Telegraph Office opening in June 1879.

The 1878 Annual Report indicates that telegraph wires were erected along the railway lines between Maryborough and Clunes while similar work continued between Clunes and Creswick and between Maryborough and Avoca.

The Argus of 25 August 1881 reported that "A deputation from Amherst interviewed the Minister of Railways at Talbot (while he was on a tour of the area by train) respecting an extentension of telegraph communication to their township - a request which Mr Bent promised to submit to the Postmaster General ... At Homebush, where a stoppage was made enroute, requests were preferred for telegraphic accommodation, there being a wire through the station but no operator and no public office. Mr Bent undertook to report the local requirements to Mr Bolton". The Herald of 8 October 1881 noted that the line of telegraph was to be extended from Talbot to Amherst but no details were given. The connection was made in that same month.

With the many developments in the region - mostly stimulated by the gold discoveries - construction of lines north of Ballarat became a priority. Many smaller Telegraph Offices were opened along or close to lines - even through the 1920s.


The 1890 classifications.

By 1890, increased construction and a re-configuring of the linkages meant that there was only one line to and in the general north-west area of Victoria. That line was:

Line 4: Melbourne through Newport test box, Werribee, Geelong, Meredith, Elaine, Ballarat, Miners-Rest, Creswick, Clunes, Talbot, Majorca, Maryborough to Bowenvale.
Line 17: Melbourne through Footscray Test Box, Diggersrest Coursing Ground, New Gisborne, Kyneton, Castlemaine, Newstead, Carisbrook, Maryborough, Avoca, Dunolly, Bealiba Railway, St. Arnaud to Donald.

To add to the Daylesford line: Smeaton was connected in December 1881 by way of Broomfield, Wallace Town, Allendale and Ristori Town. The Ballarat Star 1 December 1881.