Victoria - Colonial: 1854-1900.
Wood's Point Line (No. 4 North-East).

The Wood's Point line comprised:


1. The Benalla-Wood's Point line to the south.

By the early 1860s, the only line in the north-eastern region of the Colony of Victoria was the critically important Inter-Colonial line to New South Wales extending from Melbourne/Kilmore to Wodonga/Albury. It passed through important areas of agriculture and mining. It did not however aim to serve any of the other developing districts - these could be attended to after the long reaches were completed and money could be found in the Colonial Budget during some financially stringent times and competing demands. A reflection of this context is the opening paragraph of McGowan's Report to Parliament for the year 1865 in which he states "No lines are at present in progress of construction or under contract, the extensions proposed for 1865 having been deferred, by your direction, until the present year i.e. 1866". Clearly maintenance and planning were continuing.

The Leader of 23 July 1864 reported considerable agitation:

"The inhabitants of the Jamieson, Wood's Point and surrounding districts are strongly opposed to the proposed route for telegraphic communication to the latter place, namely, via Sale. On Saturday, the 9th instant, a public meeting was held at the Reefers' Hotel, Wood's Point, for the purpose of taking into consideration what action should be taken by the inhabitants of the district in the matter. Dr. Nicholson, J.P. occupied the chair and the following resolutions were unanimously agreed to:

  1. That this meeting has heard with regret that the Government proposes to survey a line of telegraph from Melbourne to Wood's Point via Sale and that it will materially benefit this district if the telegraph is brought through Gaffney's Creek, Jamieson, Mansfield and Benalla;
  2. That a memorial, signed by the inhabitants of Wood's Point, be forwarded to the hon. the Chief Secretary respectfully requesting that the telegraph line be brought to Wood's Point via Jamieson. A memorial in accordance with the above was adopted.
The Mountaineer added: The inhabitants of Gafney's Creek and Mansfield are also taking steps in this matter to show their disapprobation of the route chosen by the Government and, we should think, after so many demonstrations against the line through Sale, that the Cabinet will alter it in favor of that by way of Jamieson. The Government have called for tenders for the telegraph being carried between Benalla and Wood's Point via Jamieson, as proposed by the meeting". 

The Gippsland Times of 16 September 1864 reported the following which gives significant insight into the planning:

"The answer of Mr. McCulloch to the deputation who waited upon him from Gippsland for the purpose of recommending the extension of the Electric Telegraph to Wood's Point, displays a fearful amount of ignorance as to what has really occurred in the Government Offices.

Mr. McCulloch should surely have been aware that the proposed telegraph communication between Sale and Wood's Point was first initiated by the Government themselves and that the matter had proceeded so far as that tenders were called for the survey of the line and that it was only within a few days of the acceptance of the tenders, the Gazette notices were withdrawn sine die. The truth is that the Wood's Point residents desired to have a continuation of the telegraph line from Benalla through Jamieson and, in their anxiety to procure this benefit, they recommended that the survey of the line from Sale should be discontinued and the money appropriated to the other side of the Dividing Range. To this request, the Government acceded without at all considering the injurious tendency of such action to Gippsland. We are not so narrow-minded as to follow in the wake of the Wood's Pointers as far as we are concerned - they may get a telegraph to Timbuctoo if they choose - but while advocating their own cause they should have let us alone. Telegraphic communication to Wood's Point and the intervening gold-fields is just as much wanted from Sale as from Jamieson to Wood's Point.

As to Mr. McCulloch's suggestion that the deputation should submit their scheme in writing, we consider that to be all humbug. Let Mr. McCulloch refer back, and see what were the grounds of the scheme when Mr. McGowan recommended the extension of the telegraph across the Dividing Range and which called forth an advertisement in the Government Gazette asking for tenders for the survey of the line. Whatever these grounds of recommendation were then, they are now five times as strong and we consider that asking the gentlemen who attended that deputation to put their scheme in writing is one of the greatest insults that was ever offered to a deputation within our memory. The deputation, however, made what we conceive to be a blunder - instead of asking or praying for an extension, they should have demanded why the extension was not carried out. Had they done this, it is probable that the answer would have been couched in other and more favourable terms".

In August 1864, work was underway to survey the telegraph line from Benalla via Jamieson to Wood's Point. McGowan's Report for 1864 lists, as one of only three projects, that contracts for the Benalla to Wood's Point line had been issued and that work was in progress. Poling of the line between Jamieson and Wood's Point commenced in January 1865. In his Report for 1865, McGowan noted that:

"The communication with Wood's Point would have been opened at an earlier date but for the obstacles encountered, and eventually overcome, in constructing the section of line between Jamieson and that place, where transport could be effected only by means of pack-horses and where, during a portion of July and August, the progress of the work was seriously retarded, if not occasionally entirely suspended, through the depth of snow deposited on the route of the line by the heavy storms of that period".

The Age of 27 April 1865 optimistically reported:

Within a few weeks there will be direct telegraphic communication between Melbourne and Wood's Point, via Benalla. The contractor is vigorously pushing on the works. The line from Benalla to Wood's Point will be about eighty-five miles long; from Benalla to Jamieson, about sixty miles. The line is already in working order, and the remaining twenty-five miles will shortly be completed. The erection of this line of telegraph, in an alpine region, has been attended with considerable difficulty. The boon of instant communication between the metropolis and the rising mining townships of Gippsland will be fully appreciated, especially in the coming winter, when travelling by coach or horseback is a matter of much difficulty.


The inclusion of Mansfield.

On 7 November 1866, The Argus printed the following information:


Yesterday a deputation from Mansfield, consisting of the Chairman of the shire council (Mr. Kitchen) and a number of other gentlemen, was introduced to the Chief Secretary by Mr. Orr, M.L.A. Mr. Orr explained that the object of the deputation was to solicit the establishment of a telegraph office at Mansfield. The township lay half way between Benalla and Jamieson and was surrounded by an extensive agricultural district. If an office were established, he had no hesitation in saying that a favourable amount of business would be done.

Mr. McCulloch read a communication from Mr. McGowan, the Superintendent of the Telegraphic Department, dated in the early part of the present year, stating that he was unable to recommend the establishment of an office at Mansfield on the ground that the returns would not be more than a fourth or a fifth of the working expenses.

Several members of the deputation expressed an opinion that an income of £5 or £6 a week would be received for messages. There was a population of between 1,500 and 2,000 in the district and an extensive traffic was carried on with Jamieson and other places.

Mr. McCulloch said the Government were anxious to establish telegraphic offices where-ever a loss would not be involved. The annual expense of an office at Mansfield, at the lowest calculation, would be £150, and he wished to know if the deputation would give a guarantee to the the Government for a couple of years for that amount. After some conversation, Mr. Kitchen undertook that the required guarantee should be furnished.

The deputation then withdrew".

The survey for a tramway between Wood's Point and Jamieson was conducted in early 1865 while the survey for the railway line from Benalla to Mansfield was not completed until 1874.

The telegraph line to Mansfield proved to be useful in the November 1876 search for the Kelly Gang.


The inclusion of Gaffney's Creek

McGowan's Report for 1871 noted that one of the three extensions completed during 1871 was the 12 mile line from Wood's Point to Gaffney's Creek.


2. The Jamieson to Alexandra Branch.

There were discussions about the construction of the lines to Jamieson and Alexandra. At one stage the suggestion was that the line from Seymour/Tallarook to Yea should be extended to Alexandra and then to Jamieson. That would however have resulted in a great deal more traffic to the lower part of the already overloaded inter-colonial line to Albury and the Heathcote Branch. In addition, such a connection would not further the possible network connections to be gained by extending the line from Benalla north to Yarrawonga and south to Wood's Point (and possibly to Gippsland).

Finally it was decided to extend the lines from Benalla to come south from the North Eastern Line. In 1864, the Gippsland line was only line being constructed in the Colony and there were no Telegraph Offices operational anywhere to develop a Branch and provide a safety circuit. The tenor of those discussions on this possibility was provided in the previous section.

Dr Duffy travelled to Alexandra in February 1871 - surprisingly after two months off work "as an invalid" - but not too long before an election (on 14 February). He told a public gathering that "he certainly considered that Alexandra was entitled to a Telegraph Station". As good and positive as that statement was (under the circumstances), times do change. In the Legislative Assembly of 30 May 1871, the following statement was made "it was not at present the intention of the Government to extend the electric telegraph to Alexandra".

The Alexandra Times of 7 July 1871 reported on "a public meeting held at the Eldorado Hotel, Alexandra, on Monday evening, the 3rd instant, to consider the questions of TELEGRAPHIC COMMUNICATION, THE SEVERANCE QUESTION AND EXTENSION OF THE COMMON". As to the first of these:

"Mr Emerson said it had fallen to his lot to move the next resolution which was "That in the opinion of this meeting, telegraphic communication with Melbourne via Godfrey's Creek and Longwood is advisable and that the Government be memorialized to effect the same". Hitherto, when addressing meetings in Alexandra, he had been in the minority, but the tables were now turned, and he felt satisfied that there would not be one dissentient found in the room.

The advantages conferred on a community with telegraphic communication with the capital must be apparent to everyone. A mining above every other community should not be without such communication. When a miner found a reef the by-laws required that he should, within a very short space of time, cause the ground to be worked. This required capital and, by the present method of communication, it would take a considerable time before it was possible to raise funds. The Melbourne capitalist had no guarantee that the land would not be jumped in the mean time and so would not invest. Telegraphic communication would establish confidence between the miner and the capitalist.

Alexandra, even without such communication, was an important and prosperous goldfield - but with it, would be doubly so. Under the existing arrangements, the storekeeper was deprived from buying in the cheapest marker. This was not only a detriment to the storekeeper but affected the whole community. It behoved that every man should come forward and assist and show that they were in earnest. If they quietly waited for such things to be offered, they might wait till Doomsday. By agitating, they had managed at last to get the Courts and a resident Warden and they had only now to jog Mr. Duffy's memory to procure telegraphic communication.

He would remind them that Mr Duffy had promised to lay the matter before the Government. He had done so, but was then in the minority, and did not succeed. The district had been systematically neglected by the McCulloch Government. Mr Duffy had now the power to grant the request, and it was their duty to jog his memory - lay the matter properly before him, and show their earnestness. He had no hesitation in saying that, before a fortnight, the grant would be passed.

The motion was seconded by Mr Cronin and carried unanimously".

At a meeting between the Postmaster-General and the Yea Roads Board (reported in the Alexandra Times of 12 October 1872), Mr. Turner stated that "the telegraph line from Jamieson to Alexandra would be cheaper than a line from Yea. Poles were already prepared on the former line, which was only thirty miles in length and shorter than the line by Yea".

The Branch line between Jamieson and Alexandra was constructed in 1873.


3. The Benalla to Chiltern Branch.

The details of line construction for this branch are described as part of the Corowa line. It was not included as a branch of the Wood's Point line until the Annual Report for 1884.


4. The Benalla to Yarrawonga Branch.

A second line was constructed as part of the Wood's Point line but to the north from Benalla. Its main purpose was to establish another inter-colonial link with NSW through Yarrawonga and Mulwala (in NSW).

This branch - referred to as the Yarrawonga Branch line - was to the east of the Goulburn Valley line.

This map leads to the Goulburn Valley line.
This map leads to the Corowa Line.



Construction on these two branch lines commenced.

On 2 April 1880, the Argus reported on a deputation which waited upon the Postmaster-General to ask for an extension of telegraphic comminication to Yarrawonga. The reply was - as usual - that "inquiries would be made ... no definite promise ... the matter would receive consideration".

About 1880, Mulwala had over 100 people and a church, a school, a post-office and a public house. The Post Office had opened in 1864 but, after 6 weeks, was destroyed by a large fire. It re-opened on 1 June 1866. The Telegraph Office opened in 1881 linking the NSW Offices at Albury through Corowa to Mulwala and then further west to Deniliquin and Moama to the west. Hence the Victorian telegraph line was quickly constructed through St. James to Yarrawonga.

A branch line to Lake Rowan was constructed from St James in 1875. It operated until 1890 when a telephone connection between the two Offices replaced the Morse connection.

St. James was a town which was rapidly developing.

Later St. James was the place where a shopkeeper named George W. Coles would sell his small shop to his oldest son George James Coles for £4,500 before moving to Wilmot, Tasmania to open another shop called "Coles Store". George Jnr. had been educated at Beechworth College. In 1914, George J. and his brothers opened another shop in Collingwood with the slogan "nothing over a shilling". From there, the major commercial empire began. Importantly - George would have sent many telegrams!!


The Wood's Point link to Gippsland.

Every so often, suggestions were made about the possibility/desirability of linking the Wood's Point line to Gippsland. The common link suggested was from Wood's point to Sale of from Harrietville at the end of the Corowa line to Omeo. The Herald of 9 September 1864 reported on one of many such meetings:

"A meeting of gentlemen interested in the improvement of North Gipps Land was held at Scott's Hotel yesterday for the purpose of taking steps to secure the extension of the telegraph to Wood's Point via Sale. The attendance was rather small, owing chiefly to insufficient notice having been given. Mr Webb took the chair and Mr W. H Campbell then informed the meeting that the Government had been induced, by the representations of a deputation from the Jamieson, to abandon their original intention of constructing a telegraph from Sale to Wood's Point via Donnelly's Creek. Mr Langtree was now engaged in surveying a line via Benalla.

He thought the Chief Secretary should be requested to reconsider the matter and it would be well to point out to the Government that the telegraph, which had been carried to Sale — a distance of 150 miles at a cost of £10,000 — did not pay working expenses and that it could not be expected to do so until it was extended to the various goldfields of Gipps Land. After a few more remarks, he moved that a deputation be appointed to wait upon the Chief Secretary at the earliest possible moment to request him to carry out the originally contemplated scheme of the Government — to have the telegraph extended from Sale to Wood's Point via Donnelly's Creek. Mr C. F. Nicholls seconded the motion, which was agreed to and, after some conversation of a general character, the meeting adjourned".


The 1890 classifications.

By 1890, increased construction and a re-configuring of the linkages meant that there were 3 lines to and in the general north-west area of Victoria. Those lines which were not solely for telephones include:

Line 130 Benalla through Mansfield, Jamieson, Gaffney's Creek to Wood's Point.
Lin 132: Benalla through Denenish Railway, St James, Tungamah, Yarrawonga to Mulwala.
Line 134: Seymour through Yea, Alexandra to Jamieson.
Line 175: St. James to Lake Rowan.