Western Australia.
Telegraph lines in the Mid West region.

The Mid West Region of Western Australia is defined here, for purposes of describing telegraph line construction, as being the region:


The lines in the Mid West region are described as follows:

  1. from Dandaragan to Geraldton;
  2. the alternative western line via Gingin to Geraldton.
  3. from Northampton back to Geraldton;
  4. from Northampton to the Gascoyne;
  5. from Geraldton to the Murchison Goldfields: (Cue to Peak Hill).
    5.1: Geraldton to Mullewa.
    5.2: Minegew to Mullewa;
    5.3: Mullewa to Cue and the Murchison goldfields.
    5.3.1: the branch line to Yalgoo;
    5.3.2: Cue;
    5.3.3: the branch line to Mount Magnet;
  6. Cue to Peak Hill;
    6.1: Reedy;
    6.2: Nannine;
    6.2: Nannine to Peak Hill;
  7. The inter-regional link - the line between the Murchison and the Goldfields.
  8. Problems with the hours of opening.

This map continues into the Gascoyne region. This map continues into the Pilbara region.  
This map continues into the Goldfields region.
This map continues into the Wheatbelt region.  

1. Dandaragan to Geraldton.

The first priority for the construction of telegraph lines in the Mid-West region was to connect with GeraldtonWas called Champion Bay until 1874.. It had been established as a military outpost but later developed through the influx of pastoralists as well as through the discovery of lead deposits which resulted in the establishment of the Geraldine mine. There was a good harbour at that place which was developed for various ships and, by the 1870s, it was the port through which the lead from mines at Northampton further to the north was shipped. Geraldton was proclaimed a town in 1871. It was important for the commercial interests to establish telegraphic communication.

In 1867, the mail route to Geraldton was changed from the coast road via Gin Gin to an inland route passing through New Norcia, Walebing, Berkshire Valley, Marah, Coorow, Carnamah and on to Geraldton. The route was designed to cater for the inland settlers. This route was that favoured by Governor Weld for the construction of the telegraph line to the north. It began at Newcastle (in the Wheatbelt) and followed the new mail line north through New Norcia and Berkshire Valley in the Wheatbelt region and then extended north to Geraldton in the Mid West region via Moora, Carnamah, and Arrino. Twenty years later, in September 1894, an intermediate Office was opened at Mingenew (in the heart of ideal cattle country).

Work on the telegraph line commenced reasonably soon after contract agreement with Nunnan and Smith was signed on 2 November 1872. Construction was started in two directions - north from New Norcia and south from Champion Bay (Geraldton). The Mid West line linking Berkshire Valley to Champion Bay was close to being completed on 4 August 1873. There was however a massive shortage of timber and that probably slowed progress. The Inquirer of 12 November 1873 updated its readers with the following news: "The telegraph line is rapidly approaching completion - here being but some 25 miles near McPherson's unfinished, and this distance will be very soon filled up. Telegraphic communication will be highly appreciated by the Northerners and no doubt will absorb many of the odd shillings now frittered away on nobblers or bagatelle — more congenial, though less scientific amusements".

The timber shortage together with the late arrival of plant delayed the opening of the line north to Champion Bay until 5 June 1874. Indeed the constant lengthy delays were seen to be related to the long distance from Perth and so Geraldton was a forgotten place - especially at times when a project was to be completed. Sceptics in Geraldton interpreted the delay - and reported in the Fremantle Herald of 21 March 1874, in the following way:

"The second light-house is being rapidly pushed forward by Mr. Trigg and will, when completed, serve as a land mark for a year or two until the lighting apparatus is added so that it may be really serviceable as a light house. The first one stands perched on Flag Staff Hill, looking like a factory chimney shaft. It obscures the light that ought to be a guide to mariners entering the Bay; there is no sign of it being used as a light-house yet-awhile. Indeed most of the works undertaken in Geraldton get to a certain point and then come to a full stop. Instance the solitary telegraph post erected months ago and standing alone in its glory in front of Major Cummerforde's door; and the interminable jetty too, which does make a move ahead and get a few feet seaward about every three months but is just as far from being finished as ever".

The cost of the line from Newcastle to Champion Bay was £11,000. That amount had been proposed to the Council by Mr. Barlee on 8 August 1873 within an overall loan of £100,000 - the balance being used for the Geraldton to the Northern mining districts railway.

"Geraldton, although still referred to as 'Champion Bay' by old residents, is and will be what may be termed the front door to the Murchison Goldfield. It was visited in the sixties by many Australians when in search of pastoral country. Since the discovery of gold and the consequent laying of the railway line to Mullewa, and the construction of the telegraph line to Nannine, it has expanded considerably as a business centre. As such it now ranks second to the metropolitan harbour of Fremantle"
(Inquirer and Commercial News, 11 January 1895).


The line though Dongara.

A second line of telegraphs to the south from Geraldton followed the coast through Greenough and Dongara before veering inland to Mingenew. The Inquirer of 8 January 1873 confirmed that direction as follows: "The contractors for the erection of the telegraph posts have paid us a visit, and have, I am informed, contracted with two parties here for the erection of the posts from Geraldton to Dongara". In a second article in the same edition:

"The contractors of the telegraph line to Champion Bay are offering £600 for the carting of 2,000 posts, weighing about 275 tons, a distance of 100 miles from Dongara to Long's station, one of the worst roads in the colony. I expect the people here will lose the sympathies of the Government for refusing the offer. They are bad enough off now, but to attempt to do the work for less than £800 would be madness and, even at that, the time occupied would be at least twenty six weeks for ten teams of four horses each. I understand that the amount of the tender accepted was £19 9s. per mile. At this rate the contractors will make a fine thing of it. Posts delivered at Port Irwin will cost about £7 10s. per mile; carting say £1; erecting posts about £2 10s.; total £11".

The line along the coast always created problems because of the wind and salt air conditions.


The completion of the line.

The Perth Inquirer of 3 June 1874 reported it was informed "by overland mail" that "telegraphic communication with Champion Bay (Geraldton) might be daily expected, the erection of the wire from the Bay towards the Victoria Plains (New Norcia), to join that already erected, being in rapid progress. Communication between the offices at Geraldton, Greenough and Dongara (i.e. from the north), was opened about a fortnight ago; and, at the time mail passed, the Superintendent of Telegraphs had opened another office at Carnamah, on the (northern part of the) Plains, and was in communication with the northern offices".

The five Telegraph Offices opened along this long stretch in the Mid West region gave nine altogether along the line from Newcastle. That was half of the number of Telegraph Offices in the Colony at the end of 1874. That so many Offices were opened over the new lines in about three months is a tribute to the crews involved.

The Inquirer of 10 June 1874 described the achievement as follows:


The public may be congratulated on the fact that the telegraph is now stretched to every township in the colony south of Champion Bay; thus bringing the metropolis into instantaneous communication with the whole of the settled districts. At one o'clock on Friday afternoon last, at Carnamah (Mr. Duncan Macpherson's station), the Superintendent of Telegraphs — Mr. Fleming — witnessed the connecting of the last link of the northern line, and the wire was available for public purposes in less than an hour afterwards. Thus in the space of less than five years we have spread the magic wire over about 800 miles of our territory.

All the Telegraph Officers along this line were female. The Inquirer went on the state: "There are seven offices on the Champion Bay line, all in the charge of lady operators, who, we understand, are remarkably good telegraphists, and have required but little training, and we think that in this, as in the telegraph itself, the Government have taken a progressive step in the right direction".

The Murchison Times published at Cue, noted on 16 January 1897 that:

"Once again we have had to go to press without our usual telegraphic budget. The beautiful arrangements in vogue in this department are about on a par with those existing in one or two other branches of the Government service.

From what we have been able to gather, the fault on this occasion exists between Perth and Geraldton where the line has been affected by climatic influences. As a matter of fact, our telegraphic service is something like a delicate lady — there is always something the matter with the system. What is badly required is that the management should be handed over to someone who is able to keep the various lines in something like working order".


2. The alternative western line from Gingin to Geraldton.

On 19 July 1886, Mr Shenton addressed the House to ask that "a humble address be presented to the Governor, praying his Excellency to place on the Estimates for 1887, the sum required to provide for the extension of the telegraph line from Gingin to Dandaragan". The line from Guilford to Gingin had been opened in October 1876. It roughly followed the old mail line. A new Telegraph Office was opened at Gin Gin following the construction especially to serve the rich agricultural production in the surrounding area. The cost of constructing the 35 mile line from Guilford was £610.

Gingin was an important rest-stop for horses travelling between Perth and Geraldton and it also had a Police station - all good reasons to have telegraphic facilities opened there. The population was about 200. On 9 August 1891, the Midland Railway opened its first section from Midland Junction north to Gingin and a week later, the section south of Geraldton from WalkawayInland from and adjacent to Greenough - and about 25 km south east of Geraldton. to Mingenew. The Mingenew-Arrino section opened on 25 February 1892.

In 1896 - after a long pause in construction activity in that area - the second telegraph line in the Northern region was constructed starting at Gingin and laid out via Dandaragan (connected in August 1896) in the Wheatbelt Region to the north to link at Mingenew on the first l ine - the line to Mingenew having been under construction in 1894. Hence there was then a back-up facility which made the push to the far north and to the Murchison a more reliable proposition.


3. The line from Northampton back to Geraldton.

There was a pause in construction activity in this region after the line between Geraldton and Newcastle (Toodyay) was completed in 1874. There were however discussions at that time about the desirability of building a railway line north between Geraldton and Northampton through the mineral district.

The minutes of the Legislative Council of 3 July 1873, included the following:


The COLONIAL SECRETARY in moving the first reading of a bill for raising the sum of £100,000 by loan for the construction of certain public works, said the undertakings contemplated in the bill were the construction of a railway and telegraph from Geraldton to Northampton through the mineral portion of the Victoria district, for which £80,000 was set down, and also the construction of a telegraph line from Newcastle to Champion Bay, for which £11,000 was provided.

With regard to the first item the Hon. gentleman thought it better not to enter into details relative to it at present; he would simply lay on the table of the House for the information of Hon. Members a schedule of plans, drawings and papers connected with the proposed railway, as also the engineer's report, specifications of the work to be performed and an estimate of the cost and of the traffic. Being desirous that ample time should be afforded Hon. Members to peruse and consider the various papers connected with the undertaking, he would postpone the second reading of the bill until such time as the House would be prepared to discuss it with some knowledge of its details.

With reference to the construction of a telegraph line from Newcastle to Champion Bay, the House had already sanctioned the work, and His Excellency was in receipt of a despatch from the Secretary of State for the Colonies, affirming the resolution of the House, and empowering His Excellency to approve of a bill to raise the necessary sum for the construction of the line.

As it was considered inadvisable for the colony to go into the market for the purpose of borrowing a small sum of £15,000 or £16,000, it was proposed to incorporate in one loan, the capital necessary for the construction of the two undertakings, thereby increasing it to £100,000 - a sum which it was proposed to raise in the colony and in Victoria, where there would be no difficulty in obtaining the required amount at a rate of interest not exceeding five per cent per annum. With these few observations he would move that the bill be read a first time and, if in accordance with the rest of the House, he would move that the Second reading be made an order of the day for Friday, the 10th instant".

The Perth Inquirer of 7 July 1875 noted that "the important mining and pastoral district north of Geraldton is about to be included in the telegraph system of the colony. Tenders are invited by the Government for the supply of posts necessary for the construction of the line from Geraldton to Northampton. When this is completed, every township south of Roebourne will be in instantaneous communication with Perth and there will be 830 miles of wire in operation".

The line from Northampton back to Geraldton was constructed in 1878 to support the commercial activity especially related to the lead mining. It was constructed along the railway lineThe line was constructed as cheaply as possible.
The gauge was only 3 feet wide. No allocation was made for fencing, crossings, payment of a simple fee for lands being crossed, etc.


4. From Northampton to the Gascoyne.

In June 1882, the Governor attended a reception at the annual Ploughing Competition held at Guilford. In his speech is reply to the toast,

"he was pleased to be able to inform them that the finances of the colony had so far improved as to enable him to state he had reason to believe that at the end of the year we should find a satisfactory balance in the Treasury chest to the credit of the colony. This condition of the finances had induced him to submit to the Secretary of State:

  • a proposal for raising a further loan of £200,000 for the extension of the Eastern Railway to York a work which they must all wish to see completed,
    for the sake of opening up the country for agricultural settlement;
  • the inclusion in the loan of a sum of £40,000 for the construction of the telegraph line from Northampton to Cossack".

On 19 September 1882, the Legislative Council discussed the Telegraph Extension to Kimberley.

The Western Australian of 1 June 1883 reported that

"The four laborers, two natives and horses of the Roebourne telegraph survey party will start for Northampton, under Mr. W. Strickland jun's. charge, on Monday next. Mr. Carey, the officer in command of the party, will leave for Geraldton by steamer on the 11th, and, upon arrival, will set out to make a rough examination of the country between Northampton and the Murchison and, upon his return, will meet the party (which includes Mr. J. Parish as the working overseer) and then proceed with the regular survey of the route, part of which will be through entirely unexplored country, some of it not much better than a desert, with little feed and less water.

The survey, like the line, is to be done in sections, the first being from Northampton via Murchison to Flint Cliff, a distance of about 140 miles. There will be a deal of bad country to pass through here and, according to recent accounts, there was neither feed nor water procurable. The settlers were, however, expecting rain very shortly.

The second section from Flint Cliff to the Gascoyne, about 130 miles, is said to be but little better than the first as regards water. As it will be quite two months before this section will be undertaken, there is no doubt that it will then wear a more promising appearance".

See details of the next stage of the survey in the Gascoyne.

From 1883 to 1889, Sir Frederick Broome was the Governor of Western Australia. Part of the Governor's duties was to visit the various parts of the Colonies. Soon after his appointment, Governor Broome visited Geraldton and Northampton and was accompanied by his wife. Lady Mary Anne Broome was a journalist and she wrote a wide range of publications on her observations while accompanying her husband on his various appointments as well as children's books and cookery booksShe wrote a cookery book because she knew from experience of the need for such a book. She was startled when its publication brought her the offer, which she accepted, of appointment as lady superintendent of the newly-opened National Training School of Cookery, South Kensington. . The eldest son (Guy) remained in England while the Broome's were in Western Australia and she frequently sent letters to him. At the end of their appointment, Lady Mary Anne edited the letters and, in 1885, published them as "Letters to Guy" - a publication which was one of her most significant.

On the publication of "Letters to Guy", the West Australian of 6 March 1885 published a review, together with some extracts. In addition to describing the absolute beauty of Albany Harbour, one of her descriptions was written at Northampton:

"Next day the Governor had been asked to drive in, or plant, the first pole of the new telegraph line, stretching far, far away through the wild and distant country between this and Roebourne in the Northwest territory. The pretty ceremony took place in another bush-bower, arranged so as to shelter us from the sun; and there were heaps of speeches and good wishes for the new line.

I asked for, and was given, a little bit of the great coil of telegraph wire, and they hammered it into a sort of bangle or bracelet for me on the spot. So you will see it some day, as I shall always wear it.

I could not help thinking, as I looked at the great stack of telegraph poles and the tons of wire lying at our feet and then at the little band of sunburnt, bearded, resolute-looking men standing by, who were going to carry it over country where fatigue and hardships and dangers from drought and hunger, and even from natives, beset them on every side where, for months and months, they would have no shelter at night and be obliged to sleep in their blankets on the ground, how wonderful it all was!

How proud we ought to be that there are plenty of such brave and fearless men to be found who step forward and say "We will carry your line for you; we will open up the country and put the other end of that slender wire into the hands of our few countrymen, hundreds and hundreds of. miles away, so that, if they are in trouble or danger, they can let you know, and you can send help!

I hope, dear, you are old enough to understand what I mean and to thrill-soldier though we hope you are going to be some day - at the thought of these other dauntless soldiers - in the battle of colonization".


5. Geraldton to the Murchison Goldfields (Cue, Meekatharra, Peak Hill, etc).

The Murchison goldfield was discovered by Messrs. Peterkin and McPherson on 4 November 1890. They had left Perth in October to go prospecting and landed at Geraldton. Their story makes fascinating reading - published in the Western Mail of 21 November 1891. After collecting some alluvial gold and then running out of rations, they returned to Perth but returned to the Murchison in June:

Mr. Peterkin claimed "I have no doubt as to the permanency of the field, and it is the richest I have ever seen. It is also the easiest field to mine that I have ever come across".

Gold was also being found in other localities in the Murchison and the general region quickly became regarded as an important area:

The Inquirer and Commercial News of 11 January 1895 printed an article which explains the uncertainty of the extent of the Murchison finds:

"Since the first discovery at Nannine in August 1891, the precious metal has been proved to exist right through this enormous area. Owing to its comparatively isolated position, only an infinitesimal portion of its gold yield has been made known. Few of the heavy finds originally made at Nannine, Cue, The Island (Lake Austin), Day Dawn and Mount Margaret were even reported to the Warden.

The reticence of the original prospectors was due to the fact that, at several of the above localities, they delayed the registration of their claim until they had lined their bags with golden pickings. The same secrecy was observed when conveying the larger quantities of their raisings to one of the other colonies.

Then again, until the present year, postal communication to and from the seaboard was intermittent and later, when news of new discoveries, crushings and gold sent by escort was received in Perth, the credit was given to Coolgardie in the principal newspapers of Adelaide, Melbourne and Sydney. However with the present bi-weekly mail service and the recent opening of the telegraph to Cue and Nannine, the Murchison will become better known and, the better it is known, the more, in my opinion, will it be appreciated".

See elsewhere for details of these finds.

There was continuing criticism about the way in which the telegraph line to the Murchison goldfields was constructed. One such is that published in the Geraldton Advertiser of 17 July 1895 - which also contains a most overt and scathing attack on Mr. Scholl. About the telegraph line:

"I am brought naturally to the question of telegraphic communication with the Murchison. There is no need to here descant on the pressing necessity of keeping the goldfields communication open. The most benighted conservative wiseacres would not be likely to dispute that.

But stoppages now are frequent rather more so than communication. And why? Simply because, in the first place, the most ordinary precautions for the preservation of the line have not been taken. Almost all along the route, the road and the telegraph go together. Every teamster on the track has to zig-zag along to avoid the innumerable bogs, and every now and then he cannons against a pole, which goes down like a raw greenhorn among gamblers. And so, in places, for sometimes 500 yards at a stretch, there was the wire with no poles to support it; while every here and there it was "grounded" and therefore utterly useless.

Sitting on the coach, I had a narrow escape of getting my throat cut while passing beneath one of these accursed wires, which probably breed more bad language in one year than original sin would do in a century.

Seeing the line as it is made, we wonder not that communication is so frequently interrupted, but that it exists at all. What is badly wanted is a system of relays of men, stationed at intervals to continually patrol the track; and a thorough blockading of the track against vehicular traffic. This means, of course, the clearance of a new road for teams but the expense so arising must be laid to the discredit of the Government, who had no business to make the line where it is in the first instance".

The W. A. Record of 4 August 1892 reported on a speech the Premier Sir John Forrest had made at Geraldton:

We have already ordered the material for a telegraph line from Geraldton to the Murchison Goldfield — (cheers) — and I hope it will soon arrive, so that we may lose no time in erecting it. (Cheers).
We have also ordered the material for a telegraph line from Cossack to Marble Bar, to the rich goldfields at the Oakover and the De Grey.
I think this shows that the government has faith in the fields and in those important districts, and it also shows that we are not afraid to act upon our own judgment and to anticipate the approval of Parliament when pressing wants are brought prominently before us.


5.1: Geraldton to Mullewa.

The construction of a telegraph (and railway) line from Geraldton to Mullewa was the logical first stage from a geographical viewpoint. This telegraph link was effected in 1894.

It appears as if the planning for a railway and for a telegraph line to Mullewa were inter-connected - which is not surprising. On 28 April 1893, the Geraldton Victorian Express reported that "the Saladin arrived at Geraldton from Singapore via North West Ports on Saturday, and left for Fremantle on Sunday. Her delay here was occasioned by her discharging 250 tons of telegraph poles, transhipped at Singapore, for the Murchison telegraph line". Events were becoming urgent - the first gold escort from the Murchison left for Geraldton on 5 June 1893. Railway was the preferred method of conveyance for the gold rather than stage coaches.

Tenders for the construction of the Geraldton - Mullewa railway line had been opened in March 1893. It was a very much needed line because one report in the Inquirer and Commercial News of 11 January 1895 described the context as "The first and by far the worst portion of the road to the Murchison is now traversed by the railway to Mullewa, a distance of some 65 miles. Its opening, which happened during my visit, is a Godsend to both travellers and teamsters, and it is needless to say that the old road track through heavy burning sand will henceforth be but seldom used. That 60 odd miles of railway travelling was, however, the longest even the oldest traveller on board the crowded train had ever experienced. We left Geraldton a little after 7 p.m., reached the Junction nine miles out at 8 o'clock, and there sat packed like sardines until after 2 a.m., Mullewa being reached a little after 6 o'clock. In justice to all concerned, it may be mentioned that the line had not been handed over by the contractor, Mr. McNeil".

Soon after, tenders were called for the construction of the Geraldton-MurchisonAlso referenced as the
Geraldton-Nannine line.
telegraph line in the Government Gazette and in various newspapers from 18 August 1893 with the closing date of 19 September. The telegraph line from Geraldton to Mullewa was therefore treated separately from the Mullewa to Cue line.

A Post and Telegraph Office was connected at Mullewa from Geraldton on 12 October 1894 and opened the following day.

The Geraldton Murchison Telegraph of 19 October 1894 carried the following story:

"The work of completing the railway station is advancing rapidly. The Post and Telegraph Office is opened and the convenience this institution affords residents and travellers is, I can assure you, thoroughly appreciated.

The completion of the telegraph to Cue should be effected in about a fortnight and, when the Goldfields are thus placed in touch with the world, then progress and development should be more marked than ever. The Railway surveys in connection with the projected Murchison railway are also being pushed ahead vigorously".

On 12 November 1894, the Government took over the Mullewa railway line on its completion.

For reasons at present not wholly discernable, the first stage of the telegraph line construction was severely delayed. This stage was the section from Geraldton to Cue via Mullewa. The Murchison Times of 11 December 1895 gives some insight into the problem:

"The Post and Telegraph Department has recently fallen in for a considerable amount of criticism — both publicly and privately— being held decidedly responsible for the inadequate length of wires in the colony, the contention being that the department should have exercised business-like forethought to have sufficient material always on hand to meet requirements.

Whilst we are not disposed to say that the Government are not in some way to blame for the insufficiency of the line accommodation and that the public have not got just cause for complaint, it is only fair that the blame should be laid upon the proper shoulders. The Hon. E. H. Wittenoom gave a satisfactory explanation regarding this subject during his recent visit to the Murchison.

The whole confusion appears to be due to the bad system in vogue by which the Works Department is entrusted with the erection of telegraph lines instead of leaving that work in the hands of the Post and Telegraph Department. As a matter of fact, hitherto the Government have decided regarding the lines to be erected and the work has been handed to the Works Department to carry out. The indents for the material have, in all cases, been sent and prepared by the Works Department. In many cases the Postmaster-General has known nothing of it until a line was completed and handed over to him for working".


5.2: Mingenew to Mullewa.

As the importance of the Murchison Goldfields became recognised, the Telegraph Department began planning an extension of the lines to enable a more direct connection to the Goldfields line which might by-pass Geraldton. The Geraldton-Dongara coastal route was subject to the deleterious weathering effects of any coastal situation. In addition, Geraldton was the gateway to the north and it made sense to ease the pressure of transmissions on that center.

The West Australian of 28 December 1894 noted "it is now under consideration, and we believe we may say it is practically decided upon, to build a branch railway about forty five miles in length from Mingenew to Mullewa, and so connect the Midland with the proposed Government line to the Murchison goldfields, which would then be in direct communication with Perth. This connecting link is, in point of fact, a necessity, and the railway company can, if they so determine, build the line upon their own land within about two miles of Mullewa".

The possibility of a link to the goldfields from Mingenew via Yalgoo to (say) Cue had also been raised by January 1895.

In February 1897, the Government authorised expenditure of £2,800 for the construction of a telegraph line from Mingenew to Mullewa.

The W.A. Record reported on 10 April 1897 that on the previous Tuesday (6 April) the local member Mr. Phillips said he had just heard that

"the Government were having the telegraph poles for the Minginew-Mullewa telegraph line carried by camels instead of teams. As he was going to Perth the next day, he would inquire into it. (The Chairman of the meeting here stated that four weeks ago he had written to the Postmaster-General asking if tenders had been called for, and informing him that there were plenty of local teams idle, but he had received no reply)".


5.3: Mullewa to Cue and the Murchison Goldfields.

The opening of the general area around Cue and Day Dawn was a significant event in Western Australia's development. The Western Australian of 2 January 1893 reported:

"With regard to the mines at Cue'sNote the reference to Cue's as in Cue's Rush - and not yet to Cue. I cannot speak definitely. The Day Dawn, however, I think will prove a wonderful property. They have got the machinery landed at Geraldton, and the mine is in the hands of good Broken Hill men, and in a very short time they will have things in working order. As soon as they get things going I am of the opinion that the mine will prove one of the greatest claims in the colony. In fact, no one seems to know the richness of the mines at the Murchison, and as soon as we get outside capital to develop those mines, then I consider one of the greatest mining boom ever experienced in the colony will take place.

Speaking of the proposed route of the telegraph line to the fields, Mr. Gale said he considered that a mistake was being made in taking the line past Lacy's and Townsend's stations to the field. Along this route, which is that of the present road to the fields, the line will only pass the sparsely settled part of the district whilst, if it were taken along the route originally proposed, it would supply three times the number of stations and, being near the stock route, the Northerners would be able to learn the condition of the country if they intended to travel stock. So long as the line goes to the fields, the miners do not particularly care which way it is taken. There is another matter to which Mr. Gale suggests the authorities might direct their attention and that is with regard to the well and buckets along the road to the field. He suggests that some means should be taken by branding the buckets or otherwise, to ensure that a traveller would find means of getting water at these wells as, in his own case, if they had not carried a bucket, they would have been unable to obtain water".

In his speech to the opening of Parliament on 5 July 1893, the Governor noted that the line of telegraph from Geraldton to Murchison Goldfields "would be put in hand at once".

The Perth Daily News of 28 September 1893 reported:

"Tenders for the construction of the telegraph line to the Murchison goldfields were opened yesterday and the successful tenderers were announced to be Messrs. Atkins & Law at £6,100. The work has to be completed in twelve months, that is by the 23rd September, 1894. The distance of the line is 231 miles and it commences at Mullewa Springs and terminates at the Nannine Turnpike. The contract specifies that the Government provides all material and this is lying at Geraldton. The contractors anticipate being able to make an early start with the work".

Even so, there were many questions asked subsequently in the Legislative Assembly about the telegraph line from Mullewa to Meekatharra (or Nannine or Cue, etc). For example, on 5 August 1894, Mr Illingworth was asked about a suggestion to re-route this part of the line after construction had commenced. In the Assembly on 6 August 1894, the Colonial Treasurer, in reply to one question, said:

"I have not promised to arrange a detour of the telegraph line (now in the course of construction from Mullewa to Cue) so as to accommodate the residents of Mt. Magnet and Lake Austin. It was not possible to arrange for the detour, owing to the line being far advanced, but the Government intended to erect a telegraph line from Cue to Mt. Magnet, the work to be commenced as soon as possible".

In the Legislative Assembly:

On 25 August 1894, The West Australian printed a Letter to the Editor with an excellent analysis of the route between Mullewa and Cue with suggested improvements.

A Correspondent to the Inquirer and Commercial News of 11 January 1895 recounted his coach trip from Mullewa to Cue:

"The day was hot, the dust very bad, but the road was excellent. On reaching the telegraph line, then nearing completion, we found that the road skirted it, having been out for the transport of iron posts and wire immediately after the contract had been let. That line was cleared right through to Nannine, 320 odd miles, in order that the iron paling and wiring might begin at the other end. This illustrates a common practice among Westralians. The road made is now that most consistently used by teamsters and travellers and, instead of the iron posts being placed within the mulga or timber belt adjoining, the posts encroach on the narrow cleared track without even a mulga stump to guard them from the tortuous twistings of heavily-laden bullock drays or waggons. Until this matter is remedied, what ought to be one of the best paying telegraph lines in the colony will cost more for maintenance and repairs that any other in Australasia".


5.3.1: The branch line to Yalgoo.

About August-September 1894, some very promising gold finds were announced around Yalgoo. For example, the West Australian of 11 September 1894 recounted the following:

"In my last report on this now very important mining centre, I had but time to acquaint you of the rich discovery by Nottle and party, beyond the hill known as "Bill Brother" 15 or 16 miles south east of the Yalgoo township. Since then some work has been done on the spot where the gold-studded boulder was broken, and the result has been to confirm the impression of the prospectors that there was equally rich material below. Only a few "shots" have been put in and richer gold than in the boulder has been found. The few layers of silica removed are not only in places hanging together with gold but are also full of fine gold. About 2 cwt.About 100 kgs. of specimen are at this date on exhibition at Mr. Nottle's tent and have been inspected by many visitors.

The prospectors themselves expect an enormous percentage of gold, considering the lightness of the stone or silica itself. Work at this particular spot on the lease (which has been facetiously called the "Yalgoo Joker") has been suspended pending, the prospectors say, some better place for keeping their valuable property in as it is taken out of the ground. But as the small hole made stands very rich gold is seen in the ground. In the protection area, which is called the " Miner's Right," coarse gold has been found on the surface and the party are now uncovering the reef which seems to be very wide, and from which much is expected.

Apropos of the name of the lease, a 'little pleasantry - not ill-timed - came from Mr. Nottle one evening, when one of the party of visitors made application to him for the loan of a pack of cards to pass the evening. The facetious prospector replied that the only card he possessed was "The Joker." Becoming then, for the first time, aware of the name of the lease, the applicant, who has long prospected unsuccessfully, appreciated the joke".

The situation of Yalgoo was again raised in 1895. The Geraldton Murchison Telegraph of 15 January 1895 reported:

"We have already suggested the introduction of duplex instruments or the provision of an additional wire between here (Geraldton) and Perth as a way out of the difficultyDifficulties with the congestion and delays on the telegraph network generally.. But there is a third means of relieving the congestion, and it has suggested itself to us since Mr. Wittenoom mentioned the project of running a line from Coolgardie to Esperance. Could not a similar loop line be erected in this district, say from Day Dawn via Magnet and Yalgoo to Minginew. The Premier has already promised the mining community at Mt. Magnet and Yalgoo telegraphic communication, and it seems to us that a line serving these centres might, with advantage to the country, be extended to Minginew. This would relieve the Geraldton office very considerably and would, besides serving the mining communities we have named, also serve a good number of settlers in the Gullewa district".

Such a route was in accord with one of the stage-coach routes:

"Great strides have been made within the last twelve months in the mode of travelling between Geraldton and Cue. On looking over our advertising columns, travellers will notice with satisfaction the fresh arrangements made by Messrs. Marsh and Mackenzie, whose coaches now take the route via Mount Magnet and Yalgoo. Passengers stop the first night at Mount Magnet, the next night at Yalgoo and the third at Bumbenoo. These stages have been chosen in order that passengers may always depend upon accommodation for the night".
(Murchison Times and Day Dawn Gazette, 16 February 1895).


The Chain Pump temporary compromise.

In March 1895, the Yalgoo Progress Association had been formed. Mr. Porritt was elected Chairman and soon after "alluded to the inconvenience of not having a telegraph office at Yalgoo, this will also be one of the first matters for the newly formed association to deal with, and the Government will be broached upon this matter at an early date".

On 5 April 1895, the Geraldton Murchison Telegraph reported "As the outcome of representations made to the Minister by the Yalgoo Progress Committee, in co-operation with the postal authorities at Mullewa, the Government have decided to open a temporary telegraph office at a spot on the Mullewa-Cue line known as the Chain Pump. This is about 20 miles from Yalgoo, and although the distance is considerable this temporary provision will be much appreciated. Of course it is only a tentative arrangement, it having been decided to construct, with as little delay as possible, a branch line from the Chain Pump to Yalgoo itself".

Various newspapers published the news, on about 4 May 1895, that "the Post and Telegraph station at Chain Pump was now open under the charge of Mr. H. E. Tombs, who is polite and obliging to the public".

Yet again there was debate about if the Yalgoo line should leave the Cue telegraph line at Chain Pump or a little further towards Cue so that it could pass three other gold areas.

The people of Melville suggested that the matter could be arranged cheaply by constructing the Yalgoo line via Melville from the Afghan Well instead of diverting at the Chain Pump as was then proposed.

The positions in the locality were as shown in the diagram at right.

The Melville option received strong support - especially from the people at Melville!! The Geraldton Advertiser noted on 2 September 1895 "A well attended public meeting was held at the Post Office Melville, on the evening of the 24th August 1895, at which it was proposed and carried unanimously that, "in the opinion of the meeting, owing to the importance of Melville, whose mines will add to the prosperity of Western Australia, the Government was respectfully requested to cause a survey from Yalgoo via Carlaminda, with a view to bringing the Mullewa-Cue Railway through Melville. Another resolution, was also carried pointing out the desirability of an office being established at Melville in view of the early completion of the telegraph line through Melville".

It appears as if the late starter won the race!! On 23 September 1895, the Geraldton Advertiser reported "the telegraph line was nearly erected to Yalgoo. The Telegraph Superintendent, Mr. McKenzie, is to be congratulated on the speedy completion of his work. He has been ably assisted by Mr. Brown, the line surveyor. The telegraph line, having been run to Melville, the question arises as to the appointment of a Telegraphist and Postmaster combined to meet the requirements of this important and rising mining centre. The Government will no doubt make the required appointment, thus avoiding a petition on the subject and irritating consequences".

When the Mingenew to Mullewa line had finally been agreed upon (The Western Australian 10 March 1897), some people again advocated for the line to go much further east than Mullewa to Yalgoo (and then north to Cue):

"Great satisfaction is expressed at the decision of the Government to construct the telegraph line from Mingenew to Mullewa.

This being the great stock route from the north-west, the efforts of a few persons at Yalgoo to effect a diversion of this connection to that centre is regarded with so much disfavour that residents, stockowners and business people feel that neither the Minister nor the Postmaster-General, with the information at their command, will entertain a suggestion so preposterous. The distance from Mullewa to Mingenew is under 50 miles while that from Mingenew to Yalgoo is 110 miles".

The West Australian of 12 March 1897 reported on a deputation asking that a telegraph line be constructed from Mingenew to Yalgoo via GullewaGullewa was the name of the goldfield at Yalgoo. For some time is was also known as King Solomon mine and is now referred to as the Deflector mine.
It has had several owners. The present owner is the ASX listed Silver Lake Resources.
so as to accommodate the miners and settlers in that locality:

"The Minister, in reply, said the chief object of the deputation appeared to be to secure telegraphic communication for Gullewa but it also appeared that they advocated, instead of the line decided upon by the Government from Mingenew to Mullewa, it would be preferable to construct one from Mingenew to Yalgoo via Gullewa.

The object of the proposed  Mingenew-Mullewa line was in the first instance to facilitate the work of the Department. The coast telegraph line between Dongara and Geraldton was subject to damage by the sea air to such an extent that it was sometimes difficult to transmit messages. To facilitate the despatch of the messages from the Cue and other goldfields, as well as the cables from London, it was necessary to find an alternative route.

After due consideration it was decided to take the line some way inland as far as Mullewa - thereby giving the goldfields an alternative line and thus enabling all the business from that centre to be forwarded through Mullewa. The object of the line was to provide a good circuit, and that could be done more successfully by the Mingenew-Mullewa line than by the Mingenew-Yalgoo line. The distance from Mingenew to Mullewa was 50 miles and the cost of that line would be £2,800. The distance from Mullewa to Yalgoo was 35 miles and the cost of that line would be £1,800, while a line from Mingenew to Yalgoo via Gullewa - 110 miles, roughly - would cost £5,800. To connect Mullewa with the telegraph system to the north could be done 30 percent, cheaper than by connecting it with Yalgoo.

He did not see that it mattered much to Gullewa so long as it was connected with the telegraph system at some point - either Yalgoo or some other spot as the question of distance would not matter to them. The department intended to construct the line from Mingenew to Mullewa. As to an extension from some point to Gullewa, it would be considered and, as it was the desire of the Government to give facilities to any settlements which were developing the gold-mining industry, and as he was agreeably surprised to find there were so many people in the Gullewa district, he was inclined to think they were entitled to some facilities. The Government did not expect these new telegraph lines to pay at once, and he was inclined to think that an expenditure of £1,800 on a line from Yalgoo to Gullewa would be justified.

As Mr. Alexander and Mr. Phillips had said that they felt it desirable to go to this expense, he was inclined to look upon the matter in a most favourable light; and, as far as he could see now, he would most probably recommend that that expenditure should be incurred, so as to put Gullewa in communication with the other parts of the colony. His reply to the deputation, therefore, must be that the department would construct the Mullewa-Mingenew line and also take steps at an early date to connect Gullewa with the telegraph system of the colony".

The deputation thanked the Minister for his promise".


At last to Yalgoo.

On 19 June 1895, the Murchison Times updated its readers with

"It will not be long before the telegraph line between the Chain Pump and Yalgoo will be completed judging by the following wire received by Mr G. T. Simpson, M.L.A., from Mr. Wittenoom, head of the Post and Telegraph Department: "Erection of telegraph line between Chain Pump and Yalgoo. The Works Department waiting material. I think Post and Telegraph master will be available immediately the line is completed to Yalgoo. A Money-Order Office will also be established".

The Inquirer of 5 July 1895 reported "The Roebourne paper says that Mr. Alexander Mackenzie, Superviser of telegraphs construction, who has quite recently completed the line to Bamboo Creek, left recently by the S. Albany for Geraldton, whence he will proceed to Yalgoo to superintend the construction of a branch line to that Goldfield".

On 27 September 1895, the Geraldton Murchison Telegraph notified readers that "The Yalgoo telegraph line to Melville has been completed. A branch line to Cuddingwarra is also being proceeded with at once". A week later, the Murchison Times noted "Now that Melville is to have a Post and Telegraph service we may expect to hear from that part of the district shortly. Unfortunately, up to date, we have been placed at a great disadvantage in the matter of communication between Cue and Melville, but we are making arrangements for regular and reliable reports from that part of the Yalgoo field, the prospects of which generally are improving".

"Mr McKenzie, after having completed the Bamboo Creek and Marble Bar Telegraph line, was despatched by his Chief to Yalgoo to report on the route, and he wisely suggested that via Melville and Carlaminda to Yalgoo. This is a loop line, off the main Cue line, starting at Perth and ending at Nannine, via Yalgoo and the Dead FinishDead Finish changed name to Cuddingwara.. This, we learn, has been the hardest line ever constructed in Western Australia - all the holes en route having to be blasted by dynamite. The line has been undoubtedly delayed through want of material; as it is, we have the line within a mile and a half of Yalgoo. All the holes are sunk and the line cleared to a temporary Post Office which is now erected at Yalgoo, pending the construction of a permanent Post Office. The plans and specifications have been prepared. The delay in material is unfortunate, not only from a public point of view, but it does not give Mr. McKenzie and his staff credit for hasty completion, although that portion already erected has been done energetically and satisfactorily".
(Geraldton Advertiser 9 October 1895).

The Murchison Times of 16 October 1895 reported that the Telegraph Office had opened at Yalgoo:

Our correspondent, by wire yesterday states: "The following telegrams were despatched and received by the Warden re the establishment of telegraphic communication with Yalgoo:

To the Hon. Sir John Forrest, K.C.M.G. Premier, and E. H. Wittenoom, Esq., Minister for Mines.
Yalgoo telegraph line opened today (Saturday 12 October). On behalf of the residents of this district, I beg to congratulate the Government on the completion of this line as it will materially assist in developing the mineral resources of this extensive district.
(Signed), P. L. GIBBONS, Warden.

In reply, the following wires were received:

I thank the people of Yalgoo for the congratulations on the establishment of  telegraphic communication and wish them all prosperity.
The railway will be the next advance and will then place the people of Yalgoo and the Murchison Goldfields in a position to develop their great resources.
(Signed) JOHN FORREST, Premier.

Mr. Wittenoom replied: I thank you for the telegram of Saturday. Very pleased to hear telegraph line has reached Yalgoo".

Ying and Yang: The West Australian of 23 October 1895 reported "As a telegraph station has been opened at Yalgoo, and as there is no use for one at the Chain Pump, the latter station has been closed in consequence".


5.3.2: Cue and Day Dawn.

In January 1894, the Inquirer updated readers on two important matters related to the construction of the telegraph line:

  1. "The work of constructing the telegraph line to the goldfields is progressing favourably. Mr. Law states that the men have cleared about eighty miles and distributed poles along forty miles of the line, but he does not anticipate finishing the job much before contract time, which is 12 months from date of-starting the work.

  2. Mr. Law is evidently very fond of cycling, and has performed some very creditable runs between Minginew and the goldfields. In one run Mr. Law did 127 miles in 12½ hours, and covered 758 miles in 14 days. Considering that this was over a bush road, it is a creditable record. Mr. Law's machine is what is known as a 'pneumatic' and it did very well till a patch of doublegees was struck, and these proved too mnch for the tyres. Mr. Law's was the first machine ever seen along the goldfields track and rather astonished the natives".

To ensure the telegraph line passed through the Four Mile (Day Dawn), the Premier was reminded of that possibility by a deputation who met him at the Four Mile in May 1894: "A letter was read re the telegraph-line stating that it would pass through the Four-Mile on its way to Cue and Nannine. Mr Cbappel hoped that this town would share in the benefits that were being bestowed on this goldfield".

On 30 August 1894, the West Australian published the following two news items - which are, at first, difficult to put together:

"The telegraph poles are complete between Nannine, Cue and Day Dawn.
A journey has been made from Mullewa to Cue (200 miles) on a bicycle in two days and a half by Mr. Law, telegraph contractor".

The Murchison Times of 26 September 1894 clarified that report with:

"The beginning of the end, so far as the contract for the telegraph line is concerned, is now in view. A letter received from the contractors says that the line would be completed fifty miles towards Mullewa by the 5th of Oct. and three other gangs are at work on different sections of the line.

Mr. Law speaks of running a bicycle express from Mullewa to the completed portion at this end, but this cannot be done until materials for a battery arrive at the local office. Up to date, only the instruments have come to hand".

Further questions were asked soon after by Mr. Illingworth whose questions and answers from the Director of Public Works were:

Mr. Illingworth's questions: Answers from Mr. Venn, Director of Public Works.
1. When would the telegraph line be completed to Cue? 1. The Department is daily expecting to hear that the connection has been made with the Mullewa end of the line. A field instrument has been provided to work the line temporarily but, until the line is connected, precise information cannot be given as to the probable date of the completion of the whole line.
2. Could there be a connection by bicycle over the unfinished portion? (2 and 3) It is understood that the contractor has made some offer to run a bicycle mail service.
3. Would Mr. Venn arrange to have this communication established at once?
Victorian Express (Geraldton) of 26 October 1894

The Central Districts Advertiser of Saturday 17 November 1894 happily noted: "On Monday morning last (12th), the first telegraphic message direct from Cue came through. The Premier, Sir John Forrest received the first message from Mr. G. T. Simpson. M.L. A. who is on a visit to the district. Mr. Simpson wired:

"My heartiest congratulations on the completion of the telegraph; its value in the development of the country which you so patriotically serve is inestimable.".

The Premier replied :"I thank you for your congratulations and I hope and believe the telegraph will tend to the advantage and progress of the Murchison gold field".

The first message from Cue came through about 11:30 am. The wire had been erected for over a week. On Tuesday 7th November, a faint current had got through the wire, but it was not strong enought for the transmission of messages. It was thought that a portion of the line had fallen to the ground, and part of the electricity conducted to the earth. Men were sent out and the line repaired. Then on Monday 12th, the Premier, Sir John Forrest, received the first message from Cue from Mr. G. T. Simpson, M.L.A, who is on a visit to the district. Mr. Simpson wired: "My heartiest Congratulations on the completion of the telegraph ; its value in the development of the country which you so patriotically serve is inestimable." The Premier replied: "I thank you for your congratulations and hope and believe the telegraph will tend to the advantage and progress of the Murchison Goldfield".

As noted previously, the line was constructed from the Cue region back to Mullewa - with some strategic exceptions. Hence Cue, Day Dawn, Nannine and Mullewa Telegraph Offices were opened within a matter of weeks of each other. Those stations (if they had instruments, etc) could therefore communicate between themselves before they were able to communicate with Geraldton. Also - coincidently - on the same day (12 November), the third reading of the Bill for the Mullewa to Cue railway was passed.

Nevertheless - GREMLINS!! The West Australian of 9 November 1894 reported: "The connection between Cue and Mullewa by telegraph was made on Wednesday (7 Nov). Unfortunately, before the line was in work, the old story of "communication interrupted" had to be told. The line would not work and the instruments at each end could not signal or reply. Congratulations and complimentary replies had to be held over. Meantime the contractor sent out men to ascertain the reason for the breakdown".

On 14 November 1894, the Murchison Times reported:

" In reply to a telegram of congratulation on the occasion of the opening of the telegraph line, sent by Mr. McCord, J.P., of Nannine, to Sir John Forrest, the following wire was received from the Premier:
" I thank you and the residents of Nannine for your kind congratulations on the completion of the telegraph line. I wish you and your town and district every success and prosperity.
(Signed) JOHN FORREST, Premier."

On 1 December 1894, the Bunbury Southern Times reported:

"The extension of the telegraph system to the various goldfields was also the source of much expense during the year. No less than 486 miles of line were under construction or completed during the year including Geraldton to Nannine, a distance of about 231 miles; Marble Bar to Condon, 88 miles; Southern Cross to Coolgardie, about 116 miles and various short lines such as Coolgardie to Hannan's, Bannister to Wandering and Northern main line to Mingenew. The majority of these lines were thus in connection with the goldfield centres and were works of absolute importance, more particularly Coolgardie where the  telegraph line is in great requisition at all times".

Despite all the construction efforts, the Northern Mining Register of 18 July 1896 felt compelled to report: "Climatic influences, faulty wires, bad instruments and the shockingly badly managed Telegraph Department has left us again without our wires. And yet Minister Wittenoom considers a duplication of the wire is unnecessary".

The Railway reached Cue on 12 April 1897. From Mullewa, it ran to Pindah (20 miles)Distances given are from Mullewa., to Yalgoo (74 miles), Yoweragabbie (135 miles), Mount Magnet (150 miles), The Island (184 miles), Day Dawn (196 miles) and terminated at Cue (200 miles). Proposals were made to extend the line to Lake Darlot in the east (near Leonora in the Goldfields region) and over the very flat 60 mile stretch north to Nannine.

Short lines were also opened to various mine sites a short distance from Cue. For example a telegraph line from Cue to Cuddingwarra and Bell was opened in November 1895. Nearby mines included Cuddingwarra Gold Mines Ltd, the Siege of Paris and Fraser's South Mine.

The Murchison Times of 7 September 1895 reported on the cost of telegrams sent between Cue and Day Dawn:

"In reply to a request by Dr. Olivey Mayor of Day Dawn, that sixpenny telegrams should be the rule between that town and Cue, the Minister of the Post and Telegraph department wired yesterday: Regret cannot recommend sixpenny telegrams as Department have had to refuse other places under similar circumstances". Mr. Wittenoom, if he wishes to be considered an up-to-date administrator, must bring his department into line with the progressive spirit of the goldfields. Cue and Day Dawn are only four miles apart — the staff need not be increased — and sixpenny telegrams would give an immediate increase of revenue. It is bound to come and the concession might just as well be made gracefully at once".

In the 23 November edition, the Murchison Times was asking the Government to allow six penny telegrams between Cue, Day Dawn and Cuddingwarra.

On 22 June 1896, the West Australian noted that "In consequence of the increase of the telegraphic business between Perth and Cue, it has become necessary to install the duplex system between the two stations. This alteration will be carried out shortly".

The telegraph line between Mullewa and Cue was later replaced by a line along the railway line. The wire from the original line was then used to construct the Nannine-Peak Hill line.


5.3.3: The branch line to Mount Magnet.

The Murchison Times noted that, on 8 August 1894, the Premier said in the Legislative Assembly it was intended to erect a telegraph line from Cue to Mount Magnet as early as possible ... and that funds had been allocated in the Loan Bill Estimates for the connecting line of telegraph. Soon after, the same source on 22 August 1894 recorded:

"As showing the sincerity of the Premier in his recent promises to the people of the Murchison goldfield, we notice with pleasure that the very first item in the Loan Bill Schedule of works, is the sum of £409,000 set down for the extension of the line from Mullewa to Cue, while £20,000 is proposed to be spent on extending the present telegraph system, which includes the connecting of Cue with the Day Dawn, the Island and Mt. Magnet and Yalgoo".

Almost to celebrate the anniversary of the former happy announcement, the Mount Magnet Progress Committee met on 13 August 1895. The Secretary read a letter from Mr. Illingworth regarding telegraph communication and a Money Order office for Mount Magnet. The meeting agreed that a telegraph line was the most urgent necessity and it was under consideration by the Government at that time. Mr. Bryden further stated he believed it was the intention of the ministry to erect Government buildings at Mount Magnet and they would presumably include Post, Telegraph and Money Order offices.

Gold was being found in increasingly large quantities - one of the first of the really big mines was New Chum.

The Australian Advertiser of 28 October 1895 noted that "A telegraph line is wanted through the Mainland Island and Mt Magnet to Yalgoo then continued so as to duplicate to Perth via Mullewa. The present exasperating delays will be lessened thereby". A few weeks later, the Minister of Mines, Mr. Wittenoom, visited Mount Magnet and reported that "Materials had long ago been ordered for the erection of a telegraph all along the line surveyed for the railway and, on their arrival, no time would be lost in placing Mt. Magnet in communication with the outside world. He believed the work would be proceeding in December ... it was not a want of funds that caused delay in construction of telegraph and railways. The Government had plenty of funds but it was the difficulty and delay in getting things done, and in a great measure a want of labour and material which prevented works from being carried out at greater speed".

At the beginning of 1896, the long awaited transfer of responsibility of construction from the Works Department to the Postal Department - including for the construction of telegraph lines - was announced. The first task was to appoint staff and the first to be appointed was Mr. Alexander McKenzie. He was appointed Supervisor of the works in the North and at Geraldton. Almost immediately he left Perth to prepare arrangements for the construction of the Day Dawn to Mount Magnet telegraph line.

On 13 January 1896, the Perth Daily News reported that the Supervisor of Telegraphs for the district north of Geraldton had left with the material required to construct the line from Day Dawn to Mount Magnet via The Island. Soon after, the Murchison Times of 8 February 1896 reported:


"The construction of the Mount Magnet telegraph line promises to be one of the quickest pieces of work on record. All being well, this line will be at The Island on Tuesday. The survey, clearing and hole sinking is finished, with the exception of nine miles. The whole of the material for the erection of the line has been delivered, and it is anticipated that within four weeks communication will be established with Mount Magnet. The rapidity with which the work has been pushed ahead reflects great credit upon the inspector, Mr. McKenzie, and the contractors. The material did not leave Fremantle until January 10th, and the line is now half completed".

On 7 March 1896, the Murchison Times reported on the great event as follows:


"The telegraph line from Day Dawn and Cue was opened this afternoon. The sending of the first two wires was taken in hand by our energetic Progress Committee. The first was to Sir John Forrest, Premier of Western Australia, and was as follows: "The Mount Magnet Progress Committee congratulate you on the speedy completion of the telegraph line. Your efforts in advancing the well-being of Western Australia are fully appreciated by the inhabitants of Mount Magnet as telegraphic facilities were urgently required by this extensive mining centre. The Progress Committee hope soon to congratulate you on the completion of the telegraph line to Lawlers from Mount Magnet. B. B. Hill, Honorary Secretary, Mount Magnet Progress Committee."

"The Minister for Mines and Post and Telegraphs—The Mount Magnet Progress Committee congratulate you on the remarkably rapid completion of the telegraph line to Mount Magnet. They wish to express their great satisfaction in now having telegraphic communication with the capital of the colony and the outside world. We thoroughly admire the abilities of Mr. McKenzie, the engineer in charge and his effective resourcefulness. The further extension of the line to Lawlers from Mount Magnet is now desirable to give that rising district the mining and business facilities provided for this important goldfield.

After other congratulatory wires were sent, an adjournment was made to luncheon at the One and All Hotel and success was drunk to Lawler's, Menzie's, Cue and Mount Magnet and also to Mr. McKenzie who effected all arrangements for the transmissions in a masterly manner. It is hoped he will be repeatedly at Mount Magnet when he starts constructing the telegraph line to Lawler's, some of the material for which is already at Mount Magnet.

No message was sent to Mr. Illingworth M.L.A., because it is generally thought that he is not to be politically trusted since it has become known that he did not oppose Clause 11 when the Bill was before Parliament".


On a lighter note, the Mount Magnet Miner of 7 August contained the following:

"There is a lonely telegraph office not far from Magnet to which the mulga scrub creeps up on all sides but one. It is an elegant structure, though the solitary operator can stand on the floors of its spacious verandahs and gaze in vain for a sight of a human being.

The operator was sitting one day and dreaming of the glorious future that lay before the office he occupied when he heard light steps on the verandah close to the door. He looked up and a smile of pleasure lightened up his countenance at the thought of a visitor or perchance a customer. His glance met the maturing gaze of three emus who had come to demand by what right their ancient domain had thus been trespassed on. Legend does not tell whether the lonely operator entertained the visitors at lunch or whether he invited them to walk across to the pub (about three quarters of a mile) for a refresher.

The lot of the bush postmaster is not always a happy one - but it is sometimes relieved by such incidents as the above".


6: Cue to Peak Hill.

A side extension to the west from the Cue-(Reedy)-Nannine telegraph line was completed to Cuddingwarra in early November 1895.

6.1: Reedy.

Reedy was a mining settlement about 35 miles from Cue towards Meekatharra and 12 miles distant from the siding at Stake Well which was the nearest point on the railway. The industrial mainstay of Reedy was the Triton gold mine which was operational during the 1930s - gold having been discovered around Reedy only in 1919. Mining ceased in 1942 although it did operate for a year about 1947. An open cut mine began operations in the 1990s.

The line between Cue and Reedy was often described as being one of the most extraordinary telegraph lines in Western Australia. This description reflected the construction as reported in many outlets. For example:

The Daily News of 6 November 1934 summarised the telegraph line situation as follows:

"Reedy's, a mining centre out from Cue, is to have a telegraph service at last.

Reference was made in these columns to the fact that at present communication with the outside world is made by means of the top wire of a six-wire fence surrounding a pastoral holding, which runs a large part of the way between Cue and Reedy's, but that difficulties occur when it rains, because, as the wire is not insulated, the electricity takes the shortest passage to earth down the nearest post, instead of along the wire.

Most of the telegrams sent from Reedy were from men working at the Triton mine who were sending money to wives and family. In wet weather, the money would 'go down the first post' and a delay of several days could not be avoided. 

In July 1935, The PMG Department "decided to connect Reedy's to the telegraph system" so that the community would be able to send telegrams from the local Post Office and not have to use the local mine office - and the fence. The Superintendent of Telegraphs (Mr. Allen) said, action was being taken to seek approval of the expenditure of £750 to provide for two copper wires for a distance of twelve miles.

On 16 September 1935, the Daily News reported:

"authority was obtained for the construction of a two wire channel from Reedy to Stake Well, connecting at the latter point with the main telegraph line. The work, which entailed the erection of 300 galvanised iron posts and running 25 miles of wire, has been completed, and the new line opened for business today.

The new channel is a perfect telephone circuit but can be used only for telephoning. Telegrams to and from Reedy will be telephoned over the line in the same way as similar messages are transmitted to Rottnest from the mainland. It was explained officially that the two-wire system was adopted so that, should the growth of Reedy justify full telegraphic connection and the installation of the Morse apparatus, the wiring would be suitable".


6.2: Nannine.

In an article in the Victorian Express in early June 1892, the correspondent described the conditions and isolation of Nannine being in contrast to the riches of the gold deposits and bemoaned the situation that there was no telegraph station to assist the miners - and that the town had never been gazetted.

In the Legislative Assembly on 21 September 1894, the Director of Public Works replied to a question "that the contractor for the erection of the telegraph line between Mullewa and Nannine asserted that he would complete the line by the beginning of October. On the 1st September there were 128 miles to erect. The contractor has been erecting four miles per day from the 1st inst., and it was consequently expected that the line would be completed on the date mentioned".

The Geraldton to Nannine line - a distance of about 231 miles - was completed on 11 November 1894 - on the same day as the line to Day Dawn was completed.

Premier Forrest received the following congratulatory telegram on that day "On behalf of the residents of Nannine, I beg respectfully to congratulate the Government on the completion of telegraphic communication to all parts of the world. We are highly gratified that our first use of the wire should convey golden news (Signed) James McCabe, Nannine." Sir John Forrest sent the following reply: "I thank you and the residents of Nannine for your kind congratulation on the completion of the telegraph line, and I wish you and your district every ounce sand prosperity."

The West Australian also received the following telegram dated Cue November 12, from Mr. James Thomson, the proprietor of the Murchison Times and Day Dawn Gazette: "Murchison Times and Day Dawn Gazette sends greetings on establishment of telegraphic communication with confreres of Australian press".


6.3: Nannine to Peak Hill line.

The Northam Advertiser of 28 September 1895 noted "As an instance of the progress, made by Peak Hill and other centres en route, a weekly mail service was commenced between Nannine and Peak Hill on the first instant, in place of the erstwhile fortnightly one. It is also rumoured that a strong movement will be made shortly to have the telegraph line extended from its present terminus on to Peak Hill via Graden Gully, Abbotts, etc. which, if brought to a successful issue, will be a decided boon to the district and an impetus to its advancement".

The following 22 months passed rapidly before the Murchison Times was able to report on the next stage of the construction to Peak Hill in its 1 July 1897 edition: "Application has been made for the extension of the telegraph line to Peak Hill but a guarantee of £800 per annum is demanded by the Government before the concession will be granted".

The West Australian reported on 14 April 1898 that:

"A large meeting was held at Peak Hill last night to urge upon the Government the necessity of the immediate construction of the telegraph from Nannine. Mr. J. Inglis presided. The meeting was convened to impress upon the Government the urgent necessity of attending to Peak Hill requirements, especially in the matter of a telegraph. It was considered that the district was fairly entitled to the small favour asked. Mr. Frank Reed, the manager of the Peak Hill mine, moved that the Government be requested to instruct the department to proceed with the erection of a telegraph line from Nannine at once. The motion was seconded by Mr Heddley, of the Golden Treasure mine, and was carried unanimously".

The Murchison Times followed up with more information on 21 April 1898:

"We have been informed by Mr. E. D. Fels, the local Postmaster, that Mr. A. McKenzie, the Supervisor of construction of telegraph lines in Western Australia, will shortly arrive in Cue for the purpose of pulling down the old telegraph line to Cue. This line, which has done service for years along the old track to Mullewa, is no longer required as a wire has been stretched along the railway line on posts that will withstand twice as much strain as the old posts. The old line will be pulled down between Melville and Cuddingwarra and between Yalgoo and Mullewa and the portions of the line that are serviceable will be erected between Nannine and Peak Hill. Therefore the quest of the Peak Hill people is already on a fair way to being granted".

The survey for the 90 mile line was completed in July 1898. Construction began by the end of that month under the supervision of Mr. Alex McKenzie.

6.2.1: Meekatharra and Abbotts.

The Murchison Times of 18 August 1898 reported - with a dateline of 13 August "Mr. Sainsbury of the Nannine Telegraph office will proceed to Abbotts on Monday to open a telegraph office there. The erection of a line to Abbots is now completed and the office will be open for business on Tuesday".

On 17 August 1898, the West Australian reported:

Last evening the Nannine-Peak Hill telegraph line was opened as far as Abbots.

As soon as communication was established Mr. H. E. Kenny, the member for North Murchison, received the following telegram from Mr. B. J. Mason, a leading mine proprietor at Abbots:"Congratulations and thanks of residents here on communication being opened".

In reply Mr. Kenny despatched the following message: " Sincerely thank people of Abbots and yourself for your kind expression. Hope telegraph will mark an era of renewed prosperity for your district".

6.2.2: Peak Hill.

The Murchison Times of 16 April 1898, provided the following description:

"Since my last visit, about 18 months ago, Peak Hill has grown into a town of respectable proportions. It occupies an excellent site, about a quarter of a mile distant from the Conical Hill, which gives the place its name. The streets are broad and well-kept, and as the ground falls away on every side, the site is about as good as any on the Murchison. There are three hotels, several stores, many private dwellings and a large and well furnished Post and Telegraph office, but there is no telegraphic operator for the simple reason that the line stops at Nannine - over a hundred miles away"

The West Australian of 18 April showed the Government acted quickly: "The Peak Hill, it is stated, is to be connected with Nannine by telegraph (a distance of 90 miles), the work to be commenced almost immediately".

The West Australian of 11 October 1898 announced that " Peak Hill was connected by telegraph yesterday". Much toasting to the various people involved soon followed but especially to Mr. McKenzie and his staff.


7: The inter-regional link - the line between the Murchison and the Goldfields.


8. Problems with the hours of opening.

Problems arose concerning the hours of opening of telegraph offices especially those in the Murchison Goldfields. The West Australian of 12 March 1897 reported a typical example of the considerations to be made with respect to this problem:


"Mr. Phillips, M.L.A., had an interview with the Minister for Posts and Telegraphs yesterday morning and asked that the telegraph offices at Moora, Mingenew and other provincial places should be kept open longer than at present. He explained that under the present system at the intermediate telegraph stations between the city and Geraldton, such as Mingenew, Moora, etc, the offices were only open for three separate half hours during each day, namely, about 9 a.m., 2 p.m., and 6 p.m.; and it would be a great convenience if the hours were extended. He hoped the offices could be kept open after 6 p.m.

The Minister, in reply, said some stipulation limiting the hours during which offices should be opened was necessary, owing to the immense amount of work on the line including the cable traffic with London and the Murchison goldfield traffic. While those messages were being sent forward, the intermediate stations had to be shut off. So far as he could see, there was only one remedy which was the erection of more wires.

Mr. Alexander, M.L.C., who was present at the interview, asked the Minister how the work of extending the additional wires between Perth and Geraldton was getting on and whether the work had been carried out yet as far as Mingenew. Mr. Wittenoom, in his reply, said he must defer answering that question until he had had time to look the matter up".