New South Wales - Colonial period: 1858-1900.

First line to the Victorian border.

The vision of a telegraph line linking Sydney and Melbourne developed very early in the history of telegraphy in Australia. For example, in July 1855, the Chairman of the Sydney Chamber of Commerce said that "he had received a long and very carefully prepared letter from Mr. Butcher of Melbourne, suggesting the means of establishing communications between Sydney and Melbourne by means of the electric telegraph. This was not a matter which could be initiated by the Chamber, but a consideration of the subject-matter of the letter would doubtless be given to it by the members. Mr. Butcher advocated over-ground, in place of under-ground, lines of wire and calculated the cost of fixing them between Sydney and Melbourne at £100 per mile. The estimate of the Messrs. Sprigg for an under-ground line was £500 per mile".

After the first line from South Head via Sydney (Royal Exchange, Post Office and the Redfern Railway Station) to Liverpool had been opened at the beginning of 1858, the New South Wales Colonial Government made haste to open a line to the south to connect with the other two mainland Colonies of Victoria and South Australia. The Government was under some degree of pressure from various sources. For example, the Bendigo Advertiser of 5 September 1856 noted:

"TELEGRAPH BETWEEN MELBOURNE and SYDNEY. The Sydney Chamber of Commerce specially notices the proposed line of electric telegraph from Melbourne to Albury, and suggests the desirableness of immediately connecting Albury with Sydney. The President of the Chamber remarked that, if the legislature of New South Wales did not immediately take the matter up, it would certainly be taken up, and that without delay, by private parties".

The first stage was the line from Sydney to Albury and this line was formally approved by Mr. Michael Fitzpatrick, Under-Secretary of the Colonial Secretary's Office on 9 January 1857 - three days after the first Electric Telegraph line in NSW had been approved. The letter of approval stipulated "that the two systems should in effect form one by an (sic) union at Albury and to accomplish this in the most satisfactory manner, it will be necessary to form a station there which should be under the joint management of the two Governments".

The line was extended in long runs (the dates shown below being opening dates for the telegraph offices and not when those offices became operational):

Mr. Henry Parkes was assured, in answer to a question to the House on 15 July 1858, that in the construction of the Goulburn to Albury telegraph line, there had been no deviation from the route followed by the main line of road.

First to Vic
Adapted from an 1886 map "shewing the postal stations, main roads and telegraph lines in NSW".
Prepared by the Postal Department, October 1885.

An announcement by Captain Martindale in the Gazette of 25 September 1858 gives an insight into the transition arrangements in place during the construction of the first line south:

Electric Telegraph Branch.
Department of Internal Communications,

22nd September, 1858.

NOTICE is hereby given, that stations have been opened at Yass and Gundagai, for the transmission of messages. Telegrams can now to sent in about twenty-eight hours from Sydney to Victoria and South Australia on THURSDAYS and SATURDAYS - viz by telegraph to Gundagai, thence by mail to Albury and from Albury by telegraph.

Messages for Sydney from Victoria and South Anstralia, if despatched not later than 6 o'clock p.m. on SATURDAYS, and 11 o'clock a.m. on THURSDAYS will be in time for the mail from Albury to Gundagai and reachSydney in about twenty-eight hours.

R. H MARTINDALE, Superintendent.

The line from Melbourne to Albury had been completed in December 1857. Hence on the completion of the NSW line to Albury, the connection between the two Colonies was made - on 29 October 1858.

A second line of 365 miles from Sydney to Albury was commenced in July 1859 and completed on 20 May 1860 at a cost of £7,186 12s 4d.

As the South Australia-Victoria inter-colonial link had been completed a few months earlier (in July 1858), Sydney could then communicate with Adelaide via Melbourne.

A second Adelaide-Melbourne line had to be constructed in 1861 because of the volume of traffic. It would not however be until 1867 that a direct Sydney-Adelaide telegraphic line was opened.

As the priority was on reaching Albury, few intermediate telegraph stations were opened during this time. Hence for a while after they became operational, some of the stations were simply repeater stations.