Queensland - Colonial period: 1861-1900.
Lines in the South West region.

The South West region of Queensland is defined here as being the region:

The construction of lines in this region all stemmed from Toowoomba on the first line. They can be described in the following sections:;

  1. the middle section from Toowoomba to Dalby;
  2. Dalby to Roma to Charleville;
  3. lines extending to the north from the region;
  4. line extending from Cunnamulla.

The additional lines in the east to New South Wales are described separately.

Detailed map of the commencement of the lines to NSW.
Extracted from the map appended to Cracknell's Report for the year 1865.


This map extends north to the Central west region. This map extends to the
Brisbane-Roma-Mackay region.
This map extends east to the first line.
This map extends south to the north-central region of NSW  


1. Toowoomba to Dalby.

By June 1862, " tenders had been requested for the construction of a second line between Brisbane and Ipswich, or as Mr. Herbert would say, between the "east and west ends" of the metropolis and the people of those towns are already clamoring for a reduction of charges. We submit, however, that it is the clear duty of the Government to let the Northerners have a chance of sending a telegram before yielding to any such wishes. If after that, any reduction of charges could be made, no-one would grumble but we should decidedly object to being saddled with any further expenses on account of the line in operation between Moreton Bay and Darling Downs if the country cannot afford further extensions".

In the Legislative Assembly on 26 June, Mr. Coxen moved "That this House will, on Tuesday next, resolve itself into a committee of the whole, to consider of an address to the Governor, praying that his Excellency will be pleased to cause to be placed on the supplementary estimate for 1863 a sum not exceeding £2,500 to extend the telegraphic line from Toowoomba to Dalby." The Hon. Member made some few remarks on introducing the motion ...The Colonial Treasurer would support the motion on two conditions: the first was that, if the revenue for 1863 was found to be insufficient for the purpose, the money should be obtained by a loan. The second was the extension of the line to Dalby should only be a preliminary step towards its being extended to the northern towns. Mr. R. Cribb would support the motion.

Mr. Ferrett should object to the motion unless it were at once determined to extend the line to Rockhampton. The money would be much better employed in repairing the roads to the interior and the proposed extension would only benefit a few store-keepers at Dalby. Mr. Taylor would support the motion with pleasure and he believed that the feeling of the House would carry it in spite of the powerful opposition of the Hon. Member for the Maranoa.

After some further observations from Messrs. Blakeney, Raff and Haly, the motion was put and carried".

This legislative approval for the 50 mile line from Toowoomba to Dalby was widely supported by many communities. It was also seen as an important first step in extending the telegraph line to Gayndah, Maryborough, Gladstone and Rockhampton.

The Courier of 22 December 1862 noted that "The Government has called for tenders from persons willing to contract for the erection of a line of telegraph from Toowoomba to Dalby, a distance of about fifty miles. It is intended that the line shall follow the general course of the present public road subject only to such slight deviations as the nature of the soil and gradients may render desirable for road purposes. The nature of the country is described as consisting of open forest and downs, the latter prevailing, especially in the vicinity of Jondaryan and Gowrie".

The line to Dalby was opened on 16 January 1863. It must however be noted that the contractor failed in the performance of his agreement and so the work had to be taken up and finished by the Government. This was done without other loss or inconvenience than an unavoidable delay.

Another line from Toowoomba to Dalby was constructed in 1874. The Report for 1873 notes this line was constructed within the railway fences and was completed on 12 February 1874. "The line consists of three wires. Iron poles are erected on the plains in order to secure the lines from the effects of atmospheric electricity unusually prevalent and and destructive during the summer months on this portion of the Darling Downs".


2. Dalby to Roma and Charleville.

Two extension lines were then constructed:

  1. from Dalby west to Roma and Charleville;
  2. from Dalby north through Durah and Taroom to Hawkwood.

The first line extending from Dalby to Roma In his Report for 1866, Mr. Cracknell states that "the Dalby-Roma line is 167½ miles in length, with an intermediate station at the Condamine township. It was completed on the 17th of November 1866 and the Roma station opened for general business on the same day. This line cost £4,758 1s. 2d. or, including supervision, wire insulators, instruments, office fittings, &c., £34 7s. 10d. per mile".

Construction of the next section of the line to the west - 169½ miles from Roma to Charleville - passed through Mitchell and started on 7 June 1873. The telegraph poles on this line had been erected for 60 miles by the end of November 1873. The line was completed on 5 October 1874. The timber used was cyprus pine with a few iron bark and gum poles of good quality. The cost, exclusive of station buildings, was £42 per mile. The long construction time was due to the constructor finding it difficult to find labour.

In the second half of 1877, a second line of 90 miles from Dalby to Chinchilla was constructed within the enclosure of the Great Southern and Western Railway. That approach, it was anticipated, would serve as protection for the telegraph lines and facilitate repairs as required. Tenders were invited through the Gazette for the supply of all materials, except wire and insulators, and all necessary workmanship, for the erection of electric telegraph lines from Dalby via Chinchilla to Roma along the surveyed line of the Western Railway and also from Tewantin to Cootharaba. This line cost £40 per mile. It was then extended the 110 miles from Chinchilla to Roma, also along the Western Railway line, and that extension was completed by the end of 1878.


Extensions to the north.

In 1865, a major line construction program began in Queensland - following the completion of the Toowoomba-Dalby line and the line to Lytton. The first line constructed in this program was a line from Dalby to Hawkwood and its extension to Rockhampton. This line passed through Jimbour.

In his Report for 1873, Mr. Cracknell proposed a line be constructed linking Tambo with Charleville. In his Report for 1874, Mr. Cracknell noted a contract for constructing the (119 mile) line had been entered into on 1 October 1874. As at April 1975, 77 miles had been completed and, depending on the weather, he anticipated that the line should be completed in early July. When that link was made, another independent route via the western lines through Tambo then Nebo to Rockhampton was available.


Extensions to the south.

Lines from Warwick.

In 1869, a short 3½ mile line, consisting of two wires, was erected from a point just before Warwick on the line from Toowoomba to Allora. The cost was partly met by the Railways Department for whose convenience the line was intended.

A 150 mile line starting from Warwick via Leyburn and Inglewood to Goondiwindi was constructed and taken over by the Government on 10 June 1872 with offices at Leyburn and Goondiwindi opening on the same day. This line created a second line to the south which was used especially after hours. It is uncertain where that line went but it was probably via Inverell or Narrabri and Gunnedah. A repairing station was opened at Inglewood on 20 August 1872.

(just inside the Queensland border near Maryland). It may be that the railway line passed through Clinton Vale, Warwick and Rosenthal Creek. It s not known if the line from Stanthorpe was extended directly to Tenterfield (most likely) or if it went across to Maryland.


Roma to St. George and beyond.

A 125 mile line south from Roma was constructed via Surat to St. George. Tenders were called in February 1874, the line was completed on 28 November 1874 and it was brought into operation on 2 December. The posts were of cypress pine, ironbark and gum and the cost, exclusive of station buildings, was £5,349 0s 3d or £42 16s per mile. That line then became one of the two hubs for lines to the south or to the west.

On 17 October 1877, a 94 mile line south-west from St. George to Curriwillingi (Hebel) was opened. The timber used was mainly cyprus pine with a few bloodwood and gum poles. The cost was about £37 per mile. It is probable that, as this line almost certainly passed by Dirranbandi, the opportunity to establish a Telegraph Office there was taken up at some time. Certainly by June 1887, discussion of closing the Dirranbandi TO had started:

"We (St George Standard) understand that the Government intends to remove the post and telegraph office from Dirranbandi very shortly. The postal department may be well advised in doing so if it be purely a matter of profit and loss with them. But we may state that, for the residents of that neighbourhood, the telegraph office has done good service as a medium for the utterance of words of warning from here whenever the river was coming down in flood and possibly enabled squatters to save a good number of stock which otherwise might have perished. Were it not for the telegraph office, no advice could be furnished in time for the removal of stock to higher grounds".

That line to the south-west was followed by a 73 mile line from St. George south-east to Mungindi which opened on 7 May 1881. It is probable that the Mungindi office was used as a repeating station for some months as Mungindi did not open its Telegraph Office at the Post Office until 28 November 1881.

In 1883, construction of a 112½ mile line from Bollon east to St George and west to Cunnamulla was commenced. Both of these lines - but especially the latter west line - were constructed across isolated desert terrains. The connection to St George was made on 2 June 1884 and the connection to Cunnamulla was made on 13 July 1885. When that stretch was completed, an alternative line to Roma and thus to the North was available. Unfortunately, this difficult St George to Cunnamulla line was one of the first telegraph lines to be discarded after Federation.

An interesting comment on the dedication of line repairers' work to maintain the lines of communication was published in the Courier of 2 July 1886:

"an instance of the present condition of the country in the South-western districts is afforded by the fact that, on Monday last, a telegraph line repairer left St. George in a boat to travel across country to find a break in the wires between St. George and Currawildi".

Other lines.

A large number of other lines were also constructed in this - and in other regions - simply to link smaller places into the larger network. For example, a line linking Dalby to Leyburn (to the south east) was approved. As part of that line, an extension was also approved to Yandilla in November 1890. As was usual, the link to Yandilla had to be guaranteed by the residents through the payment of an agreed sum of money for one years operation and that amount to be paid annually for three years.

4. Lines from Cunnamulla.

In the Report for 1874, a proposal was made to construct a line between Charleville and Cunnamulla which could then be extended to Rutherford's (Qld) and Barringun (NSW) on the southern boundary. This was an exceptionally difficult line to construct in the far west of Queensland (10 August 1876). (Fort) Bourke in New South Wales was due south of Cunnamulla and a telegraph office had been opened there in August 1873. The NSW line to Fort Bourke was therefore extended to Barringun (the telegraph office opened on 25 March 1878).

In an unusual approach, a 70 mile line was commenced in 1875 from Cunnamulla to the NSW border at Rutherfords/Barringun. Later a line from Cunnamulla extended north to Charleville - being completed on 10 August 1876. Cunnamulla and the NSW connection were then linked to the Queensland main system. When the Queensland line from Cunnamulla was completed to Barringun, another alternative route was enabled between Brisbane and Sydney - and of course beyond to the other Colonies.

In the early 1880s, another line was constructed from Cunnamulla but to the west - first across 41 miles to Eulo (commenced 15 December 1880 and completed on 29 April 1881) and then to Thargomindah (6 December 1881). A tender for the line from Eulo had been accepted on 29 December 1880 but construction did not commence until 7 April 1881 because the contractor was forced to cut poles at a considerable distance away from where the line was to be constructed. Soon after, the South Australian Government and businessmen were seriously planning a telegraph line from Farina or Innaminka in South Australia to Thargomindah.

Many years later, Barrigun was connected south to Bourke (85 miles) to provide another route to the western NSW stations as well as a possible alternative to the south. The countryside between Cunnamulla and Bourke was described later in the Townsville Daily Bulletin as "not being fit to feed a goat".


5. Summary

After the wires had been erected, communication between any two nominated places had to be networked. Often two adjacent wires ran for miles before diverging to their respective destinations to form the actual transmission lines. Preferably more than two wires would serve a single place so that messages could still be transmitted even in the event of an interruption to one line.

A summary of the lines which served the South West region before Federation - divided into Southern District and Northern District regions which they may have crossed - together with their line numbers, is presented in the following table.

Line # From To Note
S10 Brisbane Goondiwindi via Toowoomba
S11 Brisbane Thargomindah via Toowoomba, St George and Cunnamulla
S14 NSW border Toowoomba Toowoomba railway to Miles Railway and then to Charleville railway
S15 Adavale NSW border via Charleville and Cunnamulla
S20 Colonial Secretary St. Helena  
S22 Pittsworth Crows Nest via Toowoomba
S24 Mungindi NSW border via St George and Dirranbandi
S37 Dalby Jimbour  
S39 Brisbane Railway Toowoomba Railway  
S42 Brisbane Stanthorpe via Toowoomba
S53 Leyburn Yandilla  
S55 Inglewood Mingoola  

Legend: S = Southern district lines; N = Northern District lines.