Queensland - Colonial period: 1861-1900.
Telegraph lines from Brisbane and Roma along the east coast to Mackay.

Following the significant construction phase in 1861 to link the new Colony of Queensland to New South Wales, there followed a period of intense planning especially of the lines to the north. The construction priority was to extend the lines of communication as far and as quickly as possible to country regions rather than service Brisbane and the larger towns only. The exception to this policy was to include lines which were necessary for economic and safety reasons - the main example being the telegraph line from Brisbane via Lytton to Cape Moreton.

The line north along the east coast was to begin at Toowoomba and follow the coastal region keeping to the east of the Great Dividing Range to avoid the significant construction problems. Starting from Toowoomba would reduce the load on the Brisbane office although it would require manual repeating of messages from the north and later from the western stations.

The sections of the east coast line described below are:

  1. Dalby to Rockhampton;
  2. Rockhampton to Mackay;
  3. Hawkwood to Maryborough.
  4. Rockhampton to Maryborough;
  5. South from Maryborough to Gympie and Brisbane;
  6. Woody Island;
  7. The inland line.
    Hawkwood to Taroom.
    Nebo south-west to Clermont.
    Clermont south to Springsure and Tambo.
    Springsure to Taroom.

In the Legislative Assembly of 19 June 1861, the Colonial Secretary proposed the following item in connection with the Telegraph Department:

Total for both items was estimated to be £22,000. The whole distance was about 440 miles with an estimated cost of £50 per mile.

It was thought but fair to give the northern districts the benefit of telegraphic extension. "In extending our telegraphic lines, we are but following the example of New South Wales and Victoria. This line was but intended as the commencement of a further extension to the Gulf of Carpentaria".

Considerable discussion took place on this motion - especially with the belief that roads and railways were preferable to telegraphs - and so it was ultimately rejected through the alternative motion of Mr. O'Sullivan which reduced funding for the item to one shilling.

This map extends north to the Cassowary Coast - Burketown-Cloncurry region.


This map extends west to the central-west region.
This map extend to the south-west region. This map extends south to the Brisbane suburban line
and the south-east region.

The reticience of those opposed to the telegraph was mired in the belief that past practices were always preferable to new technologies. Part of that attitude and the way it could change is demonstrated in the following article published in the Maryborough Chronicle of 8 May 1862:

"The value of telegraphic communication was so little appreciated in these parts last year that the proposal made to extend the wire to the Northern Districts of the colony was neither supported by the settlers nor acceded to by their representatives. Public opinion had not then formed upon the subject. The North did not want the telegraph but roads and and bridges. And the Legislature wisely refused to sanction the heavy expenditure for a work for which there appeared to be no requirement.

Circumstances have now however materially altered. The advantages to be derived from this method of communication are too palpable to be over-looked when public attention has been once fairly drawn to the subject and the result in our case is that, in quarters where the proposal to construct a Northern telegraph was looked upon as little better than a waste of public money, an anxious desire now exists for its speedy realisation. The axiom "Time is money" is felt to apply with full force in the matter of communication. By the trader it is felt that instantaneous communication with Brisbane, Sydney or Melbourne would often enable him to secure profits and diminish - if not avoid - losses. Politicians and the public generally are sensible of the advantages they would derive from a weekly telegram of metropolitan and intercolonial news, posted up to within twelve hours of publication. And every one feels that the means of instantaneous communication with friends at a distance in cases of exigency such as times of sorrow, sickness and death would be a boon the value of which is beyond calculation.

The expense that the construction of the line of telegraph proposed by the Government will entail is admitted to be a serious matter. When it is remembered that the work will at once become reproductive, there appears no need of further hesitation. We give the Herbert Ministry credit for their sagacity and foresight in making this proposal last year because the telegraph would certainly prove a most effectual aid to the government of an immense territory like Queensland and might perhaps avoid or postpone the curtailment of her boundary. We trust therefore that the Government will persevere with their project and that, ere many months elapse, telegraphic communication between this town (Maryborough) and the metropolis will be an accomplished fact.

We believe that, in a comparatively short time, the telegraphic returns will become an item of revenue which will amply cover interest, expenses of working and repairs and therefore that the proposal of the government to borrow money for the construction of telegraphs cannot be objected to unless on the ground that the State should never borrow. The general opinion appears to be however that in new countries, the cost of permanent public works ought not to be saddled upon the early settlers but that posterity who reap the benefit should at least bear a part of the burden.

The most economical - and therefore the most practicable route - will be via Dalby and Gayndah though a coast line would be of great service for meteorological observations and to persons interested in shipping. But as yet our shipping trade is in an infantile state and we must be content with telegraphic communication by a circuitous inland route until our population and traffic have increased sufficiently to warrant the construction of a direct line along the coast".

The push to the north was very quick and each section spanned long runs.

The previously rejected expenditure of £22,000 was now back in acceptance and the line to the north could be commenced. The line from Toowoomba via Dalby to Rockhampton was constructed through Hawkwood and so well inland away from the coast.


1. Dalby to Rockhampton.

In early 1863, when the connection from Toowoomba to Dalby was being constructed, Mr. Austin (the Superintendent of Telegraphs) was in Rockhampton "arranging the preliminaries for an extension of telegraphic communication between the seat of Government and Rockhampton with a supplementary line to the rising township of Maryborough". The possibility of a coast line had been canvassed but, given the experience in the other Colonies, "the excessive broken nature of the coastal country and the prejudicial effect of continuous moisture upon the telegraph wires" led to the selection of an inland route at that stage. It was anticipated that the route would follow the main Dawson Road (now Highway) and pass through Banana en route to Rockhampton. The branch to Maryborough would leave the trunk line at Dykehead (with a population of 8 in the 2016 Census) - near Gayndah.

As always, representatives of the people do not really represent the people. The Maryborough Chronicle of 12 February 1863 describes a political sitution which still exists 160 years later:

"That this town (Gayndah) and district has been most shamefully neglected by the Government and misrepresented by its members (or I might rather say, not represented at all) there can be no doubt, but the fault in a great measure rests with ourselves. The two gentlemen who enjoy the honour of being the representatives in the Assembly of this constituency are strangers in Gayndah and, without any interest in it so that, if we expect any benefit from their representation, we should decidedly instruct them in what is required. But no - this would involve some little trouble to us and we cannot be troubled. We can see the evil consequence of these men voting against the extension of electric telegraph to Gayndah, which has no doubt led the Government to suppose that we do not want anything of the sort here, and they propose carrying the trunk line to the north from Dalby via Dykehead to Rockhampton, with a branch line to Maryborough, thus realising the expense of an office at Dykehead where it is certainly not required at present. But although, by this proposed arrangement, we would be disgracefully robbed of what we have a perfect right to expect, we can hear it all without a murmur and our local paper without a comment, which is more to be regretted than all. Were it not that all energy - and I might even say interest - in public matters has been completely lost lately, we should have had a school, a church and a new building for a school of arts in course of erection, a branch bank thoroughly established and the town incorporated".

The Malborough Chronicle of 4 February 1864 describes a change of plan:

"It has been found necessary, in consequence of the broken nature of the country between Dalby and Gayndah, to take the telegraph line further west than was intended. The main line will not therefore pass through Gayndah but a branch will strike off to Gayndah and Maryborough from Hawkwood. The Queensland Times thus lays down the route of the line from Dalby to Rockhampton and the reason why it has been adopted:

"It was originally intended that the telegraph should go straight from Dalby to Gayndah in order to save the expense of a branch line and an additional station But it was reported that the difficulties that would be met with were insurmountable. Mr. Gregory, the Surveyor General and Mr. Surveyor Thomson then endeavoured to find a direct route but, after more than one attempt, they were obliged to come to the conclusion that a line in that direction was impracticable. The country between Dalby and Gayndah is so broken, so rocky and so heavily timbered, that the cost of constructing a line would be enormous. Whilst there would be every prospect of the insulation of the wire being frequently broken, the country is so rough the line repairers would be delayed in their work and the repeating stations would have to be much closer to one another than is usual. The idea of a direct telegraph between Dalby and Gayndah was therefore reluctantly given up and a more northerly line has been adopted. From Dalby the wire will be stretched to Jimbour thence to Coorangah; through the township of Jandowie and on to Jingi Jingi and Durah where there will be a repeating station. From Durah the line will go by way of Cadargah and Strathdee's cattle station to Hawkwood, where there will be another repeating station, and a branch will strike off to Gayndah and Maryborough. From Hawkwood, the main line will proceed to Rocky Springs, Red Bank, Rocky Bar and Camboon. From the latter place, we believe that the present road will be followed as far as Rockhampton.

In the Government Gazette of Saturday last, we observe that tenders are called for the construction of a branch line from Rockhampton to Gladstone. Thus, by August next, all the principal towns of Queensland will be in electric communication with each other and with New South Wales, Victoria and South Australia".

Local animosities generally follow decisions. The Queensland Times of 26 March 1864 printed the following Letter to the Editor:

You will much oblige by giving space to the following letter in the columns of your paper:

In a late issue of the Burnett Argus, I was rather amused to read of the proceedings of the people of Gayndah at a recent indignation meeting held by them to express their disgust at the Surveyor-General for promising to report favourably and otherwise on certain lines by which it was proposed to extend the telegraph to Rockhampton without consulting them. The bare faced and unscrupulous statements they made regarding the mileage and character of the country might well make a Yankee blush.

It is clearly evident to any unprejudiced mind, that the Western line would prove a greater convenience to the public than a line by the Boyne River as many parties pass from Dalby to Rockhampton with stock who will be glad to avail themselves of the telegraph as there is no Post Office between Dalby and Banana - a distance of 216 miles - and presuming that it is not to show their respect for the people of Gayndah alone that the Government has undertaken to extend the telegraph to the North. I consider that a line near the borders of the Leichhardt district will tend more to public benefit than a party line by the Boyne River.

In saying this, I may be obviating the selfish views of the inhabitants of Gayndah whose ideas seem to be confined to their own pet little district immediately around their town. They succeeded lately in diverting the mail from a portion of this district, much to the annoyance and inconvenience of many of its inhabitants. We here, it is true, what is supposed to be a weekly mail from Gayndah to Taroom; but how often have not only it but also the mails from Gayndah to Gladstone and Banana been prevented from arriving, even within reasonable time, owing to the large, rapid and dangerous rivers they have to cross? It is to be regretted that no party urge on the Government the necessity of establishing a direct mail on the road between Dalby and Rockhampton. On that route, the creeks are comparatively small and few and the communication would be far more regular and expeditious than by the coast rivers.

It may be worthy of notice, although it did not occur to the wise men of Gayndah in their anxiety to see justice done to this district, that an area comprising nearly half the district and contributing nearly half the revenue, is without police protection, inasmuch as there is no magistrate west of the Boyne River to its junction with the Burnett, nor on any branch of the Burnett above that point. The court-house of Gayndah, being nearly eighty miles from several large stations on the Burnett, I therefore take the liberty of suggesting to the population of this part of the district the necessity of petitioning the Government to erect a courthouse and lock-up at Dykehead, being a central position, which would save much loss, both in time and money, to the occupants of surrounding stations and, as we have received no other boon from Government, I think we are fairly entitled to this.

I am, Sir, your obedient servant, UPPER BURNETT.

It was estimated that by taking the line through Hawkwood rather than direct to Gayndah would reduce the distance by 27 miles with a consequent saving in the cost of construction of £1,300.

Preparations were then made for continuing the telegraph line north from Hawkwood to Rockhampton. By mid-February 1864, "the contract for the construction of the line between Camboon and Rockhampton only wants the signature of the bond by the contractor - Mr. Bailie - to be completed so that, in these three weeks at farthest, that portion of the line will have also been commenced" (North Australian 16 February 1864). But on 17 May 1864, the North Australian announced "Tenders are again called for to construct a telegraph line from Rockhampton to Camboon as the contractor has failed to enter upon his contract under the accepted tender". This line was later connected to the line from Dalby to Hawkwood.

The one contractor was responsible for the two lines from Hawkwood. Hence he allocated half of his men to the line north to Camboon and the other half to the line east to Gayndah. In that way he anticipated that both lines would be completed at about the same time. They were both completed by mid-February 1865.

The Maryborough Chronicle of 14 January 1865 reported that "The first message was sent by the electric telegraph last night to Rockhampton and an answer was received in four and a half minutes". Presumably that message came from Brisbane.

The Dalby to Rockhampton section had cost £5,371/3/- .


2. Rockhampton to Mackay.

On 21 April 1864, tenders were called for the construction of a 129 mile telegraph line from Rockhampton to Waverley via Yaamba, Princhester and Marlborough. Another line being constructed at the end of 1864 was that from Rockhampton to Broad Sound - at which a township known as St. Lawrence had been established in about 1860. There was a Customs Office for the Port at St Lawrence. By the end of 1864, about 105 miles of posts had been erected from Rockhampton but no wiring had yet commenced. It was expected the line would be completed in February or March 1865.

Construction of the line from St Lawrence to Mackay began in August 1865. The line moved north-west and inland a little to Fort Cooper (later Nebo) before returning to the coast at Mackay. The reason for the movement away from the coast is not known but it presumably was to avoid some of the coastal difficulties and provide better conditions. The coastal area had no inhabitants while a number of pastoralists had settled around Fort Cooper from about 1860 and so they would benefit from having access to the line. Construction of the line north from St Lawrence was delayed first due to wet weather at the beginning of 1866 and then "to other casualties". By June 1866, 165 miles had been completed and it was hoped that the remaining 86 miles to Mackay would be completed within a few months. The Telegraph Office opened in Mackay in October 1866.

Towards the end of 1866, tenders were accepted for a short line to be constructed from Rockhampton north to the pilot station at Keppel Bay. The Telegraph Office opened there on 11 September 1867.

By April 1866, 1,131 miles of line in Queensland had been constructed (according to Cracknell's 1865 Report). Eleven telegraph stations had been opened on the northern line to Bowen before May 1867.

In November 1873, an additional wire between Rockhampton and the Burdekin (Bowen-Townsville) was announced to accommodate the significant increase in traffic. It was to be erected immediately.

A 16½ mile telegraph line linking Mount Chalmers to Rockhampton was completed on 24 May 1910.


3. Hawkwood to Maryborough.

The contract for constructing the line of telegraph from Gayndah to Maryborough was awarded to the Freeny brothers in February 1864. They commenced work "on the 18th instant". The line from Hawkwood through Gayndah to Maryborough was about 140 miles long.

The Brisbane Courier of 27 August 1864 reported that "The last telegraph post on the Gayndah and Maryborough line was erected on Saturday last, near the site of the telegraph-cum-post-office. There was no demonstration, no "shouting" in the common signification or in Australian parlance. It is intended to "blow great guns" when the first message is sent through — hence present reserve".

About the middle of October 1864, Mr. Cracknell visited Maryborough on his way back from the north with the information that insulators had just arrived from England and so the wire could start being stretched in less than two weeks. By the end of 1864, the posts were all in place and about 60 miles of wire needed to be hung. It was anticipated the line would be operational by the end of January or early February.

Wiring on the Maryborough to Gayndah section was completed in early February 1865 and the line from Gayndah to Hawkwood opened at the end of that month.

By 1869, a large silver mine was operating at Gayndah.


4. Rockhampton to Maryborough.

In early February 1864, tenders were called for the construction of a telegraph line from Rockhampton to Gladstone. Those tenders closed on 1 March. A 90 mile line from Rockhampton south along the coast to Gladstone line was constructed immediately - opening on 16 November 1864. The Rockhampton Bulletin of 17 January 1865 noted the following in a most understated way: "The great event with us is the completion of our telegraphic communication to Gladstone. We cannot expect much business here at present, still it is a matter of much importance to us as a community that we are able to converse with our neighbours, which in many cases is of the greatest importance".

The Rockhampton to Gladstone line gave telegraphic access to Gladstone's Port Curtis which, at that time, was just beginning to operate.

Pt Curtis
Port Curtis, Gladstone showing the ships.
Taken in 1868.

In 1868, gold was discovered near Mount Perry. All information required to be sent to Brisbane had to be telegraphed through the Gayndah telegraph station which was about 40 mies south. The Queensland Times of 24 March provided two telegrams originating in Mount Perry but sent from Gayndah:

By 1869, Mount Perry had turned into a major copper producing area.

Another gold find was made at Nashville - named after James Nash who had discovered gold in 1867. The name of the town was changed to Gympie in 1868 - and in about the middle of that year, over 12,000 people were on the field - miners as well as those doing business.

By 21 March 1873, the line to Mount Perry (Teningering) had reached Moolboolaman and it was hoped that the Telegraph Station at Mount Perry would be opened during April. On 1 May 1873, the 48 mile telegraph line from Maryborough to Mount Perry extended to Gin Gin was opened for public use. The charges were 2/6 for a message of twenty words, including address and signature, and 1/3 for additional words not exceeding 10.

In December 1872, tenders were called for the 120 mile line south to link Gladstone and Gin Gin. By February 1873, the tender to construct this line had been agreed. The poles were bloodwood, gum and ironbark. The line opened on 27 October 1873 and it therefore provided a second line from Brisbane to Rockhampton to service the ever increasing Northern commercial business.

Following the completion of that line, a 30 mile branch line was constructed from Gin Gin to Bundaberg. This branch line was completed on 7 March 1874.

In 1875, during a major storm flooded the area. The telegraph line near Bundaberg was submerged in the "biggest flood in 20 years" and boats travelled over the top of the line.

In 1874, provision was made for a line from Bundaberg to the Pilot Station at Burnett Heads.

About a decade later, it was decided to extend another line from Gladstone to Facing Island across Gladstone Harbour. The Brisbane Courier describes the strategy as follows:

"The cable which is to form a portion of the telegraph line between Gladstone and Gatcombe Head at the entrance to Port Curtis was despatched by the A. S.N. Company's steamer Birksgate on Saturday morning. Mr. H. Starke, the electrician of the department, went in charge of the cable, which will be transhipped in Keppel Bay into punts. The Government steamer Pippo will tow these into Port Curtis and Mr. Starke will lay the cable from the South Trees Inlet to Facing Island - a distance of more than three knots".

In August 1923, a line from Bundaberg was being constructed to Mount Perry via Boolboonda.


5. South from Maryborough to Gympie and Brisbane.

A major line completed on 14 July 1869 was the 110 mile Gympie to Brisbane line. The Report for 1869 describes that "The timber used is construction was mostly bloodwood and ironbark; the wire No. 8 galvanised iron; the insulators double umbrella porcelain; and the manner in which the work has been carried out is very creditable to the contractor". The cost of this line was £35 5d per mile. This line extended the Maryborough-Gympie line and thus provided another parallel line from Brisbane to Mackay. "This section has alteady probed (by March 1870 when the Report was tabled) of great utility to the Department by placing Brisbane in direct communication with Gympie, Maryborough, Gayndah and Taroom; in opening a duplicate line to Hawkwood and relieving the hitherto overcrowded Northern line of the Southern traffic with these stations. At intermediate station on this section was opened at Cabulture (sic) on 26th July".

A second line from Maryborough to Brisbane was also constructed in 1868-69 along the coast. This went through Gympie (9 December 1868) then 110 miles through Cabulture (later Caboolture) to Brisbane (completed on 14 July 1869) and provided an important alternative route for messages from Brisbane which could now be repeated at Maryborough before being sent further north. That relieved the overcrowded northern line. The cost was £35/0/5 per mile exclusive of buildings and office fittings. The timber used was mostly bloodwood and iron bark. The wire was No. 8 galvanised iron and the insulators were double umbrella porcelain.

A third line from Brisbane to Gympie was erected in the second half of 1881.

After Federation, railway lines were constructed from the coastal regions inland. Telegraph lines were constructed along the railways to service various small communities. By December 1910, a number of railway lines were being planned including the line from Caboolture to Woodford and Kilcoy. This line was constructed by October 1913. The cost of construction, including telegraph lines and surveys, but not including land resumed, was estimated at £97,000 with £4,000 added for rolling stock. An associated line was that from Gayndah to Mundubbera.



6. Woody Island

The lines out of Maryborough also involved the construction, in 1869, of an extension beyond Maryborough east to the Woody Island Lighthouse in Hervey Bay. The line was about 30 miles in length including a section to the mainland using a submarine cable about 5 miles in length. Cost was estimated at £1,465 and the Legislative Assembly had been informed on 7 February 1868 that money was approved in the estimates.

Unfortunately, after having been in use for 18 months, the cable connecting the mainland with the lighthouse ceased to work in August 1870. An examination of the defective cable revealed two broken wires in the conducting strand and a puncture in the gutta percha covering. Both problems were not apparently faults during manufacture. The cable had been sent from England in an iron tank filled with water and, on being tested before removal from the ship by one of Siemen's galvanometers, the insulation was found to be perfect. A continuous test had also been made during submersion of the cable and no fault had been detected. Apparently the defect had gradually developed through the action of the electric current to the extent that it finally interrupted communication.

Once the cable was repaired, it continued to operate perfectly. Over the next 50 years or so, the Woody Island lighthouses played a critical role in maritime monitoring and safety. In 1870, an extension from Woody Island to the Lighthouse at Sandy Cape, (north extremity of Frazer (later Fraser) Island) was proposed. That extension spanned 46 miles and required six miles of submarine cable.

In February 1896, another repair to the cable run to Woody Island was planned using the steamer Muriel Bell. A few hours before departure, another steamer - the Burwah - collided with the Muriel Bell while she was at the Municipal Wharf. She was badly damaged and there was no replacement vessel available. Hence the Woody Island cable had to wait until the Muriel Bell was repaired.


7. The Inland line.

Hawkwood to Taroom.

The possibility of a westward extension from Hawkwood - or from some other suitable place - as a branch line to Taroom was raised by a number of inhabitants of that locality. Such a line, they were informed, would depend on the condition that "the inhabitants of the district would guarantee five per cent of the outlay as proposed in the Estimates for 1865. Such a guarantee might amount to £100 per annum". It is not known if that condition was ever met.

On 15 April 1865, the residents of Clermont met with Mr. Macalister (the Minister for Lands and Works) and asked about telegraphic extension to Clermont. The Minister replied:

"The Government intended as a rule only to proceed for the present with the construction of the main trunk line and, for any district requiring a branch line, to erect one for itself at its own expense or the Government would construct the branch line upon the district requiring it guaranteeing the expense of its construction and maintenance.

It must be assumed that not one of the half dozen gentlemen who waited upon Mr. MacAlister ever reads that amusing hebdomadal the Government Gazette otherwise it would have been remembered that very recently the Government invited tenders for the construction of a branch line from the sheep station of Hawkwood to the obscure village of Taroom. Had Mr. MacAlister been politely reminded of this fact, he might have enlightened the deputation as to the cause of an exception being made in favour of Taroom or he would perhaps have announced that the thirty-six householders of that township had furnished the Government with the necessary guarantee. Exceptions were made also in favour of Maryborough and Gladstone, but on perfectly appreciable grounds, and we believe the Government might have perceived there were special circumstances in favour of Clermont had they been so disposed.

The amount of business transacted at Clermont is evidenced by the existence of a branch bank and a newspaper in this town, in themselves a guarantee, we should imagine, that a short branch line would be reproductive. If insufficient attention might have been directed to the revenue collected in this district, which would have settled the matter beyond all cavil. As for the Taroom extension, we fancy Mr. Macalister would have been sorely taxed to produce a reasonable pretext in its favour and no doubt inwardly chuckled at the modesty or mental vacuity which followed his specious policy to pass unquestioned".
(Rockhampton Bulletin 22 April 1865).

Nevertheless, almost concurrent with the activity constructing the lines between Camboon and Rockhampton, was the beginning of the construction of an additional east-west line from Hawkwood to Taroom commencing on 2 June 1865. This line linked the "inland" East Coast line to the sea coast. "The telegraph wire, insulators, etc, for the extension of the line from Hawkwood to Taroom, arrived by the "Queensland" on 16 September 1865". The line was completed on 29 December 1865 (see Report for 1865) and the Taroom Telegraph Office was opened on the same day. Mr. Cracknell was at the Taroom office to make the connection and exchanged several private messages with the Telegraph Office at Maryborough. The cost of the line was £34 14s 2d per mile. The country side was difficult for the construction teams as well as for the repairers.

Many years later, a 196½ mile line was constructed from Springsure to the south-east to Taroom via Rolleston. The Brisbane Courier of 24 March 1887 reported that:

"Mr Burns, with his telegraph repairing party, has arrived here (his destination) and will have completed his work of renewing all decayed posts and putting the line in perfect order in another fortnight. It is to be hoped that the completion of the Springsure-Taroom line will soon be effected".

It is not known how long the task took because there was some referenced about 13 September 1887 to the effect that the line was complete. The line did have to cover some difficult terrain.

In the 1930s, that line was converted to telephone use. Taroom was also connected to Brisbane with a new second wire running through Miles.


Nebo south-west to Clermont.

A short distance south-west from Fort Cooper (Nebo) was Peak Downs where a major copper mine had began operations in 1863 and a gold field also opened up there in 1864. In the Legislative Assembly on 25 May 1864, the Colonial Secretary was asked if he was prepared to place on the estimates sums for a line from Rockhampton to the Peak Downs goldfields. His reply was that the Government had been considering the possibility of opening up a branch telegraph line to Peak Downs from Fort Cooper. That line could also be extended to Clermont.

The Queenslander of 19 January 1867 reported:

"Mr. Pollock, the contractor for the telegraph line between Nebo and Clermont, is now in town and informs us that the line has been cleared and the posts have been erected for about forty miles this side of Nebo. The want of water has been a serious cause of delay and the contract will not be finished till about 31st March next instead of 30th November last as required by the conditions of tender. A party of men will oommence work today from Clermont and, as there is only two miles of timbered country in the first 85 miles of the line or until within a few miles of Logan Downs, Mr. Pollock's work before reaching that station will be almost entirely confined to the cartage and erection of posts. The total length of the line is 108 miles.

The wiring will be done by the Government or by a separate contract and will scarcely occupy a month so that there is every reason to believe the line will be in working order within twelve months of the acceptance of the tender".

Cracknell's 1868 Report (p. 1) indicates this line "was finally finished on 16 October (1867) and brought effectively into operation by the opening of a station at Clermont on the same day".

An interesting aside:

In the Police Magistrate's Court on 20 July 1867, a case was being heard of obtaining money under false pretences. Robert Arthur Pollock was charged with obtaining £120 from the Australian Joint Stock Bank by false pretences. ...

"The depositions of Miles J. Benjamin, taken at Clermont, were then read and were to the effect that, in January last, the prisoner came to him at the bank in Clermont and stated that he was the contractor for the telegraph line from Nebo to Clermont and that, on account of that contract, he had £300 paid to his credit at the Bank of New South Wales, Brisbane The witness, at the urgent request of the prisoner, advanced him £120, against cheques for that amount drawn by prisoner on the Bank of New South Wales; these cheques were dis-honored on presentation. This deposition having been read, William J. Cracknell, Superintendent of the Electric Telegraph Department, was put into the box and deposed that the prisoner was not the contractor for any telegraph line in the present year. He was not aware that he ever was the contractor for any telegraph line. Alexander Pollock was the contractor for the telegraph line from Nebo to Clermont. Alexander Pollock was the brother of the prisoner ... On the application of Mr. Lyons, the case was postponed till Saturday next, bail being allowed in the sum of £80 and two sureties of £40 each".

The Brisbane Courier of 28 June 1871 reported that "The telegraph line (says the Peak Downs Telegram), so far as clearing the line and erecting the posts is concerned, is now completed to a point beyond Copperfield. All that is required to complete the job so far is the wire but the insulators are not expected from England for two months and the work cannot be completed until they arrive".


Clermont south to Springsure and Tambo.

The line from Fort Cooper soon enabled a new line from Clermont to the south-west, in a new area of Queensland, to be planned to link with the Coast line to Mackay and Bowen (Port Denison). The section from Rockhampton to Clermont was estimated to cost £6,000.

A line south from Clermont to Springsure was agreed but delayed for some time "due to Parliamentary business". By August 1870, the funds required were placed on the Estimates. "It is proposed to continue the line from Clermont first and afterwards to continue the wire from Springsure to Taroom - thus giving a double line of communication from Nebo to Brisbane to facilitate the transmission of messages by the proposed telegraphic cable from England. In sending messages from Springsure to Rockhampton, there will be no extra cost over the more direct line via Westwood that I advocated, as under the new tariff there will be a fixed charge irrespective of distance within each telegraphic district".

"The telegraph line to Springsure is now cleared throughout and the posts are erected. The wiring has been completed to within six miles of the terminus, which will only take a few days to finish. The whole of the work, we understand, has been done in a first-class style but, through some misunderstanding, the wire has in many places been stretched too tight. As it was put up in very hot weather, a considerable amount should have been allowed for contraction in winter and it is thought this has not been sufficiently attended to. However, it can be remedied in a short time if found necessary. Mr. Matvief is expected in Clermont shortly to inspect the line. We may therefore hope that telegraphic communication may be established to Copperfield and Springsure within a few weeks".
(Rockhampton Bulletin, 16 March 1872).

The 110 mile line was finally completed south from Clermont to Springsure on 27 May 1872 (which was about 9 years after the Cullin-La-Ringo massacre). An intermediate link to Emerald was made in 1879. An additional line from Emerald later passed along the Central Railway line to Retreat and then on the poles of the Copperfield-Springsure line. That work began at the beginning of June 1880 and was completed on 17 July.

The Central Railway also passed between Rockhampton and Emerald. Hence, in November 1879, Railway Telegraph Offices were opened along that line at Stanwell, Hervert's Creek and Dingo stations.

On 6 September 1873, the Queenslander reported the poles had been erected for a distance of 22 miles on the line south-west from Springsure to Tambo and that line of 144 miles was completed later in the year.

The telegraph line to Springsure actually created problems for some residents: "What a plague our telegraph extension has become. The wire is down almost half the time and, if not, there is something else wrong that prevents the public from enjoying the use of what they pay so dearly for. It is really too bad when gentlemen come a distance of thirty or forty miles to send a message and find the office closed and "the line is down" is the only answer to be had. Of course other lines get out of order as well as ours but not as often. When our line is down, our Telegraph Master has to go and repair it, causing a delay of two or three days before any business can be transacted. The people here are talking of requesting the Government to appoint a line repairer or take the line altogether. If it pays at all, it ought to pay to keep it in proper working order".
(Rockhampton Bulletin 15 June 1872).

In April 1890, massive flooding occurred especially from the Fitzroy and the Dawson Rivers. A huge area of Queensland was affected. The Morning Bulletin was just one newspaper which gave full details fo the current situation. In part:

"Traffic on the Central Railway is still interupted by the floods. The Dawson, of oourse, is the greatest impediment. This river, 6 ft. over the deck of the bridge on Sunday evening, was 1 ft. higher than yesterday morning early and rising steadily ... a wire sent to the Telegraph Master in the afternoon stated it wanted only a few inches to reach the level of 1876. The telegraph wires have been covered and communication with the west bank of the stream is now via Emerald, Tambo, Brisbane and the East Street (Rockhampton) Telegraph Office. There is no telegraph office at Boolburra - the one there some years ago having been removed by a careful Government and the nearest station on the eastern side of the Dawson is Westwood - 28 miles away. The intelligence from the Dawson may, under the circumstances, be expected to be rather meagre until the water begins to run down and the telegraph line is repaired".


Springsure to Taroom.

The ling between Springsure to Taroom was completed much later. In Matveieff's Report for 1886, he states that a 44½ mile section of this line had been completed as far as Rolleston on 19 April 1887. He now estimated that the line would now stretch 200 miles as opposed to the 160 miles originally planned and considered the line could not be completed for some months. Part of the problem was "the melanchony death of Mr. J. A. Brodie - the original contractor - some time elapsing before arrangements could be concluded with the executor (Mr. T. Brodie) for continuation of the work. However 30 men are at present employed and every endeavour is being made to push the work ahead".


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 Brisbane-Roma-Mackay 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
N5 Mackay Flat Top Island  
S6 Brisbane Blackall via Charleville
S7 Brisbane Bowen Rockhampton
S8 Brisbane Maryborough Gympie
S9 Brisbane Rockhampton  
S16 Beaudesert Caloundra via Brisbane, Redcliffe and Caboolture
S18 Tambo Rockhampton via Springsure and Emerald
S19 Gin Gin Rockhampton  
S26 Tambo Ravenswood via Springsure and Clermont
S28 Gympie Kilkivan Railway  
S29 Bundaberg Woowoonga Railway via Maryborough and Mungar
S32 Bundaberg Rockhampton via Maryborough, Hawkwood and Westwood
S33 Mount Perry Railway Burnett Heads via Bundaberg
S34 Bustard Head Gatcombe Head via Gladstone
S35 Rockhampton Cape Capricorn via Port Alma
S36 Rockhampton Springsure via Emerald
S38 Rockhampton Bowen via Mount Morgan, Emerald, Clermont and Nebo
S46 Brisbane Tambo  
S47 Rockhampton Railway Yeppoon  
S48 Gympie Tewantin  
S50 Brisbane Railway Maryborough Railway  
S56 Kabra Mount Morgan  

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