South Australia - Colonial: 1856 - 1900.
Telegraph lines from Gawler to NSW.

Todd noted, in the 1866 Public Works Annual Report, tabled in September 1867:

"The advisability of having a station at North Adelaide was urged on the Government during the last session of 1866 in Parliament. It would, no doubt, be a public convenience; but, judging from past experience, I do not think it would pay its working expenses. The line, instruments, batteries, &c, would cost £200, to which must be added the cost of a building".

Two lines extended from Gawler to the east or to north-east to link up with the telegraph lines in New South Wales. These were:

  1. from Gawler - the line via Lyndoch, Tanunda, Angaston, Nuriootpa and Blanche Town and the Overland Corner en route to Wellington in NSW;
  2. from Gawler - the line through Kapunda, Eudunda and Morgan to Overland Corner;
  3. the inclusion of Renmark;
  4. a far north - east line to NSW.

Map continues to Wallaroo, Eudunda, Terowie and Port Pirie. Map continues to the NSW lines to Wentworth.
  Map continues to the Barossa region.  

At one stage Todd also considered the possibility of extending the existing Gawler - Kapunda - Kooringa line but deferred that extension to 1880 when he created the third line to New South Wales.

The Gawler - Blanche Town - NSW line.

In 1861, preliminary planning was being undertaken on the route for the South Australia to NSW telegraphic link. In the House on 7 August, it was noted that "New South Wales had intimated their intention of conveying a line of telegraph to the Border and, when that was done, the South Australian Government would probably meet it by a line from Gawler through Angaston, Truro and Moorundee, independent of Victoria" (South Australian Weekly Chronicle, 10 August 1861).

On 18 July 1864, a public meeting was convened in Gawler to discuss the best starting point and the route of the proposed telegraph line to Blanche Town. Representatives from Tanunda and Lyndoch Valley were also present. Full descriptions of the very lively meeting were reported in the Adelaide Express of 26 July 1864 and in the South Australian Register for 20 July 1864. The Mayor of Gawler was the Chairman and he stated that the object was to endeavour to get the line of telegraph to start from Gawler and proceed via Lyndoch Valley, Tanunda, Nuriootpa, Angaston, Stockwell, Truro and thence to Blanche Town. Arguments were proposed that this line would confer benefits on a larger population than alternative proposals.

The first motion put was "That it is the opinion of this meeting that the most desirable route for telegraph communication from Adelaide to the River Murray would be from Gawler via Lyndoch Valley, Tanunda, Nuriootpa, Angaston, Stockwell, Truro thence to Blanche Town as it is by far the most thickly-populated district". The inclusion of the reference to the Murray River reflected the importance of the telegraph connections to the river ports.

An alternative proposal was to construct a line from Freeling ("with its population in the tens") to Greenock but many residents considered that such a line would not serve the same commercial and private interests that a line from Gawler ("with its population in the thousands") through Tanunda and Nuriootpa would achieve. In addition, the area of the Barossa had a sufficient claim to have a line of telegraph. Freeling was even then regarded as being outside "the Valley". Mr. W. Duffield, the local M.P. was requested to speak. In part, he said

"The question simply was which route will give the greatest accommodation to the most persons? He was not sure that the route from Gawler via Lyndoch. &c, was not the shortest; but, whichever way it went, Lyndoch must be connected — (cheers)— with the network of wire now fast spreading through the colony. He was sure they would have the support of his colleagues in Parliament. Telegraph lines were more expensive than people thought and £6,000 were required this year and £7,000 next year, to replace old poles. But they must keep pace with the times they lived in and must not be behind hand. The line via Lyndoch, etc, would be one step towards establishing a second line with the other colonies — a thing much wanted as the present one was often not available from breakages; but if they had two, one would always be available,. The Government of New South Wales had expressed their willingness to make a line to Wentworth and, if South Australia extended her lines, they could be joined which he thought would be a step in the right direction. (Hear, hear.) He would conclude by again impressing on them the necessity of agitation and then they would obtain what they sought. (Applause)". (South Australian Register, 20 July 1864).

It was not just the residents who were encouraging the Government to construct the inter-colonial line. On 24 September 1864, the South Australian Register reported an approach to the SA Government from commercial interests in the form:

"That your  memorialists are interested in the trade of the River Murray and tributaries and view with some alarm the great efforts made by the Government  of Victoria to secure the trade to that colony both by the improvement of the channel of the upper river and the construction of a railway from Echuca to Melbourne … memorialists are of opinion that, although some of the trade of the Upper Murray and Murrumbidgee may be diverted to Melbourne via Echuca, the great and increasing  trade of the Darling and Lower Murray may be secured to South Australia by moderately energetic action on the part of this Government The extension of the electric telegraph to the New South. Wales boundary would give greatly increased facilities to the trade and that the outlay would not be much more than double what is at present proposed for the line to Blanchetown while the comparative advantage would be much greater, especially if arrangements are made with the New South Wales Government to extend their line to meet it."

The Adelaide Observer of 23 July 1864 reported a memorial had been signed by many residents demanding a "line of telegraph from Gawler to Nuriootpa and Blanchetown via Lyndoch and Tanunda".

In the Assembly on 19 August 1864, a motion from Mr. Buot recommending a line from Freeling to Blanchetown via Greenock was tabled. This motion was later "amended by striking out the names of places making the recommendation general."! The Bunyip of 5 November 1864 reported "By-the-by, we see that tenders are called for the supply of posts for the line from Gawler (not Freeling) through Truro to Blanchetown".

The attitudes held by some for a line starting at Freeling were very intense. Indeed one person with the pseudonym of LIBRA penned a poem which ended with a suggested first message to be sent along the Freeling-NSW line:

From Cockleshell &Co., Adelaide, to Snail & Co. Sydney.

The Freeling line all serene.
Tanunda has committed suicide.
Lyndoch mourns in sackcloth and ashes.

And Gawler, like the naughty schoolboy who could not say his lessons, is on the stool of repentance, with a finger in each eye and provided with a paper headpiece of a spiral form and of towering dimensions.

If you will contract for their bones
reply sharp C. & Co".

On 9 January 1865, the South Australian Register (p.3) reported the following major statement:

Sydney and Adelaide Direct Telegraphic Communication.

"Mr. Charles Todd, Superintendent of Telegraphs, has returned from his trip to Wentworth, whither he proceeded a few weeks ago to confer with Mr. Cracknell, Superintendent of New South Wales Telegraphs, as to the site on the border at which a junction between the South Australian and New South Wales portions of the contemplated direct line of telegraphic communication between the capitals of the two colonies should be effected. From him we have procured the following information on the subject of the projected undertaking.

The South Australian portion of the line, starting from the Gawler Station, will pass through Tanunda and on to Blanchetown where the Murray will he crossed at a spot in which high cliffs skirt the banks on each side. Thence it will be carried in a course as direct as circumstances will admit over the tract of scrubby country some 50 miles in extent lying between Blanchetown and Overland Corner, recrossing the river at a point about two miles westward of the latter place where a cliff nearly 100 feet in height forms the left bank and a fine alluvial flat trends away on the right.

At Overland Corner it is intended to erect a station for line-inspecting and repairing purposes. From that locality the wires, leaving the track leading to Lake Bonney on the right, will be carried across the dense mallee scrub intervening between that sheet of water and Chowilla, and after touching the river at one of its bends a few miles west of the last-named township, will be carried on to Salt Creek, a place situated on or near the border and about 150 or 160 miles distant from Overland Corner. This has been determined upon as the site for the junction of the two lines.

The country over which the wires will pass after leaving the Murray is almost - if not totally - destitute of water, and the necessary supplies of that element will have to be carried from the river. In the track between Blanchetown and Overland Corner, the greatest distance over which watercarts will be required to travel is about 13 miles, and in that extending between Overland Corner and Chowilla the greatest distance will be from 12 to 13 miles. As, however, the cartage will be through country of a most impracticable character, the expense will necessarily be considerable. The chief reliance for timber for posts is placed upon the pines and Murray Gum and these will likewise have to be carried several miles. It is a question whether a second inspecting station will be needed between Overland Corner and Wentworth, the extent of country being so great.

Tenders for the surveys remaining to be accomplished will be called in the course of a few weeks but already the line has been surveyed as far as Blanchetown. None of the poles, however, have as yet been furnished.

The New South Wales portion of the line will extend between Deniliquin (the furthest point yet reached in the direction of Wentworth by telegraphic communication from Sydney) and the Salt Creek. The total distance is about 360 miles and the country greatly resembles in character that through which the South Australian line is to be carried, except that it is somewhat better. The chief resource for posts will be the Murray gum.

Wentworth, although nearly 60 miles from the junction of the lines, is to be viewed as the border station, and the New South Wales Government is prepared to erect quarters in that township for the accommodation of the South Australian officer.

In that colony tenders have been invited for the entire work which are to be sent in before the end of the present month. Tenderers have to stipulate to complete their contract by the end of the year".

An interesting event in Tanunda is reported in the South Australian Register of 21 June 1865 (p. 3):


"Following the ceremonial of laying the foundation stone of the new Telegraph Station at Tanunda, an interesting event took place at Gawler on Tuesday, June 20. It occurred to Mr. Todd and other gentlemen that the erection of the first telegraph post in the new line starting from Gawler Town should be performed with some publicity.

Unfortunately the idea was started too late to make it generally known but, at 3 o'clock in the afternoon, a fair number of persons including ladies on horseback and in carriages had gathered just outside Gawler on the Lyndoch Valley Road where the first post was to be erected. Mr. C. Todd said that the work which they were now publicly beginning was one of no small importance. They were about to place the first pole in a line of telegraph which would bring them into speaking connection with New South Wales and the most northern port in Queensland. The telegraph was an institution whose advantages were now generally admitted. Roads, railways, marine steam navigation were good for a people and not less important was the telegraph. They required not only rapid transit for their goods, but for their thoughts. (Hear) The telegraph was absolutely necessary or the carrying on of their commerce. To the farmer it was valuable as giving him instant information of any variation in the grain market.

At the present time, and with their limited population, the cost of this mode of communication was necessarily large but, as population increased, the charges would be diminished. He thought the telegraph should be supported by the Government, not for purposes of revenue, but for the general good. The efficiency of the system was increasing every day, and this would, as a matter of course make it cheaper. He had in his hand a specimen of telegraphic printing in bold Roman characters, which showed the progress which was being made.

In inaugurating the new line he thought they would all admit that their senior representative. Mr. Duffield, was the proper person to place the first pole. (Hear.) The line would go through Lyndoch Valley. Tanunda, Blanchetown, Overland Corner, on to Wentworth, Deniliquin, Sydney and still further to Port Denison in Queensland — a distance of some 3,000 miles. This, then, was sufficient to show the importance of the work in which they were engaged. It would help to open out the colony of South Australia and its neighbours. They would be connected with the rich country on the Darling and he was persuaded that the traffic would flow through its natural channel into South Australia. He was sorry that they had nothing to offer to Mr. Duffield as a mark of their respect as the Tanunda people had done on the preceding day. He would request him, however, to erect the first pole. (Applause).

Mr. Duffield then threw off his coat and, with the assistance of the workmen on the ground, elevated the pole to its place and declared it to be properly erected. A Union Jack floated from its top. Mr. Duffield then said their work appeared very simple but it was highly important. It was generally agreed that the new line was likely to be of great service, not only to their own colony, but to others. They had heard that they would be brought into connection with Queensland and the time would come when the telegraph would stretch across the northern part of the continent. He thought the placing of the first pole of a line of some 2,000 or 3,000 miles was an event of great interest.

Mr. Todd had complimented him for the assistance he had given to the movement but he had only done his duty. They had a small agitation 12 months ago, but that had subsided, and now he thought they would all agree that the best route had been chosen. A large section of the people in the neighbouring township had been opposed to them but the opposition had been vanquished and he hoped no ill-feeling remained. (Hear.)

They would soon have two lines of communication with the other colonies, so that if one should get out of order, the other would be available and that was a benefit not to be forgotten. Many of them, like himself, no doubt always looked for the telegrams on first opening their newspapers in the morning and, when this new line was finished, they would not be subject to the disappointment which sometimes met them now when no telegrams appeared, He might say much more on the occasion. but he would not enlarge. They had laid the foundation of the new station at Tanunda yesterday and in four months - all being well - it would be completed. (Applause.)

Cheers were then given for the Queen, the Governor, Mr. Todd, and the members for the district. The assembly dispersed about 4 o'clock".

In the House of Assembly on 7 August 1865, a memorial emphasised the contribution a line from Gawler in SA to Wentworth in NSW would make to one of Todd's important telegraphic objectives - that of access to support commercial interests along the Murray River:

"That the extension of the electric telegraph to the New South Wales boundary would give greatly increased facilities to the trade (along the Murray River) and that the outlay, which would only be about £1,000 to £5,000 in excess of what is at present proposed to be expended in continuing the line to Blanchetown would be productive of very great advantage to the community. The New South Wales Government is at the present time apparently most anxious to complete the line on their side of the boundary and so afford a second line of communication between Sydney and Adelaide via the Riverine townships".


On 29 July 1865, the Adelaide Observer reported that "the telegraph posts are now erected but it is not yet known where the office (in Nuriootpa) will be". Telegraph Offices were opened in the following year at the intermediate stations at Lyndoch and Tanunda. Branch lines were constructed to Greenock and Angaston. The line was constructed from Gawler to Nuriootpa and on to Truro (at a cost of £250) and to Blanche Town in 1865 - the last station being the most urgent requirement.

On 16 September 1865, the South Australian Advertiser reported:

"The new line of telegraph between Adelaide and Sydney is — so far as the South Australian portion is concerned — rapidly approaching completion although we believe our part of the work will be completed some time before the New South Wales contractors have done theirs. The line is now complete very nearly as far as Blanchetown - the station at which the (shipping) port will be opened very shortly. On the other side of the Murray, the poles are all cut and in a few months the line will probably be open to the Border. There has been a deal of heavy clearing in the scrub, a road 40 feet wide having been cut for an almost uninterrupted distance of 100 miles. The work has been a very formidable one for this reason and we shall be glad to hear of its successful completion".

DESTRUCTION OF TELEGRAPH WIRES was the heading for an article in the South Australian Register of 8 August 1866:

"Along the telegraph line to Truro, the wires were down in 10 places and it appeared it had been done by drays which, in order to avoid the newly metalled road, ran against the telegraph poles and, by so doing, breaking off the pins. The following memo was attached to the Report by the Superintendent of Telegraphs:

I would respectfully suggest that the attention of the Central Road Board should be drawn to the serious injuries done to our lines where the roads are being new metalled, with a view of ascertaining whether they can do anything to protect the lines. On such an important line as that to New South Wales, such injuries as those herein reported may cause great inconvenience and loss to the Government. Mr. Macauly said he had given the Stationman orders to prosecute all persons whom he saw damaging the telegraph poles. He also remarked that, if the poles had been put closer to the fence, they would not have stood so much chance of being damaged".

From the Adelaide Observer 18 November 1865:

"Last Wednesday week, Mr. C. Todd, Superintendent of Telegraphs, started from town for the purpose of opening the branch line to Blanchetown and of examining the works now in progress thence towards the New South Wales boundary.

All throughout he found the line to be satisfactorily progressing. It crosses the Murray at Blanchetown and after, continuing along the further side of the river for some distance, it recrosses at Bakewell's woolshed near Poogenook Station. It runs on the left bank as far as Overland Corner where it again crosses the river. Thence it proceeds in a direct line to Ral Ral—a distance of about 38 miles. From Ral Ral it is continued without deviation to the New South Wales border.

The whole of the poles are cut and a part of them are already deposited. They have been planted for about 24 miles beyond Blanchetown but the wire is not yet up. In setting them, a pathway 40 feet wide has been made through the dense scrub. The work has been greatly delayed in consequence of the scarcity of water.

Mr. Todd started on Sunday afternoon to visit the working party. He camped at Bakewell's woolshed and returned the following day to Truro. He describes the country as being extremely arid and desolate.

The New South Wales section of the line has been laid out and the holes have also been sunk. About 12 miles of poles have been planted. Between Wentworth and Deniliquin rapid progress is being made. Two working parties are engaged - one at each end.

There is every probability of the line being opened before March next and telegraphic communication with Wentworth may be expected before that time".

Telegraphic communication between Sydney and Adelaide began on 11 September 1866.

The total length of the New South Wales portion was about 900 miles which it was intended to work direct.

The present arrangement for the division of receipts is as follows:

In the event of a breakdown on the coast line, messages between South Australia and Victoria, via Wentworth, will be subjected to no charge on the part of the New South Wales Government.

Upon the line being completed, Sir. C. Todd purposes paying a visit to the border to direct experiments with a view of ascertaining the precise boundary of South Australia— a problem which it will be useful to set at rest. To effect this, he intends fixing upon some point near what is deemed the border and, moving up and down, determining by means of galvanic time signals with Sydney or Adelaide, the precise meridian and thus settling the exact boundary line. It is anticipated that the new line will be opened for the transmission of messages within 12 months from the present date.

The Report of Todd's work in establishing the location of the Border is included elsewhere.


The Gawler - Kapunda - Morgan - Overland Corner - NSW line.

The second telegraph line to the east from Gawler was constructed well after the Blanchetown - Wentworth line had been completed. It was therefore an alternative line to the main one. It branched off the main line to Clare-Kooringa at Kapunda and headed east to Morgan on the Murray River.

The telegraph line from Kapunda to Eudunda - and hence to Morgan - followed the railway line and both were constructed at the same time. By about mid-August 1878, the contractors had erected all the galvanized iron posts for the telegraph line between Kapunda and the North-West Bend "which in appearance and durability are a decided improvement on the cumbrous wooden posts formerly in vogue". The wire was started from the Murray River end at Morgan and was strung towards Eudunda. That line was completed on 14 September 1878 from which date both Morgan and Eudunda were in communication with Kapunda and thence to Adelaide. As noted elsewhere, there was considerable disagreement about using a wooden building as a temporary Telegraph Office at Eudunda and a new office was not ready until July 1879.


The agricultural area of Renmark missed out on telegraph lines. The South Australian Weekly of 27 October 1888 reported that a deputation had presented the Minister of Education with a petition from the Renmark residents "asking for telegraphic communication with Adelaide. Although Renmark is only a few miles from the main line of telegraph, messages have now to be sent more that 30 miles to Overland Corner. The Minister (as usual) said he would give the petition "his careful attention and obtain a report on the matter". Different station - same reaction.

The branch line constructed from Overland Corner to Renmark was opened in April 1890.