Victoria - Colonial period: 1854-1900.
Gippsland line.


The beginning of the telegraph line running through the Gippsland region to the east of Melbourne was the construction of a long distance line from Melbourne to Sale. No intermediate stations were opened at this time. This strategy was in keeping with the policy of opening up the facility of telegraphic communication to the widest area possible to serve important economic and social needs and then constructing appropriate intermediate offices.

The McGowan Report for 1862 notes that provision had been made for the construction of a line from Melbourne to Sale and Port Albert (Gipps Land) during 1863. The Report continues (p. 2) as follows:

"It has been strongly recommended that the route of the Gipps Land line should follow the main road via Oakleigh, Dandenong and Cranbourne thence via Sawtell's Creek crossing to the southward of the Koo-we-rup, or Great Swamp, keeping the best track thence to Rosedale, Sale and Port Albert in preference to the old track via Packenham and the Bunyip; but the selection of the route will only be decided upon after the most accurate information may have been collected with reference to the nature of the country through those best acquainted with its peculiarities and most conversant with the several requirements of the case.

The instructions for the guidance of the surveyors specially direct that, in marking the route for the telegraph line, the facilities attainable for the eventual formation of a permanent road on the same survey are to be constantly kept prominently in view; by this means, it is hoped that both services may be practically benefited - such a result having already accrued under similar conditions in other portions of the colony".

By September 1864, the Melbourne to Sale telegraph line (as it was described) had all the posts erected as far as the site reserved for a Telegraph and Post Office and connection was made on 22 September. The line was immediately continued to Port Albert and a Telegraph Office was opened there on 1 December. Port Albert was the administrative centre for Gippsland and a busy Port for transporting goods between Melbourne and Tasmania. The length of the line from Melbourne was 181 miles.

In his Report for 1865, McGowan recommended that a 43 mile branch line be constructed from Sale to Bairnsdale in 1866. This extension was suspended in 1867 but the survey for the route was completed and the positioning for the poles was fixed. Construction of this branch line was completed in 1869 and the Bairnsdale Telegraph Office opened in July of that year.

The line to Sale passed through Rosedale but no Office had been opened there. Indeed as early as 1862, as noted in the Gippsland Guardian of 16 May: "A public meeting was held at the Rosedale Hotel, Rosedale, on the 10th instant, to consider the propriety of petitioning the Government to extend the Electric Telegraph to Rosedale. Proposed by Mr. Morris and seconded by Mr. Allen and carried unanimously " That a petition be forwarded to the Government shewing the great necessity of extending Telegraphic communication to Rosedale that being the most central township in Gipps Land".

In March 1867, a Telegraph Office was opened at Rosedale. As well, "a guarantee bond was executed by the residents of Stringer's Creek (Walhalla) with a view of securing the extension of a line from Rosedale to that place and the establishment of an office. Five percent per annum is guaranteed to the Government on the expenditure necessary for extending a line and £150 per annum on account of the office on the same terms as for offices at Penshurst and Colleraine. The cost of this extension would not exceed £2,250" (McGowans's Report for 1867).

The Gippsland Times of 27 September 1870, in commenting on Walhalla said "Walhalla as a gold producing district will bear favourable comparison with any other in the colony. I must not forget to inform you that the telegraph is completed in the neighbourhood of the township and in a few days - I am informed - we could be in communication with Rosedale. But the battery has not arrived; neither is the office being got ready for its reception - so surely there must be negect somewhere". The Walhalla Office - 32 miles from Rosedale - opened in November 1870.

A line was also constructed north from Sale to Stratford in 1873 where a Telegraph Office was opened in May.

In January 1874, the application for a Telegraph Office from the residents of Maffra (west of Stratford) was rejected. "The department curtly negatives our request. It is significant that no reason is vouchsafed for this refusal and departure from the well-known policy of the office, which for many years has always been ready to establish telegraph offices in small and distant communities ... However Maffra bids fair to elevate its bristles and its " dander" has "riz" to an extent surprising to one who knows its philosophic indifference to such a disappointment ... The ratepayers if they really desire the benefits of telegraphic extension should agitate this matter vigorously and it is more than probable if our position is represented in its proper light that success will crown their efforts" (Gippsland Times 20 January 1874). An energetic committee met the following month and noted "The one examination which must decide the postal heads, namely, that of finance, cannot but prove our right to the boon, since our population and the extensive district around us will, without doubt, render the office at least self supporting ... There is every indication that ere long I will be able to chronicle the completion by the government of definite arrangements to supply us not only with the magic wire but a commodious and substantial office for mails". On 18 April, the Gippsland Times reported "Mafra will shortly be placed in possession of telegraphic communication with other parts of the colony, the necessary guarantee required by the Government having been forwarded a few days since. It is intended for a time to conduct the business of the Post and Telegraph Office in a building near the flour mills belonging to Mr Carpenter who, we understand, has undertaken to make suitable additions and lease it to the government".

On 2 March 1875, the Gippsland Times reported that "The telegraph poles (which are described as being splendid) for the line between Maffra and Stratford are on the ground and the holes are being sunk. The second wire for the Maffra Line has been stretched and fixed on the insulators as far as the junction, and it is expected that communication will be established within three weeks. The whole of the work is being carried out under the supervision of Mr Ellis of the Sale Telegraph Office".

At about the same time, a push for a Telegraph Office to be opened at Traralgon (west of Rosedale) was gaining in strength. "Directly the new bridge is completed at Traralgon there will be a considerable influx of the Walhalla business, which now tends to Shady Creek, and the establishment of a telegraph office will become a necessity. The cost could not ruin the department and the accommodation would be great to the travelling public. The wires run right through the town and the present postmistress is a competent operator. An instrument, battery and a few yards of wire would complete all requirements" (Gippsland Times 16 February 1875).

Petitions, not surprisingly, stated that "a Post Office and Telegraph Office are urgently required at the spot known as the Junction Hotel near Shady Creek on the Melbourne Road. Telegraphic communication is frequently interrupted for some days at a time while a messenger travels from Sale along the line to discover where the interruption has occurred. If a telegraph master were to reside at Shady Creek, communication could always be resumed within eight hours. The travelling expenses of the line repairer within the last three months had exceeded considerably the expense of maintaining a telegraph office at Shady Creek". A Telegraph Office was opened at Shady Creek in January 1871.

Closer to Melbourne but still along the Gippsland line, Telegraph Offices were opened at Dandenong in June 1871 and at Berwick in March 1873.

The Adelaide Observer of 30 April 1870 noted that "The Chamber of Commerce are again urging the Government to construct a telegraph line to Wilson's Promontory". The arguments for a telegraph line were very strongly put forward in a number of sources. There were countless instances of ships being uncontactable and in danger in the general area of the promontory. Nevertheless, the words "the telegraph line to Wilson's Promontory would be further considered" were used frequently by the Governments in response to pleas over a number of years from all kinds of groups - including the Ship Owners Association, the Chamber of Commerce and various Maritime Agencies - for the construction of a telegraph line. A common response was to the effect that "Great regret was expressed at the apathy exhibited by the Government in respect to the proposed line of telegraph to Wilson's Promontory".The Bendigo Advertiser of 1 September 1870 even unleashed the Dogs of War:

"You will no doubt remember that sundry attempts have been made to procure an extension of telegraph communication to Wilson's Promontory, hitherto without effect; but it seems that another attempt is to be made, armed with the additional ground that, in the event of war's alarms, the promontory would be a valuable point of "vantage ground" from whence to decry the approach of any hostile fleet or ships, and thus give early information to the colonists to prepare to meet the foe; there is certainly something in this besides the value to maritime interests generally which may yet lead to the desired concession".

On 2 November 1870, the Age reported amazing news: " The subject of the extension of the telegraph wires to Wilson's Promontory was again considered, and the secretary was instructed to write to the Hon. the Commissioner of Trade and Customs, urging on the Government the necessity of making provision for the work in question on the estimates now in course of preparation". Decision making at its finest!!

In the House of 23 November 1870, the urgency of the line for the Government was emphasised:

"Mr. Francis stated that no provision had been made for telegraphic communication to Wilson's Promontory because, if this had been done, other extensions both remunerative and desirable would have thereby been prevented. He admitted the desirability of establishing telegraphic communication to Wilson's Promontory and as soon as the public revenue was in a more satisfactory condition, a sum of money would be placed on the Estimates for the purpose".

On 19 December 1870, "The second supplementary estimates for 1870 were laid last evening before the Assembly by the Treasurer ... There were also some additional estimates for 1871 amounting to £14,082 10s, which includes the sum of £2,750 for extension of the telegraph to Wilson's Promontory, £1000 for raising the wreck of the Eliza and £300 for topographical and geological surveys of the gold fields". An interesting insigt is also obtained from an Argus report on the allocation of the funds.

In January 1871, tenders for surveying and marking the 70 mile extension of the line from Port Albert via Foster and around to the the lighthouse at Wilson's Promontory. were invited by the Crown Lands department. Many hoped that the work would proceed while the season was still favourable. In late February, the tender submitted by Mr. G. Hastings was accepted.

This extension had been discussed for several years. A significant argument was printed in the Gippsland Times of 1 December 1868.

Construction of this line began in 1871. In April 1871, it was agreed that "as soon as the track through the dense bush was cleared, the Wilson's Promontory telegraph line should be proceeded with, especially as it was thought that the opening up of the Stockyard Creek diggings would be advanced thereby".

A letter on the subject of the delay in constructing the line of telegraph to Wilson's Promontory was read to the Council on 30 May 1871: "the Secretary was instructed to remind the Hon. the Postmaster-General that the financial year would shortly terminate and that the vote would lapse unless tenders were forthwith obtained". On 7th June in the Assembly "Mr. Smyth said something about a telegraph to Wilson's Promontory, as though the idea was quite fresh. Sir James reminded Mr. Smytyh that the scheme was all cut and dried long ago, and the posts would be cut and dried as soon as possible".

On 5th October 1871, the Shipowners Association noted "work had been already commenced by the acceptance of a contract for cutting the track and it was hoped that no unnecessary delay would not take place in calling for tenders for the erection of the wire". The Legislative Council on 17 October noted that tenders "would be duly advertised".

The 1873 Report notes construction "was completed and communication established". There were a number of delays and the 1874 Report noted "office accommodation, quarters, and stabling are about to be provided". Clearly there were major implications for shipping as well as for maritime safety to be considered in the decision to build this extension of the Gippsland line.

In 1896, the line between Foster and Port Albert was replaced by transferring it to railway poles as was the line between Port Albert and Alberton.



The line originally started at Melbourne but changed over the years.

For example, in 1887, the Gippsland line consisted of three lines - running together between some Telegraph Offices:

Wilson's Promontory Line (No. 1 East): Wilson's Promontory, Foster, Port Albert, Tarraville, Sale, Rosedale, Traralgon, Morewell, Moe, Yarragon, Trafalgar, Warragul, Drouin, Pakenham, Berwick, Dandenong, Oakleigh.

Gippsland Line (No. 2 East): Dandenong, Warrugul, Sale.

Omeo Line (No. 3 East): Omeo, Bruthen, Bairnsdale, Stratford, Maffra, Sale, Rosedale, Traralgon, Warragul, Dandenong, Malvern, Armadale.

By 1890, increased construction and a re-configuring of the linkages meant that there were seven lines to and in the Gippsland area. Those lines which were not solely for telephones include:

Line 29: Malvern test box, Dandenong, Warragul, Rosedale, Sale, Tarraville, Port Albert, Foster, Yanakie (telephone), Wilson's Promontory;

Line 30: Melbourne through Malvern test box, Oakleigh, Dandenong, Berwick, Packenham, Drouin, Warragul, Yarragon, Trafalgar, Morwell, Traralgon, Rosedale, Sale, Maffra and Stratford;

Line 31: Melbourne through Malvern test box, Oakleigh, Dandenong, Packenham, Warragul, Morwell, Traralgon, Rosedale, Sale, Stratford, Bairnsdale, Bruthen, Tambo Crossing, Ensay, Swift's Creek, Tongio (last 4 telephone) and Omeo;

Line 62: Melbourne through Malvern test box, Caulfield Racecourse, Oakleigh, Dandenong, Berwick, Packenham, Warragul, Moe, Traralgon, Toongabbie and Walhalla;

Line 115: Warragul through Drouin to Buln Buln (telephones - Drouin a repeater);

Line 117: Port Albert through Alberton to Yarram Yarram ;

Line 119: Bairnsdale through Bruthen, Cunninghame to Orbost;


Following the construction of the long line to Sale in 1864, the next developments were:

Extract from the Annex to the 1887 Report showing the Lines of Telegraph.
Harrietville -the end of the Bright Branch from the Corowa/Wahgunyah Line can be seen at the top.
After the Melbourne-Sale line had been serviced with Telegraph Offices, the push beyond Bairnsdale was planned as a separate branch from the Gippsland Line. Stratford was opened as a combined P&T office in 1873 and later extensions were made to the south-east to Cunninghame (now Lakes Entrance) and to the north to Omeo (see an image of a wood engraving titled "erecting the telegraph line to Omeo"

Other offices around the general region were subsequently opened according to local demand - such as at Buchan and Maffra. An 11 mile line from Omeo south to Cassilis was erected in 1894.

The railway line was being constructed in 1889. One branch ran from Dandenong to Warragul and then to Leongatha and on to Alberton. In October, two locals found coal "which was jet black, and burns brilliantly in an ordinary fireplace. The seam has an average width of 5 feet, and is near the surveyed route of the Warragul to Leongatha (railway) line". The railway line from Korumburra to Leongatha was opened on 14 December 1891.

On 21 May 1891, tenders were called in the Gazette for the supply of 1,300 Telegraph Poles for the Korumburra to Port Albert line. In 1894, a 30 mile line was erected from Leongatha to Foster. In 1896, a half mile extension line was constructed between Korumburra Railway Station and Korumburra Post Office. In the same year, the lines from Foster to Port Albert and from Port Albert to Alberton were dismantled and new lines erected.

This whole area was a very rich source of quality coal. In the Barrier Miner of 20 April 1891:

"The Mines, Department has received information, though at present of an unofficial character, that the most important mineral discovery yet made in the colony has just been made at Jumbunna, in Gippsland. The report is to the effect that the Government diamond drill which is boring in that locality came upon a seam of black coal, 5ft. in thickness, at a depth of about 300 ft. The report has yet to be confirmed officially. The thickest seam of black coal previously found in the colony was one of 4ft. in thickness penetrated by a diamond drill boring at Korumburra".

In the Sydney Morning Herald of 14 May 1892: "The giant drill boring for black coal between Korumburra and Strezlecki, South Gippsland, a few days ago, passed through a seam 3 ft. 10 in thick at a depth of 534 ft. To-day it passed through another seam 3 ft 3 in thick at a depth of 538 ft. The latter is not such good coal as the former seam - being more mixed with shale".

27 October 1916: Gippsland Mercury:


During the past few days, members of the Telegraph Staffing Committee, have been officially visiting Sale in connection with their system of establishing repeating telegraph centres through the Commonwealth. We understand that it is proposed to make Sale a repeating centre for Gippsland, business being centred here from Omeo, Orbost and Bairnsdale on the east, as far as Moe on the west and Foster on the south. Telegrams from those and intermediate localities would come into Sale, and then be rattled through on the duplex system to Melbourne. This would mean a much more speedy and effective service.

The system is working well in Queensland and New South Wales, where it has already been established. There will be at Sale a staff of about five operators on duty at a time, kept constantly going and to accommodate them certain alterations to the present office will be effected.

Under the duplex system from the local office, a hundred messages an hour could be sent and received on one wire".