Victoria - Colonial period: 1854-1900.
The Swan Hill line.

The first line into the Central-north region of Victoria was that to Sandhurst (Bendigo) in January 1857 to serve the goldfields in the surrounding district.

Construction of the Swan Hill line is described as follows:

  1. offices opened on the first line;
  2. Why Swan Hill?
  3. the rapid construction to Swan Hill;
  4. definition of the line;
  5. the alternative route.

In concert with the construction of new lines, Telegraph Offices were opened along the 1857 first line to Sandhurst at centers which were important in their relationships to the gold rush and the expanding commercial interests. Hence Telegraph Offices were opened within months at Kyneton and Castlemaine - the latter in particular being a critical junction for several lines over future years.

Swan Hill Why Swan Hill?

Swan Hill was the centre of a European community with extensive interests in agriculture in the surrounding area. It had developed around the only crossing of the Murray River for over 100 miles - and that was by a punt. In 1853, two vessels had travelled from Adelaide to Swan Hill along the Murray River and so demonstrated the possibility of using river transport. It was therefore logical to extend the telegraph line to this area and later run other lines and postal services to other townships.

Rapid construction.

A new line was then constructed from Castlemaine to the north to form the Swan Hill line in the following stages:

  • in 1859, as noted elsewhere, the line was extended through Maldon to Dunolly and then south to Maryborough and Avoca.
  • from Dunolly, the line was then constructed north to Tarnagulla - being completed on 1 November 1860. In that year, a major gold find was made at Inglewood.
  • in 1861, the line was extended through Inglewood - which had just been proclaimed as a municipality - to the north;
  • in 1862, it was proposed to continue the construction from Inglewood to the north through Kerang and Swan Hill. Telegraph Offices were opened in both towns in 1863. Both of these stations were close to the border with New South Wales.

Intermediate Telegraph offices along the line were opened in subsequent years according to demand.

Definition of the line over time.

In 1864, the Electric Telegraph Department regarded the Swan Hill line as beginning at Tarnagulla (linked from Castlemaine) and the line then proceeded north to the other three stations - Inglewood (which had linked from Sandhurst), Kerang and Swan Hill. By 1881, the definition of the line had changed to include all stations from Gisborne to Castlemaine (from the Northern line) and Dunolly and Maldon (from the Donald (Cross-Country) line). These stations then linked to Inglewood on an expanded Swan Hill line.

In 1866, an extension of the Swan Hill line was proposed along the Murray to the north-west to Euston in N.S.W. That proposal was in connection with the direct interior line from Adelaide to Sydney - Euston being connected in that line in 1867. McGowan noted in his 1867 Report (dated 18 February 1868) that "the extension ... still remains undecided; but as I have before discussed the great importance of this extension in relation to our intercolonial business, I consider that it is only necessary now to bring the subject again under notice with the view of urging the matter on your attention. A glance at the map of this Colony will show that, although the Southern and Eastern districts are comparatively well provided with telegraphic communication, the very large district extending north and west from Swan Hill is without such a facility for advancement, unless through offices at considerable distances within the adjoining colonies. I trust that this extension may not long be deferred, as the want of the communication is much felt by the Department". That suggestion was also in line with Todd's thinking for a line from South Australia.

The alternative route.

About 1882, an extension of the line to Swan Hill was constructed from Bendigo along the railway lines - well to the east of the normal telegraph line. From Bendigo, it passed through Eaglehawk, Sebastian, Raywood and Pyramid Hill to join the original telegraph line at Kerang. The 1890 Annual Report on the Department notes (p.12) that "the line between Durham Ox and Pyramid Hill had been dismantled between Durham and Tragowel Railway Station. The circuit was diverted via Pyramid Hill and thence on railway poles to Tragowel. This was done with the double object of improving the route and bringing Pyramid Hill into the telegraph circuit".