Telegraph Offices in the Otways region.

Two of the Telegraph Offices at the beginning of the Cape Otway line - Geelong and Queenscliff were also on the first Victorian telegraph line and so are discussed in their respective entries there.

Apollo Bay.

In 1898, the name of the town Krambruk was changed to Apollo Bay after a number of heated public meetings. For example, on 1 April 1898, the Colac Herald reported that the Postmaster-General was asked to change the name because

"the name Krambruk is objectionable to the residents and is unknown to outsiders. A large percentage of the business people of the cities doing business with Apollo Bay residents do not know where Krambruk is. Telegraph operators who know Apollo Bay have to look up their books to find out Krambruk on receiving a telegraph for that place".

The name change took place later in 1898.

A Post & Telegraph Office opened at Krambruk in about 1885-86 although there were no premises.

The Colac Herald of 7 October 1887 reported as follows (repeated in full because of the social commentary included):

"How thankful everybody appears to be for a short spell of fine weather and last night, with the beautiful moon for a guide, many left their homes among the hills to attend the Blue Ribbon meeting at the Wesleyan Church. This proved a very enjoyable change from the monotony of bush life and, as a proof of this, whole families could be seen wending their way to the meeting - ladies carrying little children on horseback, travelling steep inclines which would make a novice shudder at the sight of, but it shows that public opinion is being educated in that direction. Mr. Morris was Chairman and, not to be invidious, I must say that all acquitted themselves with credit. Some of the singing was really enjoyable and everyone seemed happier for their visit.

As the meeting was dispersing, a bell was heard at the Post Office and a general stampede took place to "the Corner" or Mr. Costin's store. Here was assembled the sawmill managers and storekeepers whose interests are bound up in the progress of the district and it turned out that an indignation meeting was to be held in consequence of the action of the Post Office authorities. Mr Lachlan, Manager of the Apollo Bay Timber Company, stated that the Government had, without notice, determined to remove the Post Office to the teacher's quarters and close the Telegraph business until the teacher had mastered the art of telegraphy.

To show the unjustness of this proceeding, it was only last year that the Department accepted tenders for premises for the business to be conducted in. Mr. Costin being the successful tenderer, had to alter his premises to suit the requirements of the Office. This he did to the satisfaction of the Inspector and it is eminently suited for the purpose, providing shelter etc and this alone has been a great boon to the public through the long rainy winter, when the mail delivery is uncertain for an hour and many, after the delivery, have several miles to travel to their homes in the darkness and gloom of the winter's night.

Now after putting this gentleman to a considerable expense, they entirely ignore him and offer the office to the teacher, and purpose putting the country to considerable expense in extending the telegraph line to the teacher's residence which is unfortunately situated in a very inaccessible position and without even the shadow of suitability.

No greater proof could be shown of Mr. Costin's suitability for the position than the meeting called by bell at the corner. A petition was read setting forth the grievances and asking the Government to leave the Office as at present with the very obliging lady as Operator and Postmistress. By her urbanity, Miss Davies has made herself a power in the community and her loss would be felt by nearly all residents.

With the exception of two cynics (who appeared to have been taking something strong) the meeting was unanimous in favour of the present arrangements and as Mr. McLachlan was leaving by the Lay Loch for Melbourne the next morning, he was entrusted with the petition which was signed by nearly one hundred residents. Considering the large increase of business likely to result from two wealthy sawmill properties which will be in full working in a short time, it appears strange that greater discretion is not shown in the cheese paring policy pursued by the postal authorities who are now making large salaries larger and small subsidies smaller. If this policy is pursued much further, I fancy the public horse will be found kicking over the traces and no wonder.

The deputation above alluded to, which consisted of Messrs McLachlan, Gill and Heath waited upon the Postmaster-General on Wednesday in reference to the closing of the Office. After hearing the arguments advanced, Mr Derham proposed to continue the Office as at present for one month to enable the residents to make arrangements to conduct the Office on the two-thirds principle".

The Colac Herald of 3 October 1889 reported that:

"much dissatisfaction is expressed by the residents owing to the business of the Post and Telegraph being conducted in a hotel (Ed. the matter was brought up as the second item of business at a public meeting of 50 people in Mr Gosney's dining room to consider the completion of a free Public Library and the large hall attached). A lengthy discussion ensued and it was resolved by those present to petition the Government to erect Offices of its own - or failing that to lease a portion of the Public library building (Item 1 on the agenda) for the purposes in question".

In 1890, the Telegraph Office transmitted 1,188 messages and received 1,018 messages.

In July 1901, the Postmaster-General threatened to close the Apollo Bay Telegraphic Office due to a lack of staff. The Department had been paying a skilled operator 2s 9d per day for duties of 22 hours per day for 7 days per week. The operator could be called at any time during the night to attend to shipping news. No operator would therefore apply for this position.

In August 1904, the oldest resident in the district was about to leave having been transferred to Geelong. Mr Carwood had been in charge of the telegraph lines from Lorne to Cape Otway and from Birregurra to Apollo Bay for over 30 years.

The Telegraph Station closed in 1963.


The Geelong Advertiser of 6 December 1873 noted that:

"The erection of new post and telegraph offices is being proceeded with at Winchelsea and Birregurra and it is anticipated that they will be completed by the commencement of the new year. They are being constructed of hardwood, but will be comfortable and commodious, while the sites chosen are conveniently situated in the centre of the townships".

The Telegraph Office was opened in (23?) February 1874 with another office opening on the Railway Circuit in July 1883.

A Post Office had been opened on 1 October 1858 but it changed its name to Mount Gellibrand on 15 April 1864. A second Birregurra Post Office was opened on 19 April 1864 in a slightly different location.

As an article in The Age (18 May 1874) indicated, the appointment of a female Post and Telegraph Mistress to Birregurra was fortunate because not only was there "the opportunity of earning a respectable maintenance for themselves and the families dependent upon them, but a considerable saving has been effected" due to the much lower salaries paid to women.

The Office was issued with a 2 hole Belt & Buckle date stamp.
  1. Used in black: 12 November 1890 to 2 July 1894.


Rated: RRR.

Number in the Census: 5.

Birr 1892
28 July 1892.
18 January 1893.

Used in blue: 12 November 1890.


Rated: RRR.

Number in the Census: 0.

Cape Otway.

The Telegraph Office opened in September 1859. It was a critical point in the surveillance of shipping along the Victorian coast - especially in times of difficulty or distress.

"Amongst the changes ... of a retrogressive character which we are called on to notice is the suppression of the public shipping telegrams, of which, for some 16 years, the people of this colony have enjoyed the use. From the time of the extension of the electric telegraph to Cape Otway, it was the practice to telegraph all over the colony the names of ships signalled from that station. The information was valued by merchants and most serviceable to the friends of immigrants. Ministers, however, for economical reasons, have restricted the information here-after to be given to the public to the arrival of the mail steamers. The change has created considerable discontent".

(The Argus, 25 April 1861, p. 5).

The office became of critical importance when the first cable was laid between Tasmania and Victoria in 1869.

In January 1886, a major bush fire threatened the lighthouse but the buildings were saved "by all hands fighting the fire". The danger did not however pass as the fire then moved on to Apollo Bay fuelled by a strong north-easterly gale.

Some tales of incidents at Cape Otway are included elsewhere.

Cape Otway rev








The Telegraph Office at Cape Otway from the front.

Cape Otway
The Telegraph Office at Cape Otway from the rear.
The Cape Otway region was thick with forests and was considered to be rich in gold. The Argus of 1 April 1868 reported that the township of Camperdown contributed to pay the expenses of a prospecting party consisting of six experienced miners for ten weeks to prospect for gold in the neighborhood of Cape Otway. " That there is gold in the Cape Otway forests there is no doubt".


An interesting newspaper article on Holiday Rambles to Cape Otway was published in the Illustrated Australian News for Home Readers published on 31 December 1873.

Cape otway bush
Photograph by Roger Holdsworth.
Source: State Library of Victoria H201290/47.
No special date stamp was issued to Cape Otway for use with telegraphic work. Instead the usual postal date stamp was used.

Unframed date stamp for usual postal use.

Diameter: 24 mm.

Cape Otway
14 November 1921.

The Telegraph Office opened on 18 August 1882.

The Geelong Advertiser of 8 May 1873 reported an early development:

The Secretary called the attention of the (Bellarine Shire) Council to the necessity of having a Telegraph Office opened at Drysdale - the Government having promised to establish offices at Birregurra and Winchelsea while the Drysdale district had three shipping places and a larger population than the townships referred to. Cr. Levien said a distinct promise was made by a previous Government that a Telegraph Office would be established at Drysdale but, on waiting on Mr. Langton, he was informed that the present Ministry would only carry out such portions of the policy of their predecessors as suited themselves and his application to have telegraphic communication establish elicited a refusal. He considered that the establishment of a Telegraph Office would be a boon to the district and that, on the score of population and the important resources developed, the people had an undeniable claim on the authorities for the facilities suggested. The total cost of the line would only be between £200 and £300 and, for a small additional remuneration, he believed the present Postmaster would undertake the duties of Telegraph Operator.

The President and Cr. Curlewis considered that as the Government were about to be urged to grant a further subsidy towards the Drysdale jetty, it would be inadvisable in the meantime to ask for the establishment of a Telegraph Office.

After some discussion, it was moved by Cr. Levien and seconded by Cr. Trethowan "That in the opinion of the council, it was desirable that a Telegraph Office be erected at Drysdale forthwith". Cr. Henderson supported the motion which was opposed by Crs. Bourke, Curlewis, Devine and Sutterby and therefore lost. On the motion of Cr. Levien, it was subsequently agreed that the names of the councillors who had voted should be entered in the minutes".

On 17 March 1874, the Geelong Advertiser reported on a public meeting addressed by the local Member Mr. Hopkins. He said that he "was in favour of a telegraph line to Drysdale and if the Drysdale people could induce the Treasurer to occasionally visit Drysdale, they may succeed in obtaining a telegraph as well as Birregurra".

On 20 December 1881, the Geelong Advertiser reported that "in deference to the prayer contained in a requisition, signed by inhabitants of the township of Drysdale and district, I hereby convene a public meeting, to be held at Drysdale on Wednesday, the 2lst December, in the Shire Hall, at 7.30 p.m., to consider on the best means of securing the establishment of a Telegraph Office in the township; its present position is, it is alleged, inconvenient and unsatisfactory".

On 11 January 1882, the Geelong Advertiser reported "a deputation urged that a Post and Telegraph Office should be established in the township of Drysdale. The telegraph line passes through Drysdale to Portarlington. It was urged that the district was a flourishing one and that a Telegraph Station was absolutely necessary and that it could be well combined with the Post Office. The Minister promised to favourably consider the request at an early date."

Lorne (or Loutit Bay).

The Telegraph Station opened at the new township of Lorne on the Cape Otway line on 11 January 1876, closed on 10 July 1876 and reopened on 18 November 1876.

On 7 April 1882, the Colac Herald reported:

Lorne has become of sufficient importance in the estimation of the Government to have a separate building set apart for a Post and Telegraph Office. The business until quite recently was conducted in an apartment of Erskine House, but it has been decided to move the office into a separate building, which is in course of erection and which the department will rent from the proprietor.

One consequence of the change will cause regret to the frequenters of Lorne, viz. the retirement of the popular Post and Telegraph Master, Mr. James Mountjoy, who has had the management of the office since its establishment, and has earned the good opinion of all classes of visitors. The new departmental arrangements will, however, be to his advantage, for Lorne, of course, is a narrow field for a public officer.



The Telegraph Office opened in April 1862 on the Railway Circuit.

By 1890, there was a major test box used at Newport.


A Telegraph Office was opened about 14 January 1882.

In the first year of operation, the Telegraph Office transmitted 683 messages.

The building (shown at the right) was constructed in 1888.

The window behind the man sitting on the railing has "TELEGRAPH OFFICE".
Possibly taken about 1914.
Courtesy of the State Library of Victoria (H2002-198-65).

On 12 January 1882, The Argus reported:

"A deputation of residents in Portarlington waited upon the Postmaster-General yesterday morning with a request that the Government should rent a building and establish a Post and Telegraph Office at Portarlington, the present offices not being exclusively used for postal work.

Mr. Bolton declined to accede to the request, stating that he had consented to the construction of the line upon the distinct understanding that the office was conducted at the least possible expense. Unless the residents were prepared to give the Government a building at a nominal rent, and guarantee at least a portion of the loss that would inevitably result, he was not prepared to make any change in existing arrangements".

On 7 November 1882, a public meeting was held to discuss the proposed Post and Telegraph for the township. They were informed that if the inhabitants required a public post and telegraph office erected at Portarlington, the Government would be willing to erect the same.

Mr Cant moved: That, as the present arrangements of Post and Telegraph business are giving satisfaction, and that, as the official hours of the department would be most inconvenient to the residents in and around Portarlington, they remain as they are at present. This was seconded by Mr W. Marchant.

Mr Wray moved, as an amendment: That the offer of the Government to erect offices be accepted. Several present wanted to know if the Government intended to bear the cost of the erection, or if they were going to do, as at Drysdale, get some private person to erect, and then lease the building. As the chairman was not sure on this point, the amendment was withdrawn, and the motion carried. 

Construction began about 23 August. On 8 September 1888, the Geelong Advertiser noted:

"A special meeting of the Town and District Improvement Association was held last evening, when it was agreed that leave be had from the Public Works Department to lay the foundation stone of the Post and Telegraph Office in three or four weeks time. It was also resolved that the Secretary write to the associated banks, and to the President of the Shire, to proclaim a public holiday for the occasion.

An adjournment was then made till Monday, when matters of considerable importance will be brought forward".

Various newspapers, including the Queenscliff Sentinel, carried the following article on 22 September 1888:

Amongst the coming events must be named the laying of the new (Portarlington) Post and Telegraph Office. The school children are to be feted on the occasion. Subscriptions are coming freely to hand for the purpose. There will be also be a banquet, and it is consistently expected that the Hon J F. Levien, the Hon. Postmaster-General, and other members of Parliament will be present.

The Post and Telegraph Office has been a matter of controversy for several years. One portion of the community willing to accept of the first government proposals, the establishing of a staff office which means a private building rented by the Government. On the other hand, there were those who, seeing the rapid growth of Portarlington, and believing that in the near future it would outstrip many older towns, felt justified in opposing the establishing of a staff office. Although considerable delay has occurred, the contract for the new building has been let, and will no doubt when finished be an ornament to the town. The site chosen is admirably situated for all parties.

The Geelong Advertiser reported on 29 September that the Foundation Stone was finally laid on 28 September 1888 by Mr. Levien before a crowd of about 1,500 people.

The new public building is of dark colored bricks, with white brick facing, the whole structure to rest on a concrete foundation. It will be a single-storey building, and whilst providing Post and Telegraph office, it will comprise a sitting room, two bedrooms, kitchen, etc. The new offices will have a frontage of 40ft to Newcombe Street by a depth of 47ft along the main road leading to the Jetty, commanding a foremost view of the seaway entrance to the township, and close to the Free Library and the weighbridge. It is expected that the new premises will be completed by the end of the present year. The contractors are Messrs Goss and McLure and the cost of the public offices will be about £1500.



The Telegraph Office opened on the Railway Circuit on 16 April 1862 probably in conjunction with the Werribee Encampment.

About 2,000 volunteers caught trains from Spencer Street Station (all Officers being left behind when the first train departed). The first train contained 100 Castlemain rifleman dressed in light gray and red uniforms. It was met at Werribee by Colonel Anderson who had the Union Jack flying before his tent as well as by the Castlemain Light Dragoons, the Geelong and Bacchus Marsh Mounted Rifles and others from Ballarat, Bendigo and Geelong. The first rifle matches on a 200 yards range began at 2:00 pm on 17 August with longer distances planned to be shot later in the tournament. Unfortunately a big storm hit the encampment and the tournament had to be abandoned on the day after.

No wonder a telegraph station was needed!!

The Telegraph Office at the Werribee Railway Station transmitted 11,662 messages in 1862 (289 private and 11,3,7 OHMS). It was still operating in 1880 and was transmitting about 2,500 messages in each year during the first part of the 1880s at least.

The location of the Werribee Post Office had been argued for many years and residents had failed to agree. Postal business had been conducted at the Wyndham Store, the Telegraph Office was still at the Railway station and there was a separate location for the telephone bureau. After Federation, a grant of land from a resident - which also created insuperable problems and precedents for the new Government - was accepted to house all three services plus living quarters. In June 1904, the local Member in the House of Representatives (Mr. Crouch) asked if the Government intended to proceed with the erection of the Werribee Post Office.

From 7 March 1864 to 15 December 1909 the area was the Shire of Wyndham after which it reverted to Werribee until 1994 when it reverted to Wyndham.

The Post Office was renamed from Wyndham on 1 November 1904 when the new combined building was opened (opposite Blitz's Painless Dentistry) in Elizabeth Street. It closed in 1992.

Werribee Post & Telegraph Office in 1911.


The Geelong Advertiser of 6 December 1873 noted that:

"The erection of new post and telegraph offices is being proceeded with at Winchelsea and Birregurra and it is anticipated that they will be completed by the commencement of the new year. They are being constructed of hardwood, but will be comfortable and commodious, while the sites chosen are conveniently situated in the centre of the townships".

The Telegraph Office opened on 25 February 1874 and opened on the Railway Circuit in August 1878.

As an article in The Age (18 May 1874) indicated, the appointment of a female Post and Telegraph Mistress to Winchelsea was fortunate because not only was there "the opportunity of earning a respectable maintenance for themselves and the families dependent upon them, but a considerable saving has been effected" due to the much lower salaries paid to women.