History of wireless telegraphy and broadcasting in Australia/Topical/Biographies/Frank Randell Bradley/Telegraphy

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History of the Electric Telegraph in Australia.

By F. R. BRADLEY, A.M.I.E. (Aust.).

(Read before the Society, May 29, 1934.)


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In several publications which should give authentic information, viz., the Australian Chronological Annals in Webster’s Dictionary, The Commonwealth Year Book, J. H. Heaton's Australian Dictionary of Dates (1879), and Hutchison's Australasian Encyclopaedia (1892), the statement is made that the telegraph was first used in New South Wales on December 5, 1851. There seems little doubt that this date is incorrect, since it cannot be verified by exhaustive searches through the files of the newspapers current in 1851 or by reference to official publications of that year. It is inconceivable that such an interesting and important development as the electric telegraph would be overlooked by the newspapers of the day had any move been made for its introduction in 1851. Owing to a typographical error in Heaton's publication, 1857 has appeared as 1851, and this is the source of the wrong information quoted by the other authorities referred to.

Victoria[edit | edit source]

1853[edit | edit source]

The State of Victoria took the lead in introducing the electric telegraph into Australia, the first line being that erected between Melbourne and Williamstown. S. W. McGowan, who had studied telegraphy under Professor Morse, arrived in Victoria early in 1853, with the intention of forming a private company to establish and work telegraph lines between Melbourne, Sydney, Adelaide, Ballarat, and Sandhurst (Bendigo). He brought with him instruments, batteries and other necessary material, but during his negotiations the Government decided to take the matter into its own hands, and in September, 1853, invited tenders for the construction of a line between Melbourne and Williamstown.

1854[edit | edit source]

McGowan’s offer for the work was accepted, and communication between the two places was established in February, 1854, though the

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line was not fully opened to the public until March 3. McGowan then received the appointment of General Superintendent of Telegraphs. The extension of the Williamstown line to Geelong was completed on December 5, 1854, and to Queenscliff on January 30, 1855.

1855[edit | edit source]

A line from Melbourne to Sandridge was opened on July 1, 1855. The closed circuit system of morse working was employed on these lines, the received signals being recorded on an embossing recorder. The batteries, both main and local, consisted of Grove cells. No. 6 gauge galvanised iron was utilised for the line wires, which were insulated by means of glazed earthenware insulators of the single petticoat pattern. In the month of November, 1855, it was decided to extend lines, respectively, from Geelong to Ballarat and from Melbourne to Sandhurst (Bendigo) via Castlemaine.

1856[edit | edit source]

The work was commenced early in May, and the line between Geelong and Ballarat, a distance of fifty-eight miles, was permanently opened on December 14, 1856, and communication over the line from Melbourne to Sandhurst tested on the 20th of the same month, the distance being one hundred and twenty-five miles.

1857[edit | edit source]

During 1857, lines to the western and north-western boundaries of Victoria were completed. The line via Ballarat, Fiery Creek (now Beaufort), Hexham, Warrnambool, and Portland to the South Australian boundary was completed on December 29, 1857, and that to the River Murray opposite Albury via Sandhurst, Kilmore, Longwood, Benalla, Wangaratta, Beechworth, and Belvoir (now Wodonga) on December 5, 1857. The length of the line from Melbourne to Portland was three hundred and thirty-eight miles, and of that from Melbourne to the River Murray two hundred and fifty miles. In order to avoid the expense of providing skilled operators at the minor offices, Wheatstone A.B.C. instruments were introduced for these offices in the city and suburbs in 1863. In 1865 communication between certain of the Government departments was established by means of these instruments, which continued in use till displaced by the telephone. The scale of charges in operation in Victoria for the first few years was as follow:—

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"For any distance under ten (10) miles, one shilling and sixpence for the first ten words, and one penny for each additional word. Over ten and under twenty (20) miles, two shillings for the first ten words, and twopence for each additional word. Over twenty and under fifty (50) miles, four shillings for the first ten words, and threepence for each additional word. Over fifty and under one hundred (100) miles, six shillings for the first ten words, and fourpence for each additional word. Offices were kept open for the transaction of public business from 8.30 a.m. to 8 p.m. During 1854, 3869 messages, having a total value of £1260, were transmitted. In 1856, these figures had risen to 13,174 and £5648 respectively."

South Australia[edit | edit source]

The first telegraph line in South Australia was erected (by private enterprise) between Adelaide and Port Adelaide, and was in operation for a few weeks before the opening of the Adelaide, Port Adelaide and Semaphore line by the South Australian Government on February 18, 1856. The report by Mr. (afterwards Sir Charles) Todd in connection with this work makes interesting reading, and is therefore quoted in some detail:—

The Government having decided to establish telegraphic communication between Adelaide, the Port, and Semaphore, the Secretary of State for the Colonies was requested to appoint a Superintendent of Telegraphs and operators in England. It was also intimated that the Superintendent should be competent to act as Government Astronomer; and, in compliance with this request, I was appointed as Superintendent of Telegraphs and Observer by Lord John Russell, in February, 1855, the appointment having been previously offered to me by Sir (then Mr.) G. B. Airy, C. B., Astronomer Royal. "The instructions were that I should bring out a staff of operators; but this I thought unnecessary, as I could select and train operators after my arrival in the colony. I therefore recommended taking out one assistant only, and nominated Mr. E. C. Cracknell (now Superintendent of Telegraphs in New South Wales), who was appointed accordingly. I arrived with the necessary telegraph plant for the work in November, 1855, and in the month following the first Government telegraph line in the colony — Adelaide to Port Adelaide — was commenced. On February 18th, 1856, the line was opened for business, and was extended to Lefevre’s Peninsula early in the succeeding month, the total cost, including erection of stations at the Port and Semaphore, being £3024. The first office at the Port was simply a small wooden structure of one room, a brick building of two rooms was erected at the Semaphore, and at Adelaide an office was rented at Neale’s auction

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mart, until 1857, when the office was removed to Green’s Exchange, where it remained until the new General Post Office was opened on May 6th, 1872. At Port Adelaide the office was subsequently removed to a building adjoining the Marine Board offices; but a new office with residence for the stationmaster was built in 1867, and opened in February of the following year. According to specifications and instructions sent from England, and which I had to follow, the line was carried underground from the Port to the Semaphore, and from the Adelaide railway station to the central office in King William Street. The underground cables consisted of six gutta percha double-coated copper wires, with an outer serving of tarred yarn, laid at a depth of two feet, in Henley’s split pipes, a six wire submarine cable (a remnant of the first Mediterranean cable) being laid under the river at the Port. These underground wires, for which there was no necessity, added very greatly to the cost, and were very soon an endless source of trouble, as indeed were all the underground wires laid in England about this time, owing to the insulation becoming defective, and they were ultimately abandoned. Along the Port railway, the wires were overhead on square poles of Western Australian jarrah, and Singapore cedar; and it may be of interest to state that these poles are only now (1884) being taken up, having been replaced by much longer poles. The instruments selected were the Henley magnetic double needle, which were ultimately superseded by the Morse system, as the telegraph was extended to the other colonies. The rates fixed between Adelaide and the Port were, for the first twenty words, exclusive of names and addresses, 6d., and 3d. for every additional ten words; and to the Semaphore, first twenty words 1s., and 6d. for every additional ten words. Intermediate stations were opened at Bowden and Alberton, and at the Railway stations at Adelaide and the Port. It may be amusing to mention that the first day's receipts were 5/3d.; the second, 2/6d.; the third, 1/9d.; and the fourth, 1/3d.; totals certainly not calculated to inspire much confidence in the financial success of the infant scheme. It should, however, be stated that a rival line, erected by Mr. James MacGeorge, had been opened between Adelaide and the Port immediately prior to the completion of the Government telegraph, and this secured for a time a large amount of public patronage. We ultimately purchased this line from Messrs. Elder, Stirling, & Co. for £80, and pulled it down. The business, however, steadily increased, and by the end of the year we had transmitted 14,738 messages, yielding revenue of £366.6.7d. A line of two wires to Gawler, including a branch to the Labor Prison, twenty-eight and a half miles, and costing £1,576 or a little over £55 per mile, was opened on April 14th, 1857; and that year there were 35,792 messages, yielding £1,183.13.10d.; the receipts on the Port line being £883.17.2d.

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Several of the shorter lines subsequently erected in South Australia were equipped with Henley’s magneto instruments, but the majority of the longer lines were worked closed circuit morse with Siemens’ polarised relays and embossing recorders. Closed circuit morse instruments or telephones were afterwards substituted for the magneto instruments, and at a later date the closed circuit lines were equipped with the more suitable and lower resistance American pattern non-polarised relays.

Tasmania[edit | edit source]

Following in chronological order, Tasmania was the next State to introduce the electric telegraph. The first line erected connected Launceston with Hobart, and it was opened for traffic in August, 1857. The conductor consisted of No. 6 gauge iron wire, and for receiving signals a weight-driven embossing recorder was employed in the local circuit. Smee and Grove cells were used in the line and local batteries respectively. In the first telegraph message transmitted over this line on July 8, 1857 (shortly before the line was actually opened for traffic), from Launceston to the Hobart Mercury newspaper, it was stated that "The telegraph works beautifully, although the communicating paper had broken once or twice."

New South Wales[edit | edit source]

New South Wales had under consideration the construction of telegraph lines in 1854, but no actual progress was made until 1857. On October 31, 1856, a Select Committee was appointed by Parliament to investigate the question of telegraph communication, and this Committee recommended:—

That immediate steps be taken in concert with the Government of Victoria to connect the cities of Sydney and Melbourne by electric telegraph and that a sum of £38,000 be placed on the estimates for that purpose. The Committee recommended also that Bathurst and Sydney be connected at an early date.

The £38,000 for the linking up of Sydney and Melbourne was provided by Parliament in 1857. After tenders had been invited, a contract was arranged for the construction of a telegraph line from Liverpool to Albury on May 11, 1857. At the same time the Government undertook the construction of a line from Sydney to Liverpool.

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The contractor for the Liverpool-Albury section proved incompetent to carry out his contract, which was terminated on October 12, 1857. There was some delay in obtaining tenders for the completion of the work, and it was not until January 18, 1858, that a fresh contract was arranged. In the meantime, the lines from Sydney to South Head and Liverpool had been completed and officially opened (but not for public traffic) on December 30, 1857. These lines were opened for public traffic on January 26, 1858. The Sydney office was located in two rented rooms in what was then the Sydney Exchange, but is now known as the Royal Exchange, at the corner of Bridge and Pitt Streets. The opening of the telegraph formed part of the ceremony of opening the Sydney Exchange. The following is an extract from the Sydney Morning Herald of December 31, 1857:—

His Excellency then rose and said they would repair to the room set apart for the telegraph apparatus for the purpose of putting this lightning communication to the test by transmitting the first message along the wires. (Cheers.) They would send forth an appropriate message for they would communicate to the people at a distance and he only wished that they had the means of making the news they had to communicate more extensively known that the Sydney Exchange had been this day opened for commercial purposes. He hoped that the return message would be from the South Head intimating that the mail steamer was in sight. (Cheers.) His Excellency, accompanied by Lady Denison, the Misses Denison and several ladies, and attended by Captain Martindale and the officers of his suite, then repaired to the telegraph chamber. The gentleman in charge, Mr. H. M. Lay, explained to his visitors the principles upon which this wonderful piece of mechanism was worked and communicated to the station at Liverpool (the utmost limit as yet of the line) that the Sydney Exchange had that day been opened by His Excellency the Governor-General. A different message had been previously sent, that is to say, a few moments before the message relating to the Exchange to which the party in Liverpool almost instantly replied that he could not get the pen of the instrument to work. The cause of this slight interruption was satisfactorily explained by Captain Martindale and His Excellency expressed himself highly gratified with the progress and success which attended the inauguration of a telegraphic line in New South Wales.

The following information respecting the electric telegraph was kindly furnished by Captain Martindale, Superintendent of Electric Telegraphs and Chief Commissioner of Railways. The line of communication which has just been opened and put into operation for the first time today is between Sydney and Liverpool. The line to the South Head is also finished, but the instruments are not yet adjusted in their places. It is expected

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that in the course of next week they will be completed and put into active operation on the line. By their means Sydney will be put into instant communication with Port Jackson Heads — the want of which has been long and lately very severely felt. The instrument now being used at the Exchange is one of Sieman and Halske Morse's Double Recording Telegraph. It is an improvement on what is commonly known as Morse's Recording Telegraph.

The Sydney Morning Herald gives fuller details of the actual sending of the first message as follows:—

In noticing the visit of His Excellency to the room occupied by the Government as a Telegraph Office, we did not go fully into details and we now subjoin a fuller account of what then took place. The instrument was worked by Mr. H. Macy Lay, who explained the principles on which the messages were transmitted and answers received. The first question forwarded to Liverpool, which is the only line at present in working order, was: "Can you read my writing?" No answer was received for several minutes, but, on the question being repeated, an answer arrived that the pen of the instrument at Liverpool did not mark and was out of order. The reply thus speedily transmitted proved that the communication with Liverpool was perfect, but, owing to the newness of the instrument and the gentleman engaged at Liverpool being unaccustomed to the working of the telegraph, he was not able to rectify the instrument or interpret what was said by the sound which a practised hand can readily do. The question, "Have you got my writing plain?" was then telegraphed, and an answer was received in the lapse of a minute that he did not get it plain enough to read. At the request of His Excellency, a message to the effect that the Exchange was opened was telegraphed, but, after waiting several minutes and no answer being received, His Excellency returned to the Exchange. Means of communication were cut off from Sydney, which proved that the gentleman was preparing to answer. He, however, did not succeed in replying and whether he was unable to rectify the defect in his instrument or believed from not being able to read the writing that all queries were at an end, we are unable to say. It was stated that, as he had cut off the circuit as if about to reply, it was impossible to send any other message to Liverpool until he had fixed the key so as to allow the communication to proceed. The main cause of the instruments not working satisfactorily in the transmission of communications from end to end arose from the fact that the instruments were hastily put up and adjusted for the opening of the Exchange. Since the trial was then made, we have learned from Mr. Lay that it was again worked and it was found that the communication was quick and uninterrupted. It is but right to state that the Telegraph was opened today by the sanction of the Government, although the arrangements were not so complete as the Controller of the Department could have wished.

The following copies of notices which appeared in the Government Gazette, January 19, 1858, are of interest:—

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Railway Department, Sydney, 19th January, 1858.


Notice is hereby given that on and after the 26th instant, the lines of Electric Telegraph between Sydney and Liverpool, and Sydney and the South Head, will, by order of the Government, be open to the public for the transmission of messages. Messages can also be transmitted between the South Head and Liverpool direct. Printed copies of the Regulations, containing the rate of charges, and other necessary information, can be obtained at the Telegraph Offices, or at the Office of the Railway Department, on and after the 23rd instant. The following offices will be open for the transmission of messages from 9 a.m. to 6 p.m. daily, Sundays excepted, till further notice:

  • Sydney Office at the Exchange.
  • South Head Office at the Signal House.
  • Liverpool Office at Railway Station.

B. H. MARTINDALE, Superintendent, Railway Department, Sydney, 19th January, 1858.


On the 26th instant, such of the Public as may be desirous of seeing the Telegraph Instruments at work, as far as practicable, be admitted into the office in the Exchange, between the hours of 9 a.m. and 6 p.m., in parties not exceeding thirty at one time. B. H. MARTINDALE, Superintendent.

Up to May, 1858, the only telegraph stations operating with Sydney were South Head and Liverpool. Campbelltown was brought into communication with Sydney on May 10, 1858, the day the Campbelltown railway was opened. Then followed Picton, Goulburn, Yass, and Gundagai. The Telegraph Service at its inception was open from 9 a.m. to 6 p.m., Sundays excepted. The first Regulations, published on March 31, 1858, contained five short paragraphs. Messages had to be written in ink on the official form. They had to be prepaid except in cases of emergency or distress, when they could be sent to be paid for by the receiver. (Regulations did not require deposit in such cases.) The charges then operating were:—

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Sydney to South Head : Ten words, 1/-; each ad- ditional ten, 1/-. Sydney to Liverpool : Ten words, 2/-; each additional ten, 1/-. Press, Id. per word. South Head to Liverpool : Ten words, 2/6; each ad- ditional ten, 1/-. Delivery within one mile of office was included in the charges. During the first six months after the introduction of telegraphs into New South Wales, 1172 messages were handled, and receipts were £233/11/9. In 1859, work was commenced on the Sydney-Bathurst and Sydney-Wiseman’s Ferry-Wollombi-West Maitland- Morpeth route. The year 1860 marked the extension of the telegraph to several important centres, the principal ones being Newcastle, West Maitland, Windsor, Bathurst, and Penrith. Another important step in telegraph development was the introduction of the Telegraph Money Order system on July 2, 1860. The Money Order Telegraph stations were Sydney, Goulburn, Yass, Gundagai, Albury, Windsor, West Maitland, Newcastle, and Bathurst. For ten years after their introduction into New South Wales, the telegraphs were controlled by the Department for Internal Communications (now Public Works), and the first Superintendent was Captain Martindale, who was also Chief Commissioner for Railways. Mr. E. C. Cracknell succeeded Captain Martindale as Superintendent of Tele- graphs in 1861. On April 13, 1861, the first telegraph line was opened for traffic in Queensland. It connected Brisbane and Ipswich, and its length was twenty-five miles. By the end of 1861, the service had been extended to Gatton, Lytton, Toowoomba, Brayton, and Warwick. In 1862, a line was in course of construction to connect Rock- hampton and Port Denison with Brisbane, and preliminary action was in progress for carrying a line across the newly opened country to some point near the Gulf of Carpentaria. By 1865, the telegraph system had extended as far north- ward as Bowen, and the total length of lines in operation

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at the end of 1865 was 1131£ miles. During the year 1865, 47,697 messages were transmitted, their value being £13,383. As in the case of South Australia, the first telegraph line in Western Australia was erected by private enterprise. It was erected between Perth and Fremantle, and was com- pleted in June, 1869, being subsequently acquired by the Government in April, 1871. This line was operated on the open circuit principle. With the extension of the system, the closed circuit method of working was subse- quently adopted. THE FIRST TELEGRAPH LINKS BETWEEN THE COLONIES. The first inter-colonial line completed was that con- necting Melbourne and Adelaide. It was opened for traffic on July 21, 1858, a few weeks after its completion. The opening of the line for public business was delayed for about two months owing to defects which developed in the six-mile length of submarine cable which formed portion of the South Australian section of the line between Pelican Point, at the entrance to the Coorong, and Mundoo Island, Goolwa, near the mouth of the Murray River. On account of frequent faults in this length of submarine cable, the route of the line in South Australia was altered in 1861 (when a second wire was erected) by taking it from Adelaide via Strathalbyn, Wellington and Meningie to the Coorong. This line was worked closed circuit morse m two sections —the first, Melbourne to Mount Gambier (338 miles) via Geelong, Ballarat, Beaufort, Warrnambool and Portland; and the second, Mount Gambier to Adelaide (320 miles) via Robe and (up to 1861) Goolwa. Traffic was normally hand-repeated at Mount Gambier, but direct working was resorted to at times when conditions were favourable. The cost of the line was approximately £19,500. . . In connection with this line, Mr. Todd, m one o± Ins reports, placed the following facts on record:— On the arrival of the English mail, there was an exciting amount of rivalry between the different newspapers in Melbourne and Sydney, great efforts being made to secure first possession of

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the line, and chapters in the Bible were sometimes put in to occupy the wires to the exclusion of other customers. For several years, even after a second wire had been provided to Melbourne and a direct inland line had been established with Sydney (indeed, up to the time of the mail steamer calling at Glenelg, in February, 1874), the Argus and Sydney Morning Herald used to send their local agent or reporter by the branch mail steamer to Albany, so that his reports might be ready to hand in immediately the mail arrived off Glenelg. In those days messages of 8,000 and 10,000 words were common. The Argus ultimately increased their reports to over 20,000 words; and on one occasion the full report published in Bell’s Life in London of the fight between Sayers and Heenan was transmitted to Melbourne and Sydney. In 1859 the pressure on our single wire was so great that a second wire became a matter of immediate necessity. This was completed by the end of 1861, the duplicate wire taking the route via Wellington; and about the same time a second wire was also put up between Melbourne and Sydney. The line which first connected Melbourne and Sydney was completed and opened for traffic on October 29, 1858. Traffic was hand-repeated at Albury, two hundred and four hundred miles from Melbourne and Sydney, respec- tively. An alternative route between Melbourne and Sydney was provided in August, 1861, by the completion of a line from Deniliquin to Gundagai, via Wagga Wagga. The question of connecting Victoria and Tasmania by telegraph formed the subject of negotiations between the Governments of these colonies in 1856, and in the following year the survey of the route across Bass Strait, first pro- posed in conjunction with a land line from Melbourne to Cape Otway, viz. : Submarine cable, Cape Otway to King Island, 49 miles; Land line across King Island, 18 miles; Submarine cable, King Island to Hunter Island, 48 miles; Land line across Hunter Island, 8 miles; Submarine cable, Hunter Island to Cape Grim, 4£ miles, was undertaken by the then Superintendent of Telegraphs for Victoria, the late Mr. S. W. McGowan. This route was subsequently altered by arranging to lay the cable from King Island to Three Hummocks Island (50 miles), thence to Circular Head (25 miles), and from Circular Head to Low Head (72 miles). Early in 1858 a contract was let for the supply and laying of approximately 240

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miles of cable, having a single copper conductor of No. 16 gauge and armouring composed of No. 8 gauge iron wires, the cable weighing altogether a little over two tons per mile. Messrs. Henleys manufactured the cable, and in reporting upon the tests he applied to it upon its completion, Mr. Latimer Clark stated, under date October 20, 1858, that "its insulation is so perfect that it will retain a visible change of electricity for several minutes, and it may be worked through with one pair of plates. " It is interesting to note that Mr. Hughes, who had then just perfected the printing telegraph that bears his name (and which is still used in Europe), passed messages through this particular cable at the rate of twenty words per minute during a series of trials at Messrs. Henleys’ works. On account of shipping delays, the cable did not reach Australia until August, 1859. After laying, it was frequently interrupted, and on April 28, 1860, communi- cation with Tasmania became completely interrupted by the failure of the section between King Island and Circular Head. Attempts at effecting repairs from a small schooner proved unsuccessful, and as the two Governments concerned did not feel disposed to incur any further expense on repairs, the cable was finally abandoned after a very short, useful life. It had cost altogether £53,000. When it is remembered that up to the date of laying this cable, onlv a few short cables (the longest 113 miles, between England and Holland) had been successfully laid and operated, and that several cables laid in European and Eastern waters had proved failures, it must be admitted that the authorities exhibited a very progressive spirit when they undertook the establishment of telegraph communication between the mainland and Tasmania in 1858. It was not until 1869 that telegraph communication with Tasmania was re-established by the laying of the Eastern Extension Telegraph Company’s cable between Flinders and Georgetown. In 1909 the Commonwealth Government laid two cables between Flinders and George- town, and since April 1, 1909, these cables have carried the telegraph traffic between Tasmania and the mainland. On November 9, 1861, Sydney and Brisbane were .connected by telegraph, the line being operated on the

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closed circuit morse system. Traffic was hand-repeated at Tenterfield, where separate New South Wales and Queens- land staffs were stationed. An inland circuit connecting Adelaide with Sydney was opened for traffic on May 1, 1867. In his annual report for 1861, Mr. Todd had advised the construction of a line of telegraph between South Australia and New South Wales, direct via Wentworth; but for want of con- certed action on the part of the two Governments the work was not sanctioned; nor was it until May 1, 1867, that through communication between Adelaide and Sydney was established by the erection of a direct line. Communi- cation between Adelaide and Wentworth had been effected since August, 1866. The South Australian section of the line passed through Blanchetown to Wentworth, where traffic was hand-repeated by separate New South Wales and South Australian staffs. From Wentworth the line extended via Deniliquin and Wagga Wagga to Sydney. Following upon the late Sir John Forrest’s successful journey from King George’s Sound round the head of the Great Australian Bight to Adelaide, arrangements were made by the South Australian and Western Australian Governments for the erection of a line of telegraph follow- ing the sea coast to connect Perth with Adelaide, via Albany and Port Augusta. After great difficulties, due to a very dry season in a waterless country, had been over- come on a section of the work round the Great Australian Bight, the South Australian section of the line was com- pleted on July 15, 1877, and in December, 1877, the western section was completed and the line opened for traffic. Iron poles were used throughout on the South Australian section of 979 miles, but in Western Australia jarrah poles were used for the whole of the distance— -1007 miles. A repeating station was established at Eucla, where separate staffs for the two States were housed. Closed circuit working was tried at first between Adelaide and Eucla, but owing to the periods of extremely low insulation experienced as the result of the adverse atmos- pheric conditions on the coast, it was abandoned in favour of the open circuit system, which gave much more satis- factory results on this particular line. Automatic re- peaters were in operation at Port Augusta, Port Lincoln,

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Streaky Bay, and Fowlers Bay on the South Australian section. The Western Australian section of the line was also worked on the open circuit principle through two or more repeaters, the intermediate stations being Albany, Bremer, Esperance, Israelite Bay, and Eyre’s Sandpatch. In 1894 this line was equipped with duplex apparatus in order to cope with the increased traffic, automatic repeaters being installed at Port Lincoln, Streaky Bay, and Fowlers Bay between Adelaide and Eucla, and at Israelite Bay and Albany between Eucla and Perth. The additional lines subsequently erected between South Australia and Western Australia followed inland routes, thereby providing circuits not nearly so subject to- periods of low insulation. OVERSEAS COMMUNICATION BY CABLE. The first proposal to connect Australia with Europe' by means of a submarine telegraph cable came from Messrs. Brett & Carmichael to the Colonial Governments in 1854. With their proposition they forwarded a chart showing: the lines originated by them in the Mediterranean Sea, and projected extensions to India, China, and Australia. Their offer was renewed in 1858. The cable was to be laid from Ceylon to the west coast of Australia in two sections con- necting at the Cocos, or Keeling, Islands. Nothing came of these proposals. Other schemes, including one from Mr. Francis Gisborne, were submitted and considered by the Colonial Governments. Mr. Gisborne visited Australia in the latter part of 1859 with a view to obtaining subsidies for the laying of a cable, in five sections, from Java to Moreton Bay (Brisbane), at an estimated cost of £BOO,OOO. The colonies were either to take over and work the lines them- selves, or guarantee to supplement the net receipts up to 6 per cent, on the capital outlay. The cable was to be of the same type, but rather heavier, as that first laid in the Ked Sea to connect Suez and Bombay; and which, like the first cable laid under the Atlantic, soon came to grief. Although negotiations proceeded between the colonies and with Mr. Gisborne and his co-partners for several years, nothing was done.

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In 1862 a prospectus was issued by the promoters of the Anglo-Australian and China Telegraph for a system of cables to connect Rangoon, Singapore, and Hong Kong, Java and Moreton Bay at an estimated cost of £2,080,000. The Australian colonies were asked to guarantee a subsidy of £50,000 per annum for thirty years. At this time, John McDouall Stuart’s successful crossing of the continent from Adelaide to the vicinity of Darwin had directed attention, particularly in South Australia, to the possibilities of an overland telegraph line from Adelaide to Port Darwin to link up with a cable extending from the latter point to East Java. Discussions continued, and alternative schemes were considered, and in 1869 the colonies had practically agreed that for overseas communication the choice of routes had been narrowed down to two, viz. : — Ist : Western.— A land line from Port Augusta (South Australia) to King George’s Sound (Albany) and Perth, thence via submarine cable to Ceylon. 2nd : Northern.— An extension of the Queensland line from Cardwell to thp Gulf of Carpentaria, Burketown or Normanton, and thence— (a) By the continuation of the land line through the Northern Territory of South Australia to Port Darwin, thence cable to East Java, or (b) By cable from Normanton or Burketown to East Java, connecting Port Darwin as an intermediate station. The route finally decided upon for the cable was that from East Java to Port Darwin, thence by land line from Port Darwin to Port Augusta. The following extract from one of Mr. Todd’s official reports shows how this route came to be finally decided upon:— In March, 1870, a letter dated June 22nd, addressed to the Governor of South Australia, was received from Admiral Sherard Osborne, R.N., Managing Director of the Telegraph Construction and Maintenance Company Limited, enclosing a prospectus of the British-Australian Telegraph Company, and stating that his company had received orders from the latter to manufacture a cable and construct a land line to connect Singapore and Burketown, the then proposed terminus of the Queensland telegraph system; but as a portion of such land line from Port Darwin, where the cable was to be landed, would pass through the Northern Territory, Commander

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Noel Osborne, R.N., as agent for the company, was to be sent out to seek the sanction of the South Australian Government for the execution of these works. In reply, the company were informed that, whilst every facility would be afforded to Commander Osborne, the Government would much prefer the construction of a telegraph line from Port Darwin to Port Augusta, then our most northern station, and that, with this view, they were prepared to submit to the Legislature a measure to authorise the entering into an agree- ment with the company for a direct line across the continent to Port Darwin, to be erected either by the company under a Govern- ment guarantee, or constructed and worked by the Government. Commander Osborne arrived in April. Mr. H. B. T. Strang- ways, then Attorney-General, had always taken a deep interest in the projected overland telegraph, and in Stuart’s explorations, as promoting its successful consummation, and after consulting with him and hearing Commander Osborne’s views, as the representative of the Cable Company, in a full report on the subject I wrote:— ‘* A careful consideration of the whole question induces me to recommend that the Government should undertake to introduce a measure, immediately after the new Parliament meets, for providing, by means of a loan, for the construction at once of a line of telegraph from Port Augusta to Port Darwin, Commander Osborne guaranteeing, on the part of his company, to terminate the cable there. This, I understand, Commander Osborne would be quite willing to do, or at least to recommend to the British-Australian Company, with whom he would communicate, to save time, by the Indo-European telegraph next mail. 11 To remove all cause for jealousy, as well as to provide an alternative line, Queensland should be invited to connect with us at some convenient point, and this, in my opinion, would be far better than having a central station at Cooper’s Creek with radiating lines to each capital, as has been suggested, but which I have shown to involve a useless expenditure of money." (P.P. 24, 1870.) It was finally determined that the Government should undertake the construction of the line to Port Darwin, to be completed by the Ist January, 1872, and the company agreed to lay and complete, by the same date, a cable from Singapore to Batavia, and from Banjoewangie to Port Darwin, the two sections to be connected by an intermediate land line through Java, to be constructed by the Government of Netherlands India. A Bill was accordingly introduced and passed, authorising a preliminary loan of £120,000 for the land line. The Government further undertook to provide a site for the Cable Company’s office and quarters for staff at Palmerston, and agreed to erebt the buildings at the expense of- the company. The laying of the cable from Java to Port Darwin was completed on November 20, 1871, but on account of the contractors for the northern section of the land line failing to complete their work, and a very heavy rainy season in the Northern Territory, the completion of the

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overland line was delayed until August 22, 1872. Owing to the failure of the cable from June 23 to October 30, 1872, regular overseas communication was not actually established until the latter date. The construction of the overland telegraph line from Adelaide to Port Darwin is the largest work of its kind ever undertaken in Australia, and its story is very interest- ing, but far too long to tell in this paper. The 1975-mile line was erected in two years, despite the many difficulties that had to be overcome. The conductor was a No. 8 gauge galvanised iron wire supported on wooden poles. On account of the ravages of white ants and bush fires, the line was re-poled throughout with iron poles shortly after its completion, and the total cost of the work, including this re-poling, amounted to approximately £520,000. Closed circuit morse was employed for working the line, and it was at first operated normally in two sections, traffic being repeated manually at Alice Springs. The section from Adelaide to Alice Springs (1036 miles) was for some time worked direct with large main batteries connected in circuit at intermediate stations. The northern section (939 miles) worked through a "barrel" repeater at Daly Waters. This repeater required the continuous presence of an attendant for the purpose of moving the barrel switch according to the direction of transmission. Several of these barrel repeaters were subsequently installed at intermediate stations, and Adelaide and Darwin used to work direct through three or more of them according to the condition of the circuit. One of the disadvantages of this class of repeater obtruded itself occasionally when a switch attendant happened to fall asleep whilst on duty. In 1898, the closed circuit simplex method of working was superseded by the double current duplex with automatic repeaters at Hergott Springs, Alice Springs, and Powell’s Creek and Daly Waters alternatively. In order to reduce the severe disturbances due to lightning on the section of the line in the tropics, Sir Charles Todd, some time after the completion of the line, had pieces of wire known as "pendants’’ attached to the line wire at the insulators, and bent down over the latter to within a quarter of an inch of the ring or ferrule at

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the top of the iron pole. These pendants provided dis- charge paths for the worst of the lightning that reached the line, and, whilst they effected an improvement, they introduced other troubles. One of these was the earthing of the line in the rainy season on the 500-mile section between Powell’s Creek and Darwin by climbing frogs. These frogs would become electrocuted between the end of the pendant and the pole, and, remaining across the gap, would effectively earth the line until they were either removed or dried up by the combined effects of the current and the sun. In 1899, the erection of a second line consisting of No. 10 gauge copper was completed between Adelaide and Darwin, at a cost of £50,000 approximately. A duplicate cable from Java to Port Darwin was laid in 1879, the company receiving a Government subsidy of £32,400 per annum for twenty years for maintaining and operating this second cable. In April, 1889, a cable was laid between Broome in Western Australia and Java. Land lines connected Broome with Perth and the Eastern States. The use of this cable was discontinued in 1914, thirteen years after the new cable from Perth via Cocos Island and South Africa had been brought into operation in 1901 by the Eastern Extension Company. In July, 1898, a conference of representatives of Great Britain, Canada, New South Wales, Victoria, Queensland, South Australia, and New Zealand was held for the purpose of considering a project for a cable to be laid across the Pacific Ocean, touching only British territory on its way from Australia to Canada, thus providing an "All Red route, as it is termed, for a cable system between England and Australia. Financial and other arrangements were finally agreed upon, and the Australian shore end of the cable was landed at Southport, Queensland, in March, 1902, the cable being completed and opened for use on November 3, 1902. A branch cable from one of the intermediate stations, Norfolk Island, gave Australia an additional cable link with New Zealand. On February 20, 1878, the first cable connecting Australia with New Zealand was brought into service by

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the Eastern Extension Company. The Australian terminal of this cable was at La Perouse. A second cable to New Zealand was laid in 1890. A cable connecting Queensland with New Caledonia was opened on October 18, 1893. It is interesting to note that when overseas communi- cation was first established with England in 1872, the ordinary rate was nine guineas for twenty words. When word rates were brought into general use in 1875 the rate became ten shillings and eightpence per word. This is more than five times the present tariff for cables to England. OVERSEAS COMMUNICATION BY RADIO. The first Legislative Act in the history of Wireless in Australia was the Wireless Telegraphy Act of October 18, 1905. It was based on a similar Act passed in England in 1904. Prior to the passing of this Act, the Post Office Authorities in 1903 considered the use of wireless for communication between Victoria and Tasmania; but it was decided that wireless had not then reached such perfection as to enable consideration to be given to it as a competing system with cables for commercial telegraphy. As far back as 1896 various experimenters were interesting themselves in wireless, and it is recorded that a wireless greeting was transmitted in 1901 to the present King when he was outside Port Phillip Heads en route to Melbourne. In 1905 engineers of the Marconi Company, London, erected stations in Devonport, Tasmania, and Point Lonsdale, Victoria, and conducted experiments. In 1907, a conference consisting of Admiral Henderson and representatives of the Defence Department and Post master-General’s Department recommended the estab- lishment of stations at Sydney, Cape York, Port Moresby, Torres Strait, together with stations later on at Wilson’s Promontory, Fremantle, Cape Leeuwin, North Coast of Tasmania, and Geraldton. In March, 1908, the Postmaster-General invited tenders for the installation of stations at Cape York, Thursday

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Island, Goode Island, Port Moresby, and Fremantle. Five tenders were received, but it was decided not to accept any of them. In 1909, the following resolution was approved by the Federal Parliament:— This House is of opinion that Wireless Telegraphic Stations should be immediately established as found desirable around the Coasts of Australia, and that our Merchant Marine should be equipped with Wireless Installations as an up-to-date means—- (1) Of gaining intelligence of the appearance in Australian waters of a hostile force. (2) Of saving life and property imperilled by accidents upon the sea. In 1909, the Postmaster-General’s Department invited tenders for the erection of stations at Sydney and Perth. On August 4, 1911, the Postmaster-General appointed the first Wireless Officer, Mr. J. G. Balsillie, who was placed in charge of the Commonwealth Wireless activities except- ing Defence Services. The Sydney Station was opened on August 19, 1912, and the Perth Station on November 30, 1912. Prior to the opening of these stations, permits were granted in 1911 to the Australasian Wireless Company for operating a station at the Australia Hotel, Sydney, and to Father Shaw for stations at Randwick, Sydney, and King Island. The Australia Hotel Station was the first station to conduct regular ship traffic, and was closed when the main Sydney Station was opened in 1912. The King Island Station was closed on the introduction of the Commonwealth’s own commercial system a few years later. The erection of a chain of nineteen coastal radio stations had been completed by May, 1914, and during 1915 seven stations were erected in Papua and New Guinea. The Australian coastal stations handle overseas traffic to and from ships at sea and Commonwealth traffic to' and from Flinders Island, King Island, Lord Howe Island, and the Mandated Territories. These stations are at present operated for the Commonwealth by Amalgamated Wireless (Australasia) Limited. The direct overseas radio telegraph service between Australia and England (the Beam service) was opened for traffic on April 8, 1927. The Australian sending and

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receiving stations for this service are located, respectively, at Ballan and Rockbank, near Melbourne. The Beam service direct to Montreal, Canada, which is operated from the same terminal points in Australia, was opened for service in June, 1928. These services are operated by Amalgamated Wireless (Australasia) Limited in conjunc- tion with the Commonwealth Government. CHRONOLOGY OF THE MORE IMPORTANT DEVELOP- MENTS IN THE AUSTRALIAN INLAND TELEGRAPH SERVICE. 1860.—Telegraph Money Order Service introduced between Sydney and certain country towns. 1867. —Control of the Telegraph Department in New South Wales passed from the Minister for Public Works to the Postmaster-General; but the Telegraph, Post Office and Money Order remained separate departments, each having its own permanent head. 1868. —Telegraph Department in Victoria combined with the Post Office under one permanent head. 1874.—The Wheatstone system, which employs a per- forated tape and high speed automatic transmitter for transmission and a receiver which records the Morse characters in ink on a paper slip, was first tried out in Australia in 1874, but abandoned after trials extending over approximately two years. 1876.—Duplex telegraphy, that is, the sending of two messages simultaneously, one in each direction, over the one wire, was carried out experimentally in Victoria in 1874. The first line to be regularly worked on this system was between Adelaide and Port Adelaide (South Australia) in 1876. 1878.—The quadruplex system, i.e., the simultaneous transmission of four messages over the one wire, two in each direction, was first introduced into Australia in 1878 on the line connecting Melbourne and Sydney. This system was in operation on all main lines in Australia for many years, until it was supplanted by the Wheatstone automatic system. 1880.—Manual repetition of telegraph traffic between Melbourne and Sydney at Albany, and between Sydney

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and Brisbane at Tenterfield, ceased upon the introduction of automatic repeaters. 1893. —Telegraph, Postal, and Money Order Depart- ments in New South Wales combined under one permanent head, who was given the title of Deputy Postmaster- General. 1894. Pneumatic tubes for the despatch and receipt of telegrams between chief offices and city branch offices were first introduced (in Melbourne). 1895. Typewriters (owned by telegraph operators) began to make their appearance in the chief telegraph offices. 1897.—The Continental (or universal) Morse Code introduced throughout Australia. Codes used in the Australian colonies were not uniform throughout prior to this. 1902. —Commonwealth Telegraph rates. Minimum for sixteen words : Suburban, sixpence; within a State, ninepence; between States, one shilling. 1904.—A commencement was made in the general use of telegraph lines throughout the Commonwealth for dual purposes (simultaneous telegraphy and telephony), in order to provide trunk telephone service to country towns. 1907. Owing to the quadruplexes on the main routes proving insufficient to carry the increased traffic, the Wheatstone machine system was re-introduced with more modern apparatus, including keyboard perforators. 1909. —The replacement of primary batteries by secon- dary batteries and power plants commenced. Two submarine telegraph cables provided and operated by the Postmaster-General’s Department between the main- land and Tasmania in lieu of the Eastern Extension Company’s cables previously in use for Commonwealth telegraph traffic. Manual repetition of telegraphic traffic between Western Australia and the Eastern States ceased at Eucla following upon the installation of high speed automatic Wheatstone repeaters. 1912-13.—The Wheatstone system was improved by the addition of Creed reperforators and printers.

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The reperforators eliminated the manual repetition at Adelaide of telegraph traffic between Western Australia and the Eastern States. 1914. —Final action was taken to abolish generally the use of tape recorders and registers at all offices in the Commonwealth. A few were allowed to remain to meet special cases. Their abolition in the chief offices had taken place many years earlier. Lettergram service introduced—forty words for one shilling, halfpenny each additional word. Owing to the growth of telegraph traffic and shortage of line accommodation, the policy of establishing telegraph traffic centres at suitably located large country towns was inaugurated. 1915. —The Department introduced typewriters as de- partmental equipment for the reception of telegrams on all the busier Morse circuits. 1919. —Texts of lettergrams restricted to matters of domestic nature. 1920. —lnland telegraph rates increased to ninepence, one shilling, and one shilling and fourpence for a minimum of sixteen words for suburban, within a State and inter- state telegrams, respectively. 1922. —The Murray Multiplex, a machine system which enables the one line to be used for eight transmissions, four in each direction, at a speed of fifty words for each trans- mission, was first introduced in lieu of the Wheatstone, over which it possesses many advantages. It is now in use throughout the Commonwealth on all important circuits. For transmission, traffic is punched upon a paper slip by means of a keyboard perforator. Inward traffic is received on a page printer. The Teletype, an instrument having direct keyboard transmission and page printer reception, was introduced for service between chief telegraph offices and the larger country centres. 1923. —Lettergram tariff increased to thirty words for one shilling and threepence; halfpenny for each additional word. 1924. —Restriction limiting texts of lettergrams to domestic matters removed.

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1925. —lnland radio telegraph service between Camoo- weal, Queensland, and Wave Hill and Brunette Downs in North Australia inaugurated. 1926. Complete re-organisation of the Commonwealth Telegraph system commenced. Chief telegraph offices have since been modernised by the introduction of the latest methods and equipment, including belt conveyors, catapult carriers, additional pneumatic tubes, etc. 1927. High frequency telegraph carrier systems super- posed on telephone trunk lines were first introduced on the interstate routes in February, 1927. All inter-capital machine circuits on the mainland are now operated oyer carrier channels, the longest circuit working direct being Sydney to Perth, 2700 miles. Phonogram system for the acceptance and delivery of telegrams by telephone introduced. 1929.—With increased facilities following upon the introduction of telegraph carrier systems, and additional derived telegraph channels from new telephone trunk lines, the abolition of country telegraph traffic centres com- menced. Their abolition enabled substantial economies in working costs to be effected, together with an improved grade of telegraph service. Picturegram service inaugurated between Melbourne and Sydney on September 9. Special telegram forms for Christmas and New Year greetings introduced. 1931.—Direct multiplex working over carrier channels between Sydney and Perth (2700 miles) was introduced. At the time, this was the longest known multiplex circuit operated over high frequency telegraph channels. 1934.—General introduction of teleprinter services for leased or private telegraph channels commenced. Specially designed and coloured telegram forms for Mothers’ Day, Congratulatory Messages and Birthday Greetings introduced. 1858-1934.—Prior to 1870, it cost nine shillings to send a telegram of ten words (exclusive of address and signa- ture) from Sydney to Adelaide, and users of the service considered themselves very fortunate to receive a reply to a telegram on the same day.

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In 1934, a telegram of sixteen words, including address and signature, can be sent from Sydney to Perth for one shilling and fourpence; and if the sender and addressee use the phonogram service for the despatch and receipt of their telegrams, it is not uncommon for a reply to be received from Perth within thirty minutes.