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Overland Telegraph Line: Home

History

The completion of the Overland Telegraph Line on 22 August, 1872 spelled the start of a new era of communication for Colonial Australia, but came at the end of more than ten years of exploration, planning and construction. 

The following resources provide researchers with an opportunity to sample first-hand accounts, discover contemporary coverage of events, and survey the many works that consider the place of the Overland Telegraph Line in the history of Australia.

Online resources

John McDouall Stuart

Between 1958-1862 Stuart led six expeditions culminating in the successful crossing of Australia from south to north, through the centre of the continent. His surveys formed the basis of the route subsequently chosen for the Overland Telegraph. 

Primacy sources in the State Library's collection

Diary of W.A. Crowder. D 8065/1 Member of the Overland Telegraph Line construction party. Read online as a manuscript or transcript.

Diary of Walter Rutt D 2575. Overseer of the Overland Telegraph Construction Party, Section 1. Read online.

Diary of Thomas Smith. PRG 198/1. Records construction work on the Overland Telegraph Line to Port Darwin, 1870-1872. Read online.
An ‘elaborated’ version, PRG 198/2, can be read here.

Private diaries of R.C. Patterson. D 8103. Daily activities of the Overland Telegraph construction team, 1871- 1872. Read online.

Diary of Livingston Chalmers. D 8057. A member of the Overland Telegraph construction party, September 1871 - October 1872. Read online.

Diary of Charles Johnston. D 7265. Station master at the Daly Waters telegraph station. Read online.

Diary of E.C. Rix D 3463. Medical Officer with the Overland Telegraph party working south of Darwin, 1870. Read online.

Diary of JP Rowe, PRG 87/1. Diary of inspection journey of Overland Telegraph, Darwin to Adelaide, 1916-1917 by Postmaster-General engineer J.P. Rowe. Read online

Diaries of Dr Frederick Emil Renner. Attached to the Overland Telegraph construction works as a medical officer.
D 7919/2-3. Read online as a manuscript or a transcript
D 7919/4-5Read online as a manuscript or a transcript.
D 7919/6-7Read online as a manuscript or a transcript.
D 7919/8-9. Read online as a manuscript or a transcript

Diary of journey from Adelaide to Alice Springs. D 8499. 1871 journey with stores and equipment for the Overland Telegraph, written by Edwin John Harris. Read online as a manuscript or a transcript.

Published accounts

These are a sample of some of the more comprehensive or unique material we hold.
Search our catalogue with the subject Overland Telegraph Line N T And S A for more. 

Calder, George. Stirring events ashore and afloat, 1897.

Cameron, AR. The story of the Overland Telegraph Line : [a lecture], 1932.

Centenary of completion of the Overland Telegraph Line on August 22nd, 1872, 1972.

Clune, Frank, Overland telegraph : the story of a great Australian achievement and the link between Adelaide and Port Darwin, 1955.

Crouch, Andrew. Building the line : the construction of the Overland Telegraph Line, 2020.

Cryle, Denis. Behind the legend : the many worlds of Charles Todd, 2017. Pt.II. 'The 'great work' and its aftermath' (1870-73).

Giles, Alfred. Exploring in the 'seventies and the construction of the Overland Telegraph Line, c. 1926.

Gooley, MJ. The construction of the Overland Telegraph Line : Port Augusta to Darwin, 1972.

Livingston, KT. The Wired Nation Continent: The Communication Revolution and Federating Australia, 1996. 

Mills, Elliott Whitfield. W. Whitfield Mills : experiences with Darwin survey & overland telegraph parties and discovery of Alice Spring, from SA to WA by camel., 1993.

O’Brien, JE. A pioneer of the overland telegraph, 1969.

Pugh, Derek. Twenty to the mile : the Overland Telegraph Line, 2022.

Renner, Frederick. The Renner diaries, 1983.

Richards, JB. The Overland Telegraph Line : its early history, 1914

Taylor, Peter. An end to silence : the building of the Overland Telegraph Line from Adelaide to Darwin, 1980.

The centenary of the Adelaide-Darwin overland telegraph line : papers presented to a symposium, 1972.

Thomson, Alice. The singing line, 1999.

Photographs

Bob Carew PRG 1365/1/133

To find State Library photographs

Search for keywords ‘Overland Telegraph’
Select 'Pictorial' from the drop down menu

Browse list of relevant results and click link to view images   

Or
Go to the Collections site
Search on Overland Telegraph or just telegraph, to find relevant images
Note that results will be less precise than first method, but easier to browse

Maps

C 17. Map of South Australia, showing the line of telegraph across the  continent to the Northern Territory, 1871. View online.

C 1091. Surveyor Plan shewing the Adelaide and Port Darwin telegraph line, 1873. View online.

C 54. Plan of the Northern Territory annexed to South Australia, c. 1871. View online.

C 90. Rough sketch of route travelled by Mr. Ross under direction of Charles Todd, c. 1871. View online

Search our catalogue with the subject Overland Telegraph Line N T And S A Maps for more examples. 

Newspaper articles

The Manning Index of South Australian history lists newspaper articles written during the telegraph’s planning and construction, as well as historical reflections in the years that followed. You can use this list as a basis for finding relevant articles in Trove

For example. ‘The Overland Telegraph’ in The Express and Telegraph, 25 June 1872, p. 2.

The OT150 website also offers a selection of significant newspaper articles.