Alice Springs Telegrah Station Historical Reserve

This excellent collection of historic buildings marks the original site of the first European settlement in Alice Springs. Established in 1872 to relay messages between Darwin and Adelaide, it is the best preserved of the 12 stations along the Overland Telegraph Line. The Station operated for 60 years, then served as a school for Aboriginal children. The township of Alice Springs takes its name from the waterhole nearby.

The Alice Springs Telegraph Station Historical Reserve preserves the original stone buildings of The Telegraph Station, which have been restored with furnishings and artefacts from the early 1900s. It gives a rare insight into life in Central Australia over 100 years ago. Wander through the grounds and buildings and use the special franking stamp to post a letter at the post office. Set against the magnificent MacDonnell Ranges, the reserve is also a popular place for a walk, picnic and watching wildlife.

The Alice Springs Telegraph Station is the best preserved of the 12 stations along the Overland Telegraph Line, which was established in 1872 to relay messages between Darwin and Adelaide. All the original buildings have survived and have been furnished appropriately.

Location: 4km north of Alice Springs along the Stuart Highway. The reserve is accessible by two-wheel drive vehicle. There's a walking or cycling track into the reserve from the Stuart highway and the Todd River, or you could join the hop-on, hop-off Alice Wanderer bus.

Entry to the reserve is free but an entry fee applies to the historic precinct and includes a tour.Ph (08) 8951 8250.

The Overland Telegraph Line

Connecting Adelaide and the rest of Australia, through Darwin, with England by means of a single wire in 1872, was one of the greatest engineering achievements of the nineteenth century. It was completed by South Australians, under the direction of Charles Todd, in less than two years. It turned out to be a top business deal and a political triumph.

The Australian Overland Telegraph Line was a 3200 km telegraph line that connected Darwin with Port Augusta in South Australia. Completed in 1872 the Overland Telegraph Line allowed fast communication between Australia and the rest of the world. An additional section was added in 1877 with the completion of the Western Australian section of the line. It was one of the great engineering feats of 19th century Australia[1] and probably the most significant milestone in Australia's telegraphic history.

The South Australian Superintendent of Telegraphs, Charles Todd, was appointed head of the project, and devised a timetable to complete the immense project on schedule. Todd had built South Australia's first telegraph line and extended it to Melbourne. The contract stipulated a total cost of no more than ?128,000 and two years' construction time. He divided the route into three regions: northern and southern sections to be handled by private contractors, and a central section which would be constructed by his own department. The telegraph line would comprise more than 30,000 wrought iron poles, insulators, batteries, wire and other equipment, ordered from England. The poles were placed 80 m apart and repeater stations built every 250 km.

The line was erected in two sections - from Darwin south, and from Port Augusta north. Running more than seven months late, the two lines were finally joined at Frew's Ponds on Thursday, 22 August 1872. The line proved immediate successful in opening the Northern Territory; gold discoveries were made in several places along the northern section (in particular Pine Creek), and the repeater stations in the MacDonnell Ranges proved invaluable starting points for explorers like Ernest Giles, W. C. Gosse, and Peter Egerton-Warburton who were heading west.

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The final stage of connecting Australia to the world was begun in 1875 when the Western Australian and South Australian governments agreed to build a line across the Nullarbor plain. This equally challenging project was completed in 1877. Around 1871, a second cable connected Java with an overland line from Perth to Roebuck Bay. When Darwin was bombed in World War II the line was deliberately cut just before the attack.

The original route was based on the discoveries of explorer John McDouall Stuart (1858-62) and the poles were made from termite resistant Cyprus Pine. Soon after construction was completed many of the original wooden OTL poles were replaced with galvanised steel Oppenheimer Poles and then, with the completion of the Ghan Railway as far as Oodnadatta in 1891, the entire original OTL was realigned along the railway. Few relics of the Telegraph Line still exist along its original path - mainly the remains of the line's eleven repeater stations and the occasional stump of a cypress pine telegraph pole. Another relic, located some seven km north of Oodnadatta, is what is called the Angle Pole - the name given to the corner pole where the line changed to a more northerly direction.

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