One of the more important events in the history of the Cape York region was the opening of the overland telegraph line in 1887, which linked Brisbane as the capital with Queensland’s northern outposts as well as the rest of the world. This vital communication link, stretching from Laura at the southern end of the Peninsula to Thursday Island, was to operate for some forty years until it closed in 1929.
The construction of the line was to be a major undertaking, commencing with the initial surveying expedition in 1883, led by John Bradfield, which was to take more than two years to complete. The actual construction work involved the clearing of a corridor approximately two chains wide, or around forty metres, with specially manufactured galvanised iron poles used to support the line. Once the telegraph line was completed, on-going maintenance was important with gangs of telegraph linesmen dedicated to its upkeep.
A number of stations were constructed along the length of the line including Fairview, Musgrave, Coen, Mein, Moreton, McDonnell and Paterson, all of which were to act as important links and bases for the operation and maintenance of the line.
This photograph, taken in around 1896, shows the main telegraph station building at Musgrave only some eight or nine years after the opening of the line. This building would have been similar in construction to the other telegraph station buildings along the line, with this image showing well established gardens and fences as well as a wide veranda, with a comfortable looking rocking chair, to catch the prevailing breezes. With the exception of the main Musgrave telegraph station building, all have since been demolished, with the surviving portions of this building now forming part of the well known Musgrave Roadhouse.
In acknowledgement of the Musgrave telegraph station building’s importance to Queensland’s history and development, it is now listed on the Queensland Heritage Register.
Brian Randall – Queensland Places Coordinator, State Library of Queensland.