The Overland Telegraph Line. (OTL)
With the news of a submarine cable to be laid between the existing line at Suva, and Darwin in the far north of Australia it was decided to build an overland telegraph line between Adelaide and Darwin. Connecting Adelaide and the rest of Australia, through Darwin, with England and Europe by means of a single wire in 1872, was one of the greatest engineering achievements of the nineteenth century.
It was completed in less than two years by South Australians, under the direction of Charles Todd, who was the Post Master General of SA at that time. It turned out to be a top business deal and a political triumph.
The Alice Springs repeater station shown here as it was in 1908, it is maintained by the NPWS and is in pristine condition to this day.
The total cost of the line, including its eleven repeater stations came to $676,120.00 The line made it possible, and assisted in the opening up and settlement of Central Australia.
It was instrumental in the start of both the gold mining and pastoral industries of the Northern Territory. Almost all suitable grazing land along the line was taken up by the 1890s.
The line was a single galvanised iron wire which connected Australia with the rest of the world, In 1899 a second wire was added but this time it was a copper wire, In 1941 a second copper wire was added.
This system was still in use during WW2 and the rest of Australia learned of the bombing of Darwin by the Japanese via the OTL.
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 galvanized 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.
This photo taken in 1996 shows one of the few remaining wooden poles, there are none left now.
There are many reminders of Charles Todd and his wife Alice in the central Australian town of Alice Springs, these include;
Todd Mall, Todd Street, Charles River, and the Todd River are all named after him,
Alice Springs, Alice Well, and Alice Lodge are named after his wife, Alice.