The construction of the telegraph line was a mammoth undertaking, but crucial to Australia as a nation. It meant that communications to the wider world (particularly to the Mother Country), need not take months, but hours. The line was build through the middle of the country, from Adelaide to Darwin, where it met with an undersea cable to Indonesia (or the Dutch East Indies, as it was then called).
Camels were used to haul gear – and they needed handlers – hence Afghani, Pakistani and Indian cameleers came with the camels. It took a couple of goes to get the materials right – the earlier wooden poles were chewed to the ground by termites!
There were no satellites back then, so the signal needed to be relayed after a distance. A series of relay stations were established, and Alice Springs was one of them.
Afterwards, the line had to be maintained. So a whole army of men, called linesmen, were dispatched along the line to inspect and maintain it in shifts. What a job they had, especially in the desert summer heat.
Black and white relations in the Red Centre has a chequered history, like in much of Australia, but it wasn’t all bad. This stationmaster had a particular respect for indigenous people and culture and went on to write a book about it.