Coen Telephone Carrier Station

Coen Telephone Repeater Station

Radar/signal station
North and Cape York

Coleman Close, Coen 4870

Located at the junction of the Coen River and Lankelly Creek, the wartime telephone carrier station standing next to the site of the original telegraph station of 1886, was a crucial link in military communications during World War II. The prefabricated steel frame building was erected in 1942 as part of an urgent upgrading of the Cape York telegraph line in response to the threat of Japanese invasion. It was one of four prefabricated telephone (or voice) carrier stations erected between Cape York and Mount Surprise. The work of upgrading telecommunications on Cape York Peninsula began in August 1942, a major undertaking involving the US Army Signal Corps, the Australian Army and the Postmaster-General’s Department.


In 1883 the Queensland Government, concerned about German imperialism in New Guinea, decided to annex Papua, much to the consternation of the British Government, and communication with Cape York and the Torres Strait took on a new importance. A party led by John Bradford left Cooktown in June to survey a telegraph route to Thursday Island. The first camp north of Laura, was soon to be the site of Fairview Telegraph Office. Bradford left the Cooktown-Palmerville telegraph line at this point and headed north for the abandoned Coen Goldfield. In 1885 tenders were called for construction of the line in two sections. Telegraph offices were constructed at Fairview, Musgrave, Coen, Mein, Moreton, McDonnell (Cockatoo Creek) and Paterson (Cape York). Events in early 1942 after the outbreak of war with Japan highlighted the need for improved telephone facilities linking Townsville with Thursday Island and Horn Island.

In the mid-1950s improvements in the system enabled the Coen telephone exchange to be moved to a store in the town’s main street, although working equipment remained in the telegraph station and in the carrier station. By the late 1960s the Coen Telegraph Office of 1886 had become redundant and was removed to Rokeby homestead. In 1982 a broadband radio system was in service as far as Coen and the installation of an automatic exchange at Coen was made possible. Broadband was extended to Thursday Island in 1987 and the open-wire line north of Coen was abandoned. Following completion of the broadband system, the building was used to accommodate Telecom personnel working in the region, but has been unoccupied since 1990. The building is now part of the Queensland National Parks ranger station.


Pearce, Howard (contributing author).

Coen Carrier Station, Queensland Heritage Register place ID: 601485, Brisbane.

Howard Pearce (Ed.) Heritage Trails of the Tropical North: A heritage tour guide to far north Queensland, Environmental Protection Agency, Brisbane, 2001.

Howard Pearce. WWII: NQ: A cultural heritage overview of significant places in the defence of north Queensland during World War II. Environmental Protection Agency, Brisbane, 2009.