Pictures from OZ (Mortuary Station)

Discussion in 'Photos & Videos' started by Woodie, Sep 24, 2001.

  1. Woodie

    Woodie Active Member

    In the 1850s it became obvious that the cemeteries in Sydney's centre had to be closed, "due to problems of space, land availability, costs and hygiene". In the early 1860s an area of 250 acres at Haslem's Creek was procured from its Jewish owner "for a major Metropolitan cemetery, to be named 'The Necropolis', ie 'The City of the Dead'. It was named 'The Rookwood Cemetery'.

    The new cemetery was nearly seventeen kilometres from the city. Since the roads were in poor condition, it took the horse-drawn funerals a long time to travel to and from the new cemetery. It was recorded that "one must set aside an entire day to attend a funeral". Fortuitously, the Sydney to Parramatta railway passed nearby Rookwood, so a short spur-line was constructed from Haslem's Creek station into the cemetery. This track was handed over on November 22, 1864. From January 1, 1865, a regular morning and afternoon funeral train ran from Sydney. It would stop at any station en-route, by pre-arrangement, to take on coffins and "friends".

    ln order to dignify these rail-borne funerals, it was decided that more elaborate shelters than the standard corrugated iron and timber platform shelters should be built. Designated as "Necropolis Receiving Houses" they were erected on the platforms in the cemetery and at Regent Street Stations, (also known as the Sydney Central Mortuary Station). The building at Regent Street was topped by a spired bellcote (but had no bell). With an admirable display of sensitivity, nothing specifically relating to any creed or denomination was displayed in either building. As a result, the Receiving Houses were quite acceptable to all strands of Christianity and to the several non-Christian faiths.

    There were two types of hearse carriages: the smaller four-wheeled van carried up to ten coffins on upper and lower shelves, each shelf opening out to the platform; the larger eight-wheeled van had a capacity of thirty coffins. These hearse-vans were always attached at the rear of the train.

    On the front of the engine was a large sign reading "FUNERAL". As the train approached each station, the driver tolled his bell and slowed down. Menfolk on the platform and railway employees would doff their hats while the train passed.

    At Regent Street, when funerals were to proceed, the coffins were loaded onto the shelves in the hearse van, which stood waiting alongside the platform in the normal manner. The "friends" would then take their seats in the carriages.

    The rail facility saw its greatest utilisation around 1900. By the 1920s improved roads and cars with pneumatic tyres allowed motorised funerals to take over and buses carried the greater numbers of visitors on week-ends. By 1930, the service had ceased "except for visitors on Sundays and Mothers' Days". It was revived during World War II, due to the problems of petrol rationing, but was rarely used after and on April 3, 1948 the service terminated. The rails were pulled up and the spur into Rookwood Cemetery was recorded as "closed December 29, 1948".


    The building at Regent Street Station experienced a long period of neglect and abuse after its original function came to an end. It is recorded as having been used "for the despatch of horses, dogs, poultry and parcels", as a tool-shed for the rail fettlers, and also to have stood idle for years. Then it was renovated and the surrounds were landscaped to house a proposed railway museum. Instead, it became a tea-room. Now it is hired out by the Railway Department as a popular venue for weddings, receptions, and promotions – particularly book launches. For dinners and for refreshments, two dining carriages are parked at the station when required.

    Mortuary Station remains as a memorial to multitudes of Sydney's departed, who travelled to their final resting place along the Mortuary Railway Train Line to Rookwood.

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  2. Woodie

    Woodie Active Member

    Mortuary Station

    The platform of Mortuary Station

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  3. Woodie

    Woodie Active Member

    Mortuary Station

    A view of the orante timber ceiling covering the platform

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  4. Woodie

    Woodie Active Member

    Mortuary Station

    Mortuary Station viewed from the yards of Sydney' Central Station.

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  5. Sir_Prize

    Sir_Prize Member

    What are the hours for your tours?:p
    Really though, enjoyed the insight on an unusual bit of history (Rail, Country, etc.) Reminds of when I went to France with my parents near Christmas. We were in Notra Dame (spelling?) and the tour guide pointed out that I (only seven at the time) was standing on Edger Allen Poe's hearts burial spot. Now having had a Heart Catherazition earlier that year; hearing this gave me a bit of the 'willies.' To keep on topic of the site.... Hamley's has a really awesome train setup on the 'railings', on the second floor (?). The whole thing was cool though. Anyways... Thanks for the share!:D

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