The end of the line – Sydney’s mortuary train stations

IMG_2973Just as every life has a start and an end, so too does a railway line.

Given that my last post (here) talked about a train station that used to be at Sydney’s Rookwood Cemetery (and is now a church in Canberra), it makes sense that there was also a mortuary receiving station in the centre of Sydney from which mourners would depart with the coffin on their journey to the cemetery.

The station was built in 1868-69 near Central Station on Regent Street in the neo-gothic style and serviced other cemeteries, as well as Rookwood. It is now a rare surviving example of a mortuary station still in its original location and is apparently unique in Australia.

Regent Street Mortuary Station track side(Unfortunately these mortuary stations may have taken their titles a bit too seriously and turned out to be the end of the line for a few mourners who were tragically killed by trains early last century. See the news clippings in these posts about Regent St and Rookwood.)

The last funeral train left Regent Street for Rookwood in 1938 and the station became a platform for animals, such as horses and dogs, from 1938 and parcels from 1950.

However, trains continued to transport mourners (if not coffins) from the main Central Station to Rookwood for the next ten years – especially during the war due to petrol rationing.

The Regent Street Station was restored by the State Rail Authority in 1981 and has since been used as a restaurant called the Magic Mortuary and as a venue for launching train-related special events and displays, as well as being hired out for weddings, parties and other celebrations.

IMG_2994(The idea of celebrating at the station was not new – with funeral wakes sometimes starting on the way to the cemetery and ending with drunk mourners being carried back to the train on a litter (stretcher or other hand-powered wheelless vehicle) that had just been used to carry the coffin (and possibly food and drinks) to the grave.

In such cases, beer and spirits – and perhaps some sherry for the ladies? – would have been loaded onto the train with meat pies, seafood, chicken, sausages, cheese, bread rolls and other food in preparation for a big send off.

After the feast at the graveside, bones, shells and other leftovers and empty bottles were apparently thrown into the grave before the soil was replaced. I wonder what archeologists will make of this practice in the future! It also adds a whole new dimension to the term ‘funeral litter‘.)

Further repairs to the Regent Street Station were undertaken in 2012 and it now awaits its next life.

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Regent Street Mortuary_station_detail

Photos:

Sources:



Categories: Cemeteries

Tags: , , , , , , , , , ,

2 replies

  1. Mortuary Station was used occasionally for heritage (i.e. steam) trains during the 1990’s too. Until the platform was shortened. It has been used in a number of movies / tv shows too.
    Having a feast around a grave and leaving the remnants in the grave was common in ancient times. Nice to know the tradition continued into relatively recent times :).

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