When Sydney’s cemetery reached capacity in the late 1860s, Mortuary Station was built to provide access to a new site. Image Credit: courtesy of the Australian Railway Heritage Society
Funeral trains no longer steam through Sydney, but Mortuary Station remains a haunting reminder of times past.
19th century, mourners would congregate at Mortuary Station, in central Sydney. Twice a day, the city’s funeral train would rumble in towards the platform, through a series of ornate sandstone arches.
Coffins would be loaded into special hearse carriages, while suit-clad men, and women dressed in dark-coloured clothing boarded the passenger carriages.
The station’s departure bells would sound and steam would begin to billow across the Sydney skyline as the locomotive chugged into action, slowly moving over the track’s hardwood sleepers.
The train’s whistle would shriek as the funeral procession departed, bound for the Rookwood Necropolis, Sydney’s largest cemetery, 17km to the west.
Funeral trains carried mourners from Mortuary to Rookwood for nearly 70 years, from 1869 until 1938.
Today, the ghostly whistle of the locos no longer sounds and the platform at Mortuary remains quiet.
Situated on Regent Street, at the southern end of the Sydney CBD, the now-disused station is a sombre relic of a long-past era.
The elaborate Gothic-inspired building, which appears today much as it would have when it opened 145 years ago, provides a rare architectural glimpse into Sydney’s past.
Office blocks and apartment buildings have sprouted in nearby streets, but the church-like station house remains, recalling a time when Sydney’s funeral processions were public events.
The architects and artists “spared nothing” during the build of the station, says historian Bill Phippen.
Funeral trains passed through Mortuary for more than 60 years, but today it is only used for the occasional function. (Image: John Pickrell)