ROOKWOOD CEMETERY MORTUARY RAILWAY
The Sydney to Rookwood train was a vital part of the Rookwood cemetery’s early history transporting corpses and mourners on a daily basis. The Sydney Mortuary Station opened in June 1869 and became known as Regent Street Station however it was popularly referred to as the Mortuary Station or Cemetery Station. The train ran to the Rookwood Receiving House Station in the centre of the cemetery. Because of the size of the necropolis, there were three other rail stations at Rookwood. In 1867 The Sydney Morning Herald announced a twice-daily service from Sydney’s Central Station No. 1 stopping at stations along the way to collect mourners. Return tickets were one shilling each way. Corpses travelled free.
Regent Street and the Receiving House were designed by colonial architect James Barnet using elements from the Venetian 13th century Gothic style. Principal sculptors Thomas Ducket and Henry Apperly worked on the elaborate carvings that were a feature of the stations, including angels, cherubs, and gargoyles.
The last trains that ran funeral processions all but ceased in the late 1930s. Following this, they were only used for visitors on Sundays and Mother’s Day. The service was briefly revived during World War II during petrol rationing. The last railway timetable was recorded in 1947 and read Sydney 2.17 p.m. to Strathfield 2.33 p.m. to Rookwood #1, 2.50 p.m.
On 3 April 1948, the service was officially terminated with the spur recorded as closed on 29 December 1948. Within Rookwood, one can find headstones for some of the railway’s key figures. The first locomotive driver, William Sixsmith, Samuel Twiss, driver of the first paying passenger train, and James Robinson, first guard of the NSW railways.