© 2018 Greg & Sylvia RAY
When the dead travelled by tram
A coffin being carried to Newcastle Railway Station from a tram hearse, circa 1934.

When the dead travelled by tram

In years gone by, the dead were frequent patrons of Newcastle’s public transport system. As a matter of fact, the city’s tramways offered a unique service, taking deceased folk from the homes of their loved ones in specially made hearse trailers to connect with trains to cemetery.

One of Newcastle’s old hearse trailers, made to be towed behind a tram.
Visitors arriving at Sandgate Cemetery, Newcastle, by train on Mothers Day 1939.

Ideally, the body would – after having been farewelled in the family home – be carried to a tram stop where, by arrangement, the hearse trailer would be waiting. Next stop was the railway station, then the cemetery station, then the grave and the final goodbye.

A funeral at Sandgate in the 1930s.

The hearse trailers were built in Sydney and apparently operated in Newcastle from 1896 until about 1948. One of them has been restored and is part of the collection of the Museum of Applied Arts and Sciences in Sydney.

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