I’ve been reading a lot of nonfiction books lately, particularly those dealing with everyday life in various centuries and a few following the lives of one or two notable (or not so notable) people, sometimes in exquisite detail.
I’d recommend this for anyone, since they are always full of gems-I-never-would-have-guessed-at. Yesterday I was reading The Professor and the Madman and the author was listing local trainstations and services and mentioned, in passing, that The London Necropolis Railway operated out of a small station nearby. And I, like any reasonable Babbager thought, “Hang on, Necropolis railway?” So I made a note and this morning hit up ye olde google.
So here’s the skinny: From 1854-1941 The London Necropolis Train ran from just outside the Waterloo Terminis to a cemetary 25 miles outside of London named Brookewood. During its hayday it handled upwards of 3,200 burials a year, which I’d call a fairly impressive number of corpses! The trains living passengers were segregate into 1st, 2nd & 3rd class as well as segregated into Anglican and non-Anglican. The corpses were also segregated as it was odious for a person in 1st class to imagine their dead relative/friend/spouse/child/etc being transported in the same car as a 3rd class corpse, and just as bad to imagine a non-Anglican reposed next to an Anglican.
The train service started to fall into disuse with the invention of the motorized hearse, but the final death knell came (as you might have guessed by the dates above) when a german bomb destroyed the tracks.
Anyway, if you find this as fascinating as I do, you might want to take a peep at Last Train Home: The London Necropolis Railway : This site has almost more info than you would ever need and also a lovely little side article on the difference in services that each class received while on the train and upon arrival at the cemetary.
And also, take a peep Leftovers / The London Necropolis Railway: it has a lot less information, but does have a scan of a coffin ticket, which is about as amusingly morbid as you can get.