As indicated in my main review on Rookwood Necropolis, it is the largest cemetery in the Southern Hemisphere. It is sometimes cited as having its own post-code. While this is somewhat of an exaggeration, area-wise the cemetery does make up the majority of the Rookwood post-code area.
What Rookwood certainly did have, however, was four train stations which carried the imaginative names of Mortuary Receiving Stations No. 1, No. 2, No. 3 and No. 4, though various names were ascribed to each while it existed.
When the cemetery opened in 1867, as a replacement for the then nearly full Devonshire Street Cemetery (now Central Railway Station) which itself replaced Sydney’s Old Burial Ground (now Sydney Town Hall), it was, at 15kms, a long distance from the city with cars and motorised hearses not being commonplace at the time. As such, the easiest way to get one’s dearly departed and the mourners to the cemetery was by train and a special line was established just for this purpose. Mortuary Station in Regent Street (part of today’s Central Station) opened in 1867 and became the point of departure for all trains to Rookwood. I have provided detail on this special train service in my Mortuary Station review so won’t repeat it here but will rather concentrate on the cemetery stations themselves.
Receiving Station No. 1, by far the most spectacular of the four stations (pictured above – 1886 courtesy of State Records, NSW) open in 1867 and was designed by James Barnet, New South Wales Colonial Architect. Barnet also designed Mortuary Station (in addition to 169 post and telegraph offices, 130 courthouses, 155 police stations, 110 lock-ups and 20 lighthouses) and is a now, himself, a permanent ‘resident’ of Rookwood cemetery. I wonder if he arrived by train.
Station No. 1 (as did numbers 2, 3 and 4) closed in 1948 and while it remains intact today you will not find it in Rookwood Necropolis but rather over 300 kilometres away in the suburb of Ainslie in Canberra, the nations capital. It is now All Saints Anglican Church.
As can be seen from picture 1 attached it was crafted in a style reminiscent of a church but it was not a church. What appears to be a church bell (and now is, in Canberra) was there to round up mourners for their return trip to the city. The bell was rung 30 minutes before the train was ready to leave. The church like decoration dovetailed nicely with the Victorian era’s fascination with trains, death and the afterlife. I think that the angels, one holding a scroll – possibly the Judgement Book – and the other a trumpet – not to mention cherubs, gargoyles and various foliage carvings – were a wonderful way to welcome the departed to their final destination.
In 1897 the cemetery line was extended and, as a result, waiting rooms at the rail head in Station No. 1 were removed to allow trains to pass through the building, en-route to the other stations.
While no trace of Stations No. 2 and 4 exist today and only a few unmarked foundations stones remain of station 3 (adjacent to the Catholic Cemetery Trust office and carpark), the location of Station No. 1 is clearly marked with a plaque and concreted area showing its original location and layout – picture 2 above.
Picture 3 – 5 attached are 1948 pictures (courtesy of I.K Kinney/ John Oakes) showing Stations No. 2-4 at the point when all four stations closed.
Receiving Station No 2, which opened as the ‘Roman Catholic Platform’, was a simple timber shelter added in 1901.
Receiving Station No 3 was a properly designed station built, in 1897, from the former waiting rooms of Station No 1.
Receiving Station No 4, another very basic shelter (at the Anglican and General Office), was added in 1908 when train arrivals into the cemetery were at their peak.
The site of Station no. 4 is now a bus stop. I noted on my Mortuary Station review that corpses travelled free on the cemetery line. I wonder if this concession now applies on the number 408 bus service!
For access details – including via the 408 bus service – to Rookwood please refer to my Rookwood Necropolis review.
Address: Hawthorne Ave, Rookwood, Lidcombe
Phone: 02 9746 2177
For now, this is my last Sydney – CUMBERLAND review.
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