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B1270 Tram, full size, hearse trailer, No. 27S, timber / metal, made by Randwick Tramway Workshops, Randwick, Sydney, New South Wales, Australia, 1896, used at Newcastle, New South Wales, Australia, 1896-1946. Click to enlarge.

Tram hearse trailer used in Newcastle, NSW, 1896

Made 1896

Most of the trams built by various government tramways were designed to carry passengers but some special-purpose trams were built for track maintenance or to transfer prisoners. Probably the most unique of the special trams were the two tram hearses used to provide an inexpensive hearse service on the New South Wales Government tramways in Newcastle, NSW, from 1896 until its official withdrawl in 1946. This service evolved from the working class custom of having the funeral procession depart fr...

Summary

Object No.

B1270

Object Statement

Tram, full size, hearse trailer, No. 27S, timber / metal, made by Randwick Tramway Workshops, Randwick, Sydney, New South Wales, Australia, 1896, used at Newcastle, New South Wales, Australia, 1896-1946

Physical Description

The tram hearse is a low four-wheel timber tram trailer probably built on an old cable tram trailer chassis. The roofline is low and curved with the highest point of the arch running longitudinally. At each end there are three doors and a central ventilation louvre. There are no openings on the sides or roof and the coachwork is predominantly cedar. The interior is fitted to carry three coffins longitudinally. Three sets of five rollers are spaced in the floor and peg racks provide anchorage points. The hearse is finished in olive green and buff paint, the same livery as the Newcastle trams of the period.

Specifications

Type: low, four wheel, hearse trailer
Number in class: 2
Builder: Randwick Tramway Workshops
Years in Service: 1896-1948
Capacity: 3 caskets
Length: 11 ft, over bumpers
Weight: 4 tonnes
Bogies: axle box & pedestal to sills, as for cable tram trailers

Dimensions

Height

2000 mm

Width

2450 mm

Production

Notes

The tram hearse is one of two built at the Randwick Tramway Workshops, No.27S in 1896 and No.45S in 1909.

Made

1896

History

Notes

Both trailers were used in Newcastle, NSW, to provide an inexpensive hearse service for those who did not wish to hire or were unable to afford transport from funeral directors. This service evolved from the working class custom of having the funeral procession depart from a private home (either the deceased or a close relative) rather than from a funeral parlour. If the deceased's home was close to the tram route the pallbearers would carry the casket to the nearest tram stop, otherwise a hearse was hired to carry the casket to the tram stop. It was the responsibility of the pallbearers to place the coffin in the tram hearse and also to remove it and transfer it to the funeral train. The tram conductor would lock and unlock the tram hearse door.

The mourners, officiating clergy and funeral director would travel in the passenger tramcars, initially steam and later electric, on a scheduled service with the tram hearse attached at the rear. There would probably have been a separate compartment reserved for the funeral party. The conductor collected the fares in the normal manner. Both the driver and conductor wore their working uniforms, comprising a dark blue coat and trousers, silver buttons and peaked cap. However, on the funeral trams an Inspector of Workings was in attendance to supervise the change over at points in the lines, and to make sure that everything was in order. He would stay with the cortege until the run was over. As the slow moving, rumbling tram hearse passed through the Newcastle streets gentlemen pedestrians would doff hats while ladies would bow their heads as a mark of respect.

The tram hearse service connected with the funeral trains at the Mortuary Station near Honeysuckle and later Newcastle station to Sandgate Cemetery. The trailer could be hired from the Tramways office at a cost of 10 shillings on the Newcastle city lines east of Plattsburg, and 1 pound beyond Plattsburg on the West Wallsend and Speers Point lines. Return fare for mourners on the tram and train to Sandgate Cemetery was 2 shillings first class and 1 shilling second class on city lines and two shillings and six pence first class and one shilling and sixpence second class beyond Plattsburg. These costs remained the same from 1912 to 1947. Until the late 1930s the casket and mourners were transferred by the pallbearers to the Sandgate Cemetery train at the Mortuary Station near Honeysuckle then after that date the transfer was conducted at Newcastle Scott Street Station.

The tram hearse service operated officially until 1 June 1946 however evidence exists that it operated in March 1947 and during 1948. The Museum's tram hearse was converted to a service vehicle for the Gordon Avenue, (Hamilton) tram depot at Newcastle in February 1949 and used as a toolbox. Although the wheels were left attached, the hearse's air brake plumbing was removed. The hearse trailer was then transported to Sydney in 1953 and presented to the Museum by Rudders Ltd the following year. It was initially put into storage but during the mid-1980s was restored prior to display. During the restoration a dried flower was found in the hearse and this was preserved as a melancholy reminder of the former function of this unique vehicle. From 1988 until 1999 the tram hearse was displayed in the Transport exhibition of the Museum.
The tram hearse trailer was owned by the New South Wales Government Tramways.

Source

Credit Line

Gift of Rudders Ltd, 1954

Acquisition Date

30 August 1954

Cite this Object

Harvard

Tram hearse trailer used in Newcastle, NSW, 1896 2019, Museum of Applied Arts & Sciences, accessed 18 August 2019, <https://ma.as/207267>

Wikipedia

{{cite web |url=https://ma.as/207267 |title=Tram hearse trailer used in Newcastle, NSW, 1896 |author=Museum of Applied Arts & Sciences |access-date=18 August 2019 |publisher=Museum of Applied Arts & Sciences, Australia}}

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