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  • Writer's pictureZanelle Awinyo

The London Necropolis Railway

Transporting the dead seems like a grave task, but the idea of having a station specifically for the dead seems like a morbid train of thought.

Like most other cities in the 19th century, London had a problem; it had too many dead people. Unlike San Francisco, where the land was simply too expensive for the dead, London faced a distinct issue of not having enough burial plots.

Dead bodies would be exhumed and scattered to make room for more people to be buried, which was a health risk for the living. It contributed to the cholera epidemics, which lead to more dead people and a continuation of the cycle. That was until two industrialists came up with the plan of building Europe’s largest cemetery, 20 miles outside of London in Brookwood. Not only that, but they would run trains from the cemetery to a terminal in Waterloo. It would be ‘The London Necropolis Railway’.

Just like other Railways, they planned to have different pricing for their services. There would be a department for upper, middle and lower class funerals that guaranteed you a gravesite, unlike the unmarked mass graves London was using at the time.

The London Necropolis railway worked for nearly a century- and at it peak was carrying 2,000 bodies a year! The first train ran in 1854, and while the necropolis railway only lasted for so long until the invention of motor cars (which led to fewer people using the train,) it was still in use until the second world war. The only thing that stopped it was the bombing of the tracks and the terminal area during the Blitz. If the tracks were still there, we might still have been using the railway to transport the dead today.

And that’s a free fact you now know.


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