Train of the Dead

There was once a dedicated funeral train which traveled between London and the Brookwood Necropolis, Surrey. Brookwood was created in the 1850s. Its designers envisaged it as a garden ‘City of the Dead’ where London’s dead could rest in peace far from the overcrowded cemeteries of the city.

The train carriages were constructed and the branch line was laid out with all due consideration to Victorian notions of dignity and propriety.  The train carried mourners and coffined corpses. First, second and third class carriages were built for both the living and the dead, and nonconformists were carried in separate carriages to Anglicans. First class mourners and corpses paid a steeper price but their carriages were magnificently decorated. Conversely, one pictures poor corpses, like the recipient of this third class coffin ticket below, being laid out in something like a horse stall. 

Brookwood coffin ticket [Source: Wikipedia]

Brookwood was a cemetery built for profit, but the fares were fixed as a concession  for the poorer mourners and were never raised during the life of the train.  Sadly for the directors the Necropolis never received as many burials as the prospectus rosily prophesied. Towards the end of its life it seems that a fair percentage of its profits came from golfers, who disguised themselves as mourners in order to take advantage of the fixed fares to reach the nearby golf course.

The end of the line came, literally and figuratively, on the night of 16th November 1941, when one of the last raids of the Blitz destroyed the Necropolis station terminus at Waterloo. The station was never rebuilt, and the line closed.

The crest of the London Necropolis and National Mausoleum Company [Source: Wikipedia]

The  Latin motto translates as ‘a good life and a restful death’.

Brookwood Necropolis remains, overgrown and dismal. The rail lines and sleepers are long gone. A sad end to a good and useful train.

The Necropolis Railway does not feature in Horror on the Orient Express, but we wish it had. The idea of a train of the dead is irresistible to the thinking Keeper. Thanks to Dick, one of our fearless playtesters, for telling us about this extraordinary service.


Filed under Library Use, Travel

5 responses to “Train of the Dead

  1. Amazing… A Gaslight resource if ever there was one.

  2. Morningtown Ride takes on a new and sinister dimension for me after reading that. Thanks Penny (and Dick).

  3. Nick Davison

    A fantastic location which I was already thinking of using myself in a Gaslight game. The novel by Andrew Martin called the Necropolis Railway is set on that line in the Edwardian period.

  4. It crops up in Charlie Stross’ Laundry books both as a source of power/ley line and as a place of ritual significance/ the actual cemetery.

  5. It’s official – this is now the most commented-on post we’ve put up so far. I didn’t realize the Brookwood Necropolis train was so dear to so many hearts. Dean from the Cthulhu Reborn blog also pointed me towards a Jego & Litefoot radio play called ‘The Necropolis Express’,, written by British horror writer, Mark Morris (no relation), a spin off for two characters from the Dr Who ‘Talons of Weng-Chiang’ episode set in Victorian London.

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