Oct 22, 2014

Funeral Streetcar

Before the automobile one of the ways you could travel toward your final resting place was by public transit.  Dedicated funeral cars were added to the streetcar systems. 

The funeral streetcar in Chicago conveniently went to the 111th St cemeteries in my old south side neighborhood, Mount Greenwood. The famous "Seven Holy Tombs" from John Powers novels are about Mount Greenwood, including "The Last Catholic in America" and "Do Patent Leather Shoes Really Reflect Up".

According to Roy G. Benedict, "the Chicago funeral streetcars were built in 1910 by the G. C. Kuhlman Car Co. for the Calumet & South Chicago Railway Co. (C&SC) as numbers 1-2. The potential traffic was funerals originating in the C&SC territory -- South Chicago and the East Side, West Pullman, Roseland, etc. -- for burials at the cemeteries along 111th Street in the Mt. Greenwood district. 

A track connection was made across the Rock Island main line at Washington Heights (103rd Street) to create a reasonable routing. The Chicago Surface Lines renumbered the cars Y301-Y302 but soon converted them to passenger cars 2857-2858. Once the streets were paved, motorized corteges became practicable. They had been funeral cars for less than ten years. As passenger cars they lasted more than another twenty years."

"Another city that did a brisk business in funeral trains was Chicago, where the ‘L’ took mourners accompanying caskets to cemetery station stops in specially designed funeral cars at a rate that reached 22 trips per week in 1907, according to a fascinating investigation by WBEZ. "