End of the free line

Gov­ern­ment to out­law a swag of bizarre dis­count train rides

The Sunday Telegraph (Sydney) - - NEWS - MI­RANDA WOOD

TH­ESE aren’t your ev­ery­day Opal card fares but they would have got you a good dis­count on Syd­ney’s trains back in the day.

A raft of old travel con­ces­sions — some more than 130 years old — are be­ing cleaned out by the state gov­ern­ment, mean­ing it’s the end of the line for a num­ber of quirky spe­cial rates still in place.

The gov­ern­ment’s au­dit of re­dun­dant rail rules has dis­cov­ered dis­counts for mov­ing an en­tire cir­cus, fam­i­lies tak- ing the “funeral train” to Rook­wood to bury a loved one, and even egg pack­ers who are bring­ing their goods to Syd­ney.

Other fares set to be abol­ished in­clude free travel for chil­dren to and from the 1888 Ju­ve­nile In­dus­trial Ex­hi­bi­tion at Parramatta and a third off the cost of first-class tick­ets for box­ers and wrestlers on the route be­tween Syd­ney and Mel­bourne.

NSW Trans­port Min­is­ter An­drew Con­stance said it was “time to clean the slate” but the re­view of ar­chaic Min­is­te­rial Or­ders would not af­fect cur­rent “mod­ern” conces- sions. “As long as they are not trav­el­ling with a cir­cus elephant, no one will know the dif­fer­ence,” he said.

Fares for mov­ing a cir­cus, set in 1903, are still legal. Ticket prices were set at 10 shillings ($1) per mile trav­el­ling to a des­ti­na­tion and seven shillings and six pence (75 cents) a mile for the re­turn trip.

“While we en­cour­age the cir­cus in­dus­try to utilise the public trans­port sys­tem, this by­law dates from an era when merry-go-rounds were pow­ered by steam, dis­play­ing caged an­i­mals was con­sid­ered the norm and the en­tire cir­cus com­pany trav­elled NSW by train,” Mr Con­stance said.

Aus­tralian Rail­way His­tor­i­cal So­ci­ety NSW man­ager Wil­liam Phip­pen said cir­cuses at the time had no other op­tion but to use rail.

“They had spe­cial wag­ons for the ele­phants — ba­si­cally cat­tle trucks with the roofs raised,” he said. “They used the ele­phants to load other things onto the train.”

Mr Phip­pen said cheap tick­ets for fam­i­lies on the “funeral train” were in­tro­duced when Rook­wood was a “long way out of Syd­ney”.

The train would leave from the Mor­tu­ary Sta­tion near Cen­tral each morn­ing and af­ter­noon, and it made its last jour­ney in 1947. “The corpses would travel in a hearse at the rear of the train and could carry up to 60 bod­ies,” Mr Phip­pen said.

The au­dit by Trans­port for NSW, to be com­pleted this year, will re­view more than 160 years of gazetted rail by­laws. The con­ces­sion clean out comes as the state’s rail his­tory goes on dis­play at the Trans­port Her­itage Expo in Syd­ney, to be held over the Queen’s Birth­day long week­end.

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