Prague's macabre funeral tram, which was known as Black Mary, turns 100 years old this week. This peculiar mode of funeral transportation was first conceived of in 1912 when two new cemeteries were built out in Ďáblice and Hostivař.
Delayed by the beginning of the war, the project was resurrected again in 1917. A shortage of horses prompted Prague Military Headquarters to ask the Electric Company to help them transport their many casualties from military hospitals to the city's cemeteries. On October 22nd 1917, the funeral tram ran for the first time, taking two dead soldiers from Karlovo náměstí to Olšanská and Vinohradská cemeteries.
Its decoration was gloomy. It was painted black all over with white decorative lines and a large black cross on the side. A cross was also displayed above the driver's window at the front, in the place of the tram line number. It had space to store four coffins.
Black Mary ran until June 17th 1919, transporting a total of 1,042 dead soldiers in its time in service. Bizarrely, it was converted in 1922 back to a normal passenger car and it ran like this for 11 years before it was was retired from service completely.
Author: Jessica Kleyn