On the Road to Universal Orlando's Diagon Alley: King's Cross station
Published: January 13, 2014 at 9:55 PM
First up: King's Cross station.
The real King's Cross station, in London. Photo from Wikimedia Commons.
King's Cross might be the most prominent "real" location in the Harry Potter world. In the books and movies, it's the London train station where Harry Potter and the other Wizarding children board the train to Hogwarts each fall. Harry met his best friend, Ron, and future wife, Ginny, on the platform at King's Cross, where Ron and Ginny's mother showed Harry how to access the Hogwarts Express' "Platform 9 3/4," hidden by magic between the station's platforms 9 and 10.
When Ottaline Gambol commandeered a Muggle train to serve as the new mode of transport for Hogwarts students, she also had constructed a small station in the wizarding village of Hogsmeade: a necessary adjunct to the train. The Ministry of Magic felt strongly, however, that to construct an additional wizarding station in the middle of London would stretch even the Muggles' notorious determination not to notice magic when it was exploding in front of their faces. It was Evangeline Orpington, Minister from 1849-1855, who hit upon the solution of adding a concealed platform at the newly (Muggle) built King's Cross station, which would be accessible only to witches and wizards. On the whole, this has worked well, although there have been minor problems over the ensuing years, such as witches and wizards who have dropped suitcases full of biting spellbooks or newt spleens all over the polished station floor, or else disappeared through the solid barrier a little too loudly. There are usually a number of plain-clothed Ministry of Magic employees on hand to deal with any inconvenient Muggle memories that may need altering at the start and end of each Hogwarts term.
In real life, King's Cross is one of London's busier rail stations, the terminus of the East Coast Main Line, which runs from London to Edinburgh, Scotland. After the Harry Potter books became huge hits, so many tourists queued for photos on loading platforms that station officials created an official "Platform 9 3/4" photo op. It's moved a couple of times to accommodate station renovations, and today stands in the western departures concourse, just outside a bookstore stocked with Harry Potter volumes.
The Harry Potter movies filmed several King's Cross scenes inside the station, though the exterior of adjacent St. Pancras station was used as the exterior of King's Cross in Harry Potter and the Chamber of Secrets. St. Pancras is the London terminus of the Eurostar train, and is connected to King's Cross via pedestrian tunnels and a common London Underground station.
St. Pancras station. Photo from Wikimedia Commons.
In Orlando, Universal is recreating the King's Cross exterior for its version of the station, not the St. Pancras stand-in. Located on the south side of the London facade to Diagon Alley (nearest the Disaster! ride), King's Cross stands outside Diagon Alley, given its position as a "Muggle" landmark.
Visitors will enter King's Cross station via the London promenade, entering into a ticket hall, where they can upgrade their tickets to the park-to-park admissions that will be required to ride Universal's Hogwarts Express to the Hogsmeade in the Islands of Adventure theme park. (We'll write more about the Hogwarts Express next week.) From the ticket hall, visitors will proceed through a connector subway into the main terminal building. The Hogwarts Express loading platform will be located on the upper floor of the terminal building, above the queue.
From the plans for the new development, it appears that visitors riding over from Hogsmeade will exit the Hogwarts Express via the loading platform before descending into the connector subway and exiting through the King's Cross station facade onto the London waterfront. So, no, riding the Hogwarts Express won't provide a "shortcut" into Diagon Alley, should Universal hold a queue of waiting visitors outside the land, as it did over at Islands of Adventure for many weeks after the original Wizarding World opened.
Unlike most theme park recreations of famous landmarks, which simply house rides or attractions that ultimately go nowhere, Universal's King's Cross station will serve as an entry and departure point connecting the two Universal Orlando theme parks. In this way, Universal's King's Cross not only will reflect the look of the London original, it will reflect its actual function, as well.