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On the Road to Universal Orlando's Diagon Alley: King's Cross station

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Published: January 13, 2014 at 9:55 PM

We're starting a new series today, looking at some of the major elements Universal Orlando is including in its new Wizarding World of Harry Potter - Diagon Alley, opening later this year at Universal Studios Florida. In this series, we'll looking at both the plans for Universal's Diagon Alley as well as the "originals" from the Harry Potter books and movies that have inspired these Universal Orlando creations.

First up: King's Cross station.

King's Cross
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.

From Pottermore:

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.

Platform 9 3/4 at London's King's Cross station

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
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.

Readers' Opinions

From 62.254.138.91 on January 14, 2014 at 2:30 AM
I rehearse with my band in London, and often pass through King's Cross. After we've played, I come home and then come on here, or other Orlando park sites and see the Florida version. It's quite odd! But cool.

Chances are when I visit Florida in September this year I'll have to start my journey at the real King's Cross.

From TROY DAVIDSON on January 14, 2014 at 12:08 PM
Universal has said that after this phase is completed, they will go back to phase one and do some additions they weren't originally able to due, due to budget constraints. I wonder what they will do?
From Robert Niles on January 14, 2014 at 12:14 PM
I know that Universal Creative has wanted to restore some elements to Forbidden Journey that it cut during its development. And I think that Universal can justify as many new stores and food service in the Wizarding World as it can fit in there, or claim from adjacent areas of the park.
From Tony Duda on January 14, 2014 at 12:31 PM
The apparent fact that the entrance and exit to the Hogwarts Express is not connected to Diagon Alley has been ignored by many. Everyone must make a choice of either entering Diagon Alley or going on the Express and then going to IOA/Hogsmeade. It seems like there will be no entrance to the train from inside Diagon Alley during normal park operations. However, I expect there will be future hard ticket events solely involving WWoHP sections at IOA & USF when the train is connected to Diagon Alley. I envision these to run at the same time as some Halloween Horror Nights dates.
From Annette Forrest on January 14, 2014 at 12:44 PM
I wonder if Universal will do something to fix the visuals in Hogsmeade. Specifically, find a way to either theme or obscure the ugly steel track of the Dueling Dragons and Flight of the Hippogriff. Those steel tracks are so ugly and jolt me out of the theming. I also wonder if they will do something about the odd hodgepodge of visuals caused by the remaining Lost Continent elements that are so close to the Hogsmeade station.

I see pictures of the station, which is supposed to be in the countryside of a magical world where it's cold...but then there are palm trees and Arabian-looking Lost Continent buildings right there. I wish they would turn all of Lost Continent into the Forbidden Forest and theme the whole area to the Hogsmeade kind of environment. Put in either spooky trees or pine trees, but get rid of the Sinbad and Arabian vibe from the area.

From Robert Niles on January 14, 2014 at 2:23 PM
Patience, Annette. Patience. ;^)
From Anon Mouse on January 14, 2014 at 4:38 PM
Since Hogswarts will get a train station, does it make sense to have a non-working train at the Hogswarts entrance? It is iconic, but it just seems odd.

Somehow I feel like something is still missing. Perhaps it is an actual show and meet and greet characters that Disney does so well. I would love to have picture opportunities with the Wizards and Harry Potter.

From Annette Forrest on January 14, 2014 at 8:39 PM
I think that Hogsmeade is missing something like a Haunted Mansion kind of attraction...so I hope they build the Shrieking Shack one day.
From Kelly Muggleton on January 15, 2014 at 1:50 AM
This actual Muggle is sitting at a desk at work 10 minutes from Leadenhall Market which was used quite a lot in the films. Its been in quite a lot of films actually... I never manage to bump into any stars though :-(
From TROY DAVIDSON on January 15, 2014 at 12:01 PM
Yes, some type of haunted attraction would be welcomed at either park! I could even take a haunted dark ride at both parks....but then again The Haunted Mansion is my favorite!

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