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On the Road to Diagon Alley: The Hogwarts Express

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Published: January 20, 2014 at 11:26 AM

Young Harry Potter took his first steps back into the Wizarding World when Hagrid brought him to London's Diagon Alley in Harry Potter and the Philosopher's Stone (Harry Potter and the Sorcerer's Stone in America). But Harry met the wizards and witches who would become his lifelong friends and allies in Kings Cross station and on the Hogwarts Express.

We looked at Universal's version of Kings Cross station last week. This week, we'll examine the upcoming Hogwarts Express ride.

Universal's Hogwarts Express

In the Harry Potter books and movies, the students of Hogwarts travel to and from the school via the Hogwarts Express train, which leaves Kings Cross station in London at 11am on September 1, with additional trips between Kings Cross and Hogsmeade stations at the end of the fall term, the beginning of the spring term, and the end of the year. Some students don't bother taking the Hogwarts Express home for the Christmas holidays, and opt instead to remain at school for the break.

In Pottermore, author J.K. Rowling explains that the Ministry of Magic devised the Hogwarts Express to solve the problem of how to transport hundreds of students to and from Hogwarts without detection by Muggle, and while protecting the castle's security.

Where exactly the Hogwarts Express came from has never been conclusively proven, although it is a fact that there are secret records at the Ministry of Magic detailing a mass operation involving one hundred and sixty-seven Memory Charms and the largest ever mass Concealment Charm performed in Britain. The morning after these alleged crimes, a gleaming scarlet steam engine and carriages astounded the villagers of Hogsmeade (who had also not realised they had a railway station), while several bemused Muggle railway workers down in Crewe spent the rest of the year grappling with the uncomfortable feeling that they had mislaid something important.

Some Harry Potter fans remain curious whether the Hogwarts Express truly is the only means of transport to and from Hogwarts. After all, it seems a bit silly for young wizards and witches in, say, Edinburgh, to have to travel to London to board the Hogwarts Express, only to ride back to Hogsmeade in the Scottish Highlands. Of course, to reach Universal Orlando's Hogsmeade, you will have two options: Ride the Hogwarts Express from Kings Cross station in Universal Studios Florida, or just take the old way of walking in from Islands of Adventure's front gate. ;^)

The Hogwarts Express will be the first amusement attraction that carries visitors from inside one theme park to inside another. As a result, you will need to have a park-to-park ticket to ride the Hogwarts Express. (There's ticketing space designated in the blueprints for Kings Cross station where you can upgrade your single-park ticket to park-to-park, should you wish to ride.) Universal has two Hogwarts Express trains, both pointed toward the Hogsmeade station, that will shuttle back and forth between the parks on an elevated track though Universal Orlando's backstage area. (The track splits in two for a bypass in the middle, to allow the trains to pass one another.)

You won't see the backstage area while on board, of course. The "windows" on Universal's Hogwarts Express won't really be windows — they will be digital screens made to look like windows, upon which Universal will show images of the English countryside and Scottish Highlands, visually recreating the trip between Hogsmeade and Kings Cross. With digital technology in play on the train, Universal will be able to throw a bit of special effects excitement into the trip as well, including a Dementor attack inspired by the Dementors' appearance on the Hogwarts Express in Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban. It's not yet known if Universal will offer multiple special effects programs on its Hogwarts Express, creating the possibility of encountering a different experience on each ride.

In addition to the Kings Cross station in Universal Studios Florida, Universal is building a station for Hogsmeade next to the Sindbad theater, extending the original Wizarding of World of Harry Potter to the east within the park.

The Jacobite, in Scotland
The 'real' Hogwarts Express - the 'Jacobite' train. Photo courtesy West Coast Railways

If you'd like to ride the "real" Hogwarts Express, West Coast Railways in Great Britain offers an 84-mile round-trip from Fort William to Mallaig in Scotland, along the same tracks featured during filming for the Harry Potter movies, on the same type of train used as the Hogwarts Express in the films.

Previously:

Readers' Opinions

From Daniel Etcheberry on January 20, 2014 at 5:06 PM
Universal should give the option of a round-trip without getting into the other park to avoid paying for two parks. But they are greedy, so they will not do such thing.
From Robert Niles on January 20, 2014 at 7:20 PM
But that would give someone a second trip on the ride without having to go through what promises to be a substantial wait. So there's that, too.
From 24.9.129.19 on January 20, 2014 at 11:07 PM
They're not greedy. They're a business selling a product that is in demand and something people are willing to pay for. Doing that isn't an act of greed! I hate this misuse of that word in today's society.

Businesses have a right to sell products to make money!

From 85.150.173.168 on January 21, 2014 at 6:14 AM
I think it's brilliant to have an exiting fun ride that everyone can do and that actually transports you to anther park.
This would be one of those kind of innovations Disney once was known for but lost it.

I love both parks, not only Harry Potter, but the many fun things they have to offer and I'll always have a 14 day multi park pass when I visit so I'm have no problem with it.

Actually Disney is doing the same when they offer a Be our Guest restaurant at MK and a meet and greet at Epcot or a Little Mermaid ride at MK and a show at Disney Hollywood Studios or a Nemo show at AK and a ride at Epcot. But you have no themed ride between those parks to make it a complete fun experience.

From 75.136.127.27 on January 21, 2014 at 9:26 AM
Is there any word on whether or not wheelchairs can go on the train like they can with the monorail at WDW?
From Tim Odom on January 21, 2014 at 9:42 AM
First off, I have to say I love the concept of this ride, I think it is brilliant.

But, I have real questions about this thing having a 4 hour line for a 10 minute train ride. There are so many red flags this thing is throwing up for me. The first of which is the loading procedure is sure to be slow, especially if they have some sort of ticket check (to make sure your ticket allows you into the other park), and with the fact tat this ride will be immensely popular. Next, how many trains will they run? My guess would be 2 riding on the tracks, while 2 are loading (one in the Hogsmeade loading station, one on the way to London, one in King's Cross, one on the way to Hogwarts.) But, if I am right, then each train will likely be slow, and the "turn around" time might be a few minutes (as each station is rumored to have a turntable to turn each train around for the return trip.)

I have faith that this will not be a huge mess in the long run, but Universal is trying something that no one has tried before, and I don't know how this will all work out. I do think it is a fantastic idea, one that I love, but man, there are so many questions on how this thing will actually work...

From 65.61.89.149 on January 21, 2014 at 11:04 AM
Super pumped for this. I'll be making the 1,800-mile journey back solely to see the expansion. I'll spend four or five days at Disney and two at Universal, but the primary reason driving the vacation will be to see the new Harry Potter area.
From Anon Mouse on January 21, 2014 at 11:43 AM
"But that would give someone a second trip on the ride without having to go through what promises to be a substantial wait."

I propose a train restaurant where the guests can get the equivalent of a fastpass and they can enjoy a nice beverage or lunch, on their dime of course. Or they board a bus that will return them to London. Ooops, train ticket rejected. Go back to London.

The last alternative is a walking path to New York.

Perhaps they should only allows park to park passholders to go at first to prevent overcrowding. All train passengers must upgrade. Bummer for those who are too cheap or poor.

From Brent Moody on January 21, 2014 at 12:51 PM
I love the concept for this and really like the idea of being able to go from park to park without walking all the way around, but I can not see how they are going to get a high volume of people on this ride. I think that on slow days this thing will never be less that a 1 hour wait and on busy days it may be 2-3 hours. That is unless they have come up with some way to get 2000 or more people an hour on these trains but I don't see how that's possible on something like this. But I am sure with the popularity of the WWOHP they know what kind of ride capacity on this they would need. So I will give them the benefit of the doubt on this until the wait time says 120-180 mins every time I go to try and ride it.

Has anyone heard how many people each train will hold? I have seen the train sitting on the tracks and they do not look that big to me but I could not tell how many people they would hold.

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