On the Road to Diagon Alley: The Hogwarts Express
Published: January 20, 2014 at 11:26 AM
We looked at Universal's version of Kings Cross station last week. This week, we'll examine the upcoming Hogwarts Express ride.
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 '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.