Isn’t that new Harry Potter movie coming out soon? I’m sure it is. Well, you know what? I think that calls for a vaguely Potter-themed entry.
As you can see from the slightly murky picture on the left, I found myself standing next to the Hogwarts Express yesterday. The locomotive of this train is currently residing at the National Railway Museum in York.
The Hogwarts Express is one of the icons of the Harry Potter franchise, which just goes to show that actually, steam engines are pretty cool. Plot-wise, it functions as a handy place where lots of characters can be brought together for several hours – it was here that many of the significant characters of the series were introduced in Harry Potter and the Philosopher’s Stone. I believe I’ve mentioned before that Leo Tolstoy considered railways to be a useful plot device because they enabled coincidences, and this was his inspiration for Anna Karenina. Well, J. K. Rowling makes the Hogwarts Express perform a similar function.
The Express appears to be inspired by the school specials that used to be run in Britain at the start and end of term. Some of the larger schools would charter a special train. Sadly, they wouldn’t have been as colourful as the Hogwarts Express – the train would be whatever the railway had that was suitable. I’m not sure when this traffic was phased out, but I’m guessing during the days when Britain’s railways were nationalised.
As everyone knows, the Hogwarts Express sets out from Platform Nine-And-Three-Quarters at King’s Cross Station. As Hogwarts is located in Scotland, King’s Cross is an appropriate departure point – this was (and technically still is) where the famous Flying Scotsman set off from. Oddly enough, though, Rowling has admitted that she didn’t actually intend to send the train off from King’s Cross at all – she actually had Euston in mind. That being said, King’s Cross is much more photogenic than the terminally bland Euston. Even so, for shots of the outside of the station, the first film used St Pancras – don’t get me wrong, I like St Pancras fine, but I think King’s Cross is hugely underrated in architectural terms.
The station has adapted to its relatively new-found fame by sticking half a luggage trolley into a wall. There’s usually a queue of tourists wanting to be photographed next to it. The Catlady said that she once found herself acting as a guide to a Japanese exchange student, and one of the first sights he wanted to see was the station.If you’re curious, the station used for Hogsmeade was Goathland on the North Yorkshire Moors Railway. Coincidentally, this station also represented Aidensfield in Heartbeat. The Scottish scenes are filmed on the West Highland Line, one of the most scenically beautiful railways in Britain in Yr. Humble Chronicler’s opinion. That rather creepy scene in The Prisoner of Azkaban where the Dementors stop the train took place on the Glenfinnan Viaduct.
So much for the railway, what about the train? Well, this is something that, prior to the release of the film, caused a certain amount of speculation in railway enthusiast circles. The fact that the train departed from King’s Cross and that Hermione mentions going to speak to the driver in the first book suggested that it was an engine with a corridor tender.