‘Harry Potter’ Attraction Given Expiration Date, What Comes Next?

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The Hogwarts Express at Universal Orlando Resort

Credit: Universal

A popular attraction inspired by The Wizarding World of Harry Potter is at risk of closing permanently. What comes next?

Although British author J.K. Rowling’s divisive opinions and hateful comments continue to stir more than cauldrons among fans, The Wizarding World of Harry Potter has had a tremendous impact on the lives of millions of fans for over 20 years since the premiere of Harry Potter and the Philosopher’s Stone in 2001 — a quarter century if you’re counting since the American release of the first book in 1998, breaking records for a children’s book by an author unknown at the time.

JK Rowling visits the Wizarding World of Harry Potter at Universal Studios Japan
Credit: Universal Studios Japan

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The franchise has since inspired eight movies, seven books, a theatrical play (Harry Potter and the Cursed Child), two prequel franchises, multiple traveling experiences, and even several immersive lands at Universal Studios Hollywood, Universal Orlando Resort, and Universal theme parks around the world — with Universal Studios Japan taking a massive leap ahead of its international counterparts.

Perhaps the most popular theme park experiences inspired by Rowling’s franchise are Diagon Alley in Universal Studios Florida and Hogsmeade in Universal Islands of Adventure, which are connected by a unique recreation of the Hogwarts Express train, boarded through Platform 9 ¾, which went through a significant change last year at Universal Orlando Resort.

A conductor in a red vest smiles in front of the Hogwarts Express at Universal Orlando.
Credit: Universal

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However, Universal Orlando Resort’s Hogwarts Express is not the only breathtaking train inspired by The Wizarding World of Harry Potter. Or is it the other way around?

The Jacobite train is the real-life inspiration for the iconic journey to Hogwarts in Harry Potter and the Philosopher’s Stone (2001) and throughout the franchise. The iconic trip is described as “the greatest railway journey in the world.”

The official website for the steam train states: “This 84-mile round trip takes you past a list of impressive extremes. Starting near the highest mountain in Britain, Ben Nevis, it visits Britain’s most westerly mainland railway station, Arisaig; passes close by the deepest freshwater loch in Britain, Loch Morar and the shortest river in Britain, River Morar, finally arriving next to the deepest seawater loch in Europe, Loch Nevis!”

A dramatic scene in 'Harry Potter and the Chamber of Secrets' where a flying car, with its door open, soars above the Hogwarts Express crossing a lush, green hillside.
Credit: Warner Bros.

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Millions of Harry Potter fans have traveled to Scotland to experience the steam train trip, which has operated for over thirty years. Sadly, the attraction that became a legend after being featured in Rowling’s movie franchise is at risk of being permanently closed.

According to a statement published on the steam train’s website, the United Kingdom’s Office of Rail and Road — responsible for the economic and safety regulation of Britain’s railways — forced The Jacobite steam train to cease all operations earlier this year after not granting an exemption to operate with hinged-door carriages on the mainline — the heritage carriages for which the train is known for.

The Jacobite steam train has reportedly operated with said ORR granted exemption “for almost 20 years.” “During this time, no serious injury has been attributable to the lack of central door locking (CDL).” Sadly, after failing to receive the document, the steam train was forced to suspend its operation at the start of the season.

Hagrid sends the Hogwarts Express off, saying goodbye to Harry Potter, Hermione Granger, and Ron Weasley in 'Harry Potter and the Philosopher's Stone'
Credit: Warner Bros.

Regardless, West Coast Railways, which owns and operates The Jacobite, worked around the problem and recently revealed that the world-famous steam train would resume services starting Monday, April 15, 2024, after the team did “an exceptional job in getting a fleet of carriages ready to kick-start [their] 2024 season.”

West Coast Railways stated that it will continue to engage with the ORR and the Department for Transport so that the company can operate its full heritage carriages on the main line.

In the meantime, the company revealed that it will operate with a reduced capacity, contacting affected guests to provide available options and re-book their trip. Reduced capacity also means that The Jacobite is unavailable for new bookings and will likely remain until a temporary exemption is granted.

As of the publication of this article, The Jacobite steam train is scheduled to run through Friday, October 25, 2024.

Harry Potter (Daniel Radcliffe) looking at the Hogwarts Express at Platform 9 3/4 in 'Harry Potter and the Philosopher's Stone'
Credit: Warner Bros.

Despite the years-long operation of the world-renowned steam train, the strict regulations in the United Kingdom put the real-life Harry Potter attraction at risk of shutting down operations.

It is unclear if West Coast Railways will continue to seek the ORR-granted exemption yearly following the end of the 2024 season in October or if the company will consider other alternatives to continue its operations. A less-than-ideal alternative would be the modernization of the train to meet the strict standards set by the ORR, which would permanently alter the experience for fans of J.K. Rowling’s Wizarding World. However, this is purely speculative.

Have you ever taken a trip aboard the real-life Hogwarts Express in Scotland? Would you like to live this experience? Let Inside the Magic know in the comments below!

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