As even the most unobservant Muggle probably already knows, Universal Orlando is opening a major expansion of their hit Wizarding World of Harry Potter attractions this summer, and one of the most anticipated elements of the additions is the new Hogwarts Express train, which will link the existing Hogsmeade Village in Islands of Adventure with the new Diagon Alley in Universal Studios Florida. Today, Friday March 14, Universal is releasing new Hogwarts Express details, and thanks to Touring Plans’ friend Jim Hill we are happy to be among the first to bring you the news, including some details you won’t find in the official press release.
Here are some exciting new officially confirmed facts about the upcoming Hogwarts Express attraction:
- Guests traveling from London will go through King’s Cross Station just like Harry did in the books and films. An optical illusion/magic trick that will make it appear as though people ahead of you in line are actually passing through the wall.
- There will be no height requirement to ride the Hogwarts Express.
- After stepping onto Platform 9 3/4, guests will see the Hogwarts Express billowing steam, luggage carts, and owls in cages.
- Riders traveling from Universal Studios Florida to Islands of Adventure will encounter Dementors, and see Hagrid flying on his motorbike through the train’s “window”.
- Riders traveling in the opposite direction will also see Hagrid, along with Buckbeak the Hippogriff, the Knight Bus, and the Weasley twins, who will create a fireworks display for you.
- The actual train ride will be about six minutes long.
- Exact hourly capacity has not yet been determined, but each of the two trains will carry an number of guests “comparable” to other Universal attractions.
- Each cabin on the train holds “about 8 people” and is separated from other cabins by closing doors, and every guest will “take a seat.”
- The creative team did research in London to ensure that the train whistles, cabin fabric, and even metal bolts are all authentic.
- The existing Hogwarts Express locomotive in Hogsmeade will remain as a photo op.
- Guests on board the trains will not see anything from the theme parks, only the virtual British countryside.
- Guests must purchase a park-to-park ticket in order to ride the Hogwarts Express. There will be a way to upgrade your ticket at the attraction.
- All guests must exit the train at its destination and queue again if they wish to return. You will not be allowed to remain on board for round-trip transit.
- Guests will exit the train outside of Hogsmeade or into the London Waterfront area. All guests wishing to enter Diagon Alley must pass through the “magical” brick wall near the Leaky Cauldron; there is no direct access from the train station to Diagon Alley.
Finally, here are a few things we still don’t know about the Hogwarts Express after today’s announcements:
- No confirmation if the train windows will use a revolutionary form of glasses-free 3-D; a depth-enhanced 2-D projection like the windows in Epcot’s Mission SPACE; or a simple flat screen.
- No confirmation that Hogwarts Express will operate during early entry hours, though a hotel reservations employee recently informed us that it would.
- No mention of the 400+ randomized combinations of experiences during the train ride, as had been rumored previously. Also no mention of different visuals during daytime versus after dark. All new information points to one experience in each direction.
- And of course, still no announced opening date more specific than “summer.”
Interestingly, Universal made this announcement in advance to invited press in London, New York, and Sao Paulo, Brazil, citing Latin America as their #2 foreign market behind the UK. That indicates that they are looking to make a global marketing splash with these new Hogwarts Express details, not to mention the Diagon Alley opening festivities still to come.