Stop right there! This article contains spoilers from Harry Potter and the Cursed Child!
According to J.K. Rowling’s piece on the Hogwarts Express, she explains what life was like for Hogwarts students before the train’s creation. Some students took brooms, others commandeered enchanted carts and some students tried riding magical creatures. Apparition did also occur – but it is never recommended, due to Hogwarts having several anti-Apparition charms cast upon it.
Eventually, it was up to the Minister for Magic of the time, Ottaline Gambol, to introduce a mode of travel that all students could take far more easily. After all, several Muggle sightings of travelling students often occurred – and after the Statute of Secrecy was put in place in 1692, things needed to become far more discreet. For a while, the trick was Portkeys, which were strategically placed all over Britain, but students ended up getting Portkey-sick or missing their time slots altogether... So Ottaline Gambol, a fan of Muggle inventions, suggested the idea of a train.
It has never been proven where the Hogwarts Express was acquired from, although it is said that a group of bemused Muggle railway workers in Crewe felt like ‘they had mislaid something important’ shortly after the Hogwarts Express magically appeared in the village of Hogsmeade, which also didn’t previously have a railway station. It is said that the Ministry of Magic performed the country’s biggest ever Concealment Charm and one hundred and sixty-seven Memory Charms in order to bring the Hogwarts Express to the wizarding world.
And yet, after all that effort, certain pure-blood wizards and witches strongly disliked the idea of a Muggle mode of transport taking their children to school, deeming the Hogwarts Express unsafe and demeaning. The Ministry waved off such complaints, saying it was either this or they didn’t go to Hogwarts at all, which seemed to swiftly silence people who had a problem.
The Hogwarts Express really is designed for young students to get to Hogwarts – but we have seen a number of Hogwarts staff take the train too, such as Remus Lupin and Horace Slughorn, who used the opportunity to acquire new Slug Club members on his journey.
The amazing scarlet steam engine was brought to life in the Harry Potter films, and it is based on a real-life locomotive. The Great Western Railway model was built in the 1930s and was painted red for its role in the films. (It is usually a green train!)
We all know that Harry met his two future best friends, Ron and Hermione, on the Hogwarts Express, after both turned up in his compartment at one point or another. But Harry also met two other very close friends there – including Neville (looking for his lost toad) and Luna, who was reading a Quibbler upside down.
History repeated itself when Harry’s son, Albus, met his future best friend, Scorpius Malfoy, on the Hogwarts Express in Harry Potter and the Cursed Child. Much like Harry and Ron, the pair bonded over sweets!
Due to students having to slip between platforms nine and ten at King’s Cross Station to get to the Hogwarts Express, there have inevitably been wizarding faux pas’ over the years, such as students dropping biting spellbooks or spilling potions ingredients. As you might imagine, there are disguised Ministry members on hand to perform hasty Memory Charms, if required.
After trying to escape the Hogwarts Express, Scorpius and Albus have to confront the usually friendly Trolley Witch, who goes to great lengths to stop them. During the altercation, she revealed she had worked on the train ever since the Hogwarts Express began, which would make her extremely old, even for a witch. By Scorpius’s calculations, she would’ve been working on the train for 190 years! That’s a lot of Pumpkin Pasties she’s had to get through...