The Hogwarts Express is an attraction in The Wizarding World of Harry Potter in The Islands of Adventure. The attraction is a recreation of the Hogwarts Express and stand's in the Hogsmeade Station in Hogsmeade.
At the entrance of Hogsmeade, billowing steam and an iconic whistle signal the arrival of the Hogwarts Express into Hogsmeade station.
The Actual Ride
When guests visit Diagon Alley from The Wizarding World of Harry Potter in Universal Studios, they will reach Kings Cross Station, go through Platform 9 3/4, and board the train. Going to Hogsmeade and back again, guests will see (via TV window screens) the scenic views of the English countryside, plus many of the characters and elements showing up throughout.
A Muggle's Guide to the Hogwarts Express
King’s Cross Station at Wizarding World of Harry Potter Universal in Orlando is a quarter-scale replica of the King’s Cross Station in London and is the entrance to the Hogwarts Express ride. Upon entering the station building, Muggles have their tickets checked and upgraded if they don’t have a two-park pass. They then enter the queue and make their way into the building which is well equipped for queue lines. There is a departures sign but there is no mention of Hogsmeade Station as we are still in the Muggle world and if asked team members have no idea what you are talking about if you mention Platform 9 3/4. The posters are typical travel or advertising posters ‘Visit London’ on one and ‘Make a Little Magic’ on another. (Professor Dumbledore stands in front of a poster similar to the latter in Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows - Part 2.)
Winding their way through the queue lines guests pass by piles of luggage on a platform, suitcases in all sizes, shapes and colours. After climbing a staircase visitors find themselves at Platforms 9 and 10 and looking through a mirror ahead can see the queue in front of them disappearing through a wall as if by – magic. It is a special effects technique known as Pepper’s Ghost Illusion created by reflecting an image off Plexiglas. It was popularised by John Henry Pepper in a magic show in 1862. It can only be seen by people further back in the line, once visitors go through the portal themselves, they hear only a whooshing sound.
After a few more turns guests arrive at the fabled Platform 9 ¾, pass a pile of luggage that includes an animatronic white owl and await the arrival of the next train. The Hogwarts Express arrives, steam belching and backing into position, riders from Hogsmeade disembark and the new crowd gets on board the three passenger cars and occupy the 21, 8 passenger compartments. The attention to detail inside the train is astonishing and accurate as guests will note as they find their seats in the compartments they will recognise as straight out of the films. The compartment doors close as the train starts moving as that will also serve as a screen for goings on in the hallway. Out the large window London can be seen as well as an owl flying by with a package clutched in its talons. Out in the corridor silhouettes appear on the windows of the door and Harry, Ron and someone who is supposed to be Hermione, but doesn’t sound like her, are talking about looking for a vacant compartment and something at eat just as the Trolley Witch happens by.
Looking out the window again it is getting dark and stormy and Malfoy Manor appears in the distance. Something is materialising in the darkness; a voice cries out “Dementors” and a shadow appears on the compartment doors just as Harry arrives and uses his Patronus charm to drive the foul things away. The silhouettes of Harry, Ron, Hermione and the Trolley witch return and as Ron attempts to purchase some chocolate frogs they escape and must be rounded up by the Trolley Witch.
Meanwhile, outside the window, Rubeus Hagrid is flying alongside the train on his motorcycle and the welcoming lights from Hogwarts Castle appear in the distance. Hagrid turns on the afterburners and takes off in a blaze of fire followed shortly afterwards by a flying blue Ford Anglia which careens about beside the train. The car lands in a forest area, skids about and finally crashes into a bridge support. Hogwarts can now be seen closer across the Black Lake as Hogsmeade Station approaches. Hagrid waves as the train enters the station. Compartment doors open, and visitors file out of the train, through Hogsmeade Station and down a path to the village itself.
The return trip from Hogsmeade to King’s Cross begins in much the same way as the previous journey though the inside queues are not as long. Tickets are checked at the entrance where the static Hogwarts Express display once stood. Most of the line up is outside on the winding flagstone path leading to the station through a forest. During the walk visitors are serenaded with theme songs from the films. Once instead the station it is larger than it appears from outside and requires a few stairs upwards to get to the platform where guests are unloading and loading. As the train leaves the platform, Hagrid can be seen out the window waving goodbye and Harry, Ron and Hermione are at the door, once again looking for an unoccupied compartment. Out the window Hogwarts can be seen in the distance, in daylight this time, and Buckbeak the Hippogriff flies along side the train for a time. Passing by the Forbidden Forest a number of centaurs can be seen running by, but they stop when they get to the edge of the forest and are replaced by Fred and George Weasley. The twins are swooping by on their brooms waving to the train and carousing with each other until one tosses some fireworks into the sky that explodes and spells out “Weasley’s Wizard Wheezes now at Diagon Alley”.
The sky turns threatening again as the train enters a tunnel and passes Malfoy Manor. Harry, Hermione and Ron pass in the corridor, still looking for a compartment and something to eat. A spider appears on the glass that Harry grabs and eats then explains it is a licorice spider. Ron is not amused. The train continues and enters the suburbs of London where the Knight Bus is seen in the distance and then closer as it squeezes between two buildings, swerves through traffic and shrinks to go under a bridge. As King’s Cross Station comes in sight passengers are greeted with a wave from ‘Mad-Eye’ Moody. Once the train has stopped, guests disembark at King’s Cross Station and make their way through the station and back out into the London Waterfront area. In its first year of operation the Hogwarts Express carried over five million passengers.
(Excerpt from Wizarding Worlds - Theme Park Press)