"Funny way to get to a wizard's school, the train. Magic carpets all got punctures, have they?"
-- Vernon Dursley
The train makes this run at least four times a year, and probably more often than that, as needed. It does leave without fail on September 1 at 11 am from Platform Nine and Three-Quarters, King’s Cross, arriving at Hogsmeade Station in the early evening. Most students take the train back to King’s Cross to go home for the Christmas and Easter holidays. The train also makes the run back again to London at the end of term in June.
The train is pulled by a scarlet steam locomotive. There is no dining service, but a witch pushes a tea trolley through the train midway through the trip, selling various types of sweets and iced pumpkin juice. There is a separate car or two at the front of the train for Hogwarts Prefects. There are usually no adults aboard the Hogwarts Express except the witch with the tea trolley and the driver (PS6, CS5, PA6, GF11, OP11, HBP7).
Before the Statute of Secrecy was put into place, students used methods such as broomsticks, Apparition and magical creatures to travel to Hogwarts. Afterwards Portkeys were initially used, but this caused many logistical problems; the solution of the train was finally introduced by Minister for Magic Ottaline Gambol. The exact origin of the Hogwarts Express is uncertain, but it is rumoured to have involved ‘one hundred and sixty-seven Memory Charms and the largest ever mass Concealment Charm performed in Britain’. Due to its Muggle origin, many pure-blood parents disapproved of the train but could do little about it as the Ministry forbade any other method of travelling to Hogwarts (Pm).
Ottaline Gambol set up a small station near Hogsmeade for the Hogwarts Express to use when bringing students. Her successor, Evangeline Orpington, created Platform Nine and Three-Quarters to be the London terminus (Pm).
In the first film, the number on the engine was 5972 (PS/f).
From the Web
Writing by J K Rowling on Pottermore:
- The Hogwart's Express
- King's Cross Station
- Platform Nine and Three-Quarters
- Ministers for Magic
Article from The Beauty of Transport website, written in 2013: The Many Lives of the Hogwarts Express