Wednesday, 2 March 2016

Hogwarts Express yourself

The interweb is a wonderful thing. This may sound like a trite observation, and that's predominantly because it is; it's a fantastically trite observation, but that doesn't, I'm pleased to report, stop it being true. Of course, there are bad parts of the internet, areas that upset, offend, humiliate and degrade, but then there are other areas that go at least some way towards making up for the rest.

I only bring this up because it has come to my attention that a recent post about a visit to the National Railway Museum in York was astonishingly - almost bafflingly - popular with you good folk out there in the interwebsphere. Particularly, for some reason, readers in Poland. Witam moi polscy przyjaciele! Anyway, it occurred to me that it might be interesting to test whether it was steam trains in particular that appealed, or something else and, while about it, I thought I'd throw some Harry Potter into the  mix, too. Cynical, you say? Well, yes, possibly, but what is a body to do?

Anyway, the current reason that I have decided the interweb is, at times, a wonderful thing is the fact that, without it, I doubt I would have found out so much about Hogwarts Castle, the steam train on display at the Warner Bros. Studios, Leavesden (otherwise, and possibly more widely, known as the "Harry Potter Studio Tour"). I visited the Studios last year, and was absolutely bowled over by the entire experience; the scale and detail of the sets, salvaged from the film series, the quality of the invention, and he craftsmanship and imagination on display.

Even for people who are not interested in the Harry Potter films, per se, the experience is nevertheless absolutely overwhelming. I have long held a slightly obsessive interest in film studios (did you know, for example, that Google Streetview lets you take a walk around Pinewood and Shepperton Studios? You should check it out.) and the Warner Bros. Studios more than lived up to my potentially unrealistic expectations.

Leaving one section of the tour, visitors enter into a recreation of King's Cross, complete with an honest to goodness, large as life, real steam engine, Hogwarts Castle. This engine is the actual one from the films (unlike the recreations on display at the theme parks), emits smoke and the sound of a steam whistle, and is as physically imposing as some of the engines in the National Railway Museum. Although Hogwarts Castle is a real steam engine, however, as befits that fact that this is an artificial film world, neither the steam nor the sounds that come from it are the real thing, but are special effect recreations to evoke the appropriate atmosphere.

What I have recently learned from the interweb, and which started this post oh so long ago, is that Hogwarts Castle, as perhaps befits a feature player in a film, is not the engine's real name. In real life, Hogwarts Castle is the GWR 4900 Class 5972 Olton Hall, and I gather that steam enthusiasts regard the fact that a "Hall" plays the part of a "Castle" to be wryly amusing. Oh, the interweb, you do spoil us, sometimes.

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