Today marks an exciting event. The Hogwarts Express has finally arrived at Platform 9¾ and the clever folk at The Harry Potter Studio Tour are unveiling the famous Olton Hall steam train in a new permanent section – an engine which is so iconic to the Harry Potter series of books and films.
Visitors will get the chance to climb aboard the train’s carriage and to pose with a luggage trolley as it disappears through the platform wall. I cannot even begin to describe how desperate I am to go back to the Warner Bros Studios to see this latest addition to what is already a fascinating and magical experience. We visited back in 2012 after I received tickets for my birthday from hubby – but only because I whittled on about it for ages… I wasn’t in the least bit subtle about my desire to go.
When The Philospher’s Stone first came out, I refused to take part in the hysteria – for about two months – and then my interest was piqued. I’ve always been a big fan of fantasy literature, Tolkien’s The Hobbit and The Lord of the Rings; Pullman’s His Dark Materials; and CS Lewis’ Chronicles of Narnia for instance, so I’m not sure who I was trying to fool. It didn’t take me long to jump on the bandwagon and declare my love for JK Rowling’s boy wizard and I devoured each book over and over again. I am a huge fan and can’t wait to be able to read them with Monkey when he is old enough.On the day of our trip, I remember being giddy with excitement. The relatively short journey on the M25 seemed to take ages and, when we finally arrived, I was astounded by the size of the complex – and the rows upon rows of cars that were lined up. Luckily, the organisers of the tour have been intelligent enough to stagger visitors, so you have to choose a certain time slot. This made a huge difference, as we never felt it was too busy or claustrophobic once inside.
At the start of the experience, they ushered us into a screening room, and the atmosphere was electric. After a short film, I screeched when the screen lifted up to reveal the huge wooden doors to of the Great Hall. I was so impressed, I even gave a little sob – and I don’t think I was alone in feeling slightly overwhelmed with it all.
But this was a fantastic start to a really interesting tour. Not only do you get to wander around all the main sets, including Diagon Alley, and the Ministry of Magic, look at the classrooms and go to 4 Privet Drive, and choose a wand at Ollivanders, but you also get to see the magic behind the film-making process, the intricate detailing, designs, planning, and models, including a huge centrepiece of Hogwarts.It was an eye-opener and awe-inspiring. It was obvious that the production crew, costume makers, special FX team and set designers, all the people behind-the-scenes, were the real stars of the Harry Potter franchise. And, if the tour does anything, it at least gives a nod to their tremendous achievements. It’s all very well imagining a new world on paper, but to actually bring it to life is another matter.
The tour aside, we were also impressed with the restaurant facilities, which had hot food, sandwiches, cakes and the like. They also provided kids lunchboxes. It was a well-oiled machine, the staff were polite, and there was minimal queuing and minimal fuss. Meanwhile, the store is filled to the brim with every Harry Potter toy, souvenir and product you can think of. Luckily, Monkey was too young to actually want anything – it was me who had to be pulled away!
Harry Potter Studio Tour; Tickets Adult £33.00; Child (5-15) £25.50; Under 4s Free; Family Tickets £101.00