Yesterday I was in London for a meeting and as I had a bit of time before my train home, and as I was close to King’s Cross Station, I decided to go in search of Platform 9¾.
In case you don’t know (where have you been for the past 20 years?) what Platform 9¾ is and why it’s special this bit is for you. Everyone else can skip the next paragraph.
J K Rowling is a very famous children’s author who has written a series of seven books about a fictional wizard called Harry Potter. Harry and his friends go to a magical wizarding school called Hogwarts. To get to this school at the start of each term all the wizard children take the Hogwarts Express which departs from Platform 9¾ in King’s Cross Station. This platform cannot be seen with ordinary non-wizard ‘muggle’ eyes as it’s on the other side of what seems to be a brick wall. A wizard can walk up to this wall with his or her luggage trolley, complete with trunks and bird cages, and magically pass through the wall.
King’s Cross Station doesn’t look particularly exciting from the outside. It’s rather bland and modern. Nothing like the soaring towers and turrets of nearby St Pancras Station behind which King’s Cross is hidden. St Pancras would seem to be so much more appropriate as a station from which a magical steam train would depart (and it’s the exterior of St Pancras and not King’s Cross that’s shown in the films), but as a lot of trains to Scotland leave from King’s Cross and as Hogwarts is generally assumed to be in Scotland, maybe this is why Rowling chose it.
Though according to many sources, including the book about searching for Harry Potter locations I read recently, Rowling was actually on a train from Manchester to London (the train I’d arrived on and would be getting back on later!) when she came up with the idea of the Harry Potter books and the Hogwarts’ Express and so Euston (the station at which trains from Manchester arrive) was the station she was thinking of when she wrote this section, though she used the name ‘King’s Cross’.
As all three stations are close by it’s easy to visit them all on one trip.
I headed first to King’s Cross to see the trolley in the wall.
I’d heard that King’s Cross Station have cashed in on all the people who go in search of this mythical platform and have created a mock-up of a trolley being pushed through a brick wall next to a shop selling all kinds of Harry Potter paraphernalia.
The station has really been done up since the last time I was here and looked so much nicer than the dingy station I remembered it being. It still looks boring on the outside, but the inside has a swirly white structure (apologies to any architects for my architecturally stunted vocabulary, that’s really the best I can do) that curves its way up to the ceiling. It looked rather impressive.
I walked through the station, counting off the platforms as I passed them and Platform 9¾ is just about where you’d expect it to be.
Even if you’re numerically challenged and struggle to count to 9¾ you’ll find it easily enough. Just look for the crowds. And the security guard.
I’d not expected to be the only person looking for Platform 9¾, but I was surprised by just how many other people there were. This is a major tourist attraction!
The queue of mainly young people wound round a roped off area and at the trolley a photographer and photographer’s assistant were waiting to take everyone’s photo.
The assistant handed each person a wand to hold and wrapped a Hogwarts’ scarf round their neck. The scarf was long and the assistant held on to the other end holding it up and out of sight so it looked like it was flying out behind the person. She instructed the person how to pose and the photographer snapped away. If you had someone with you you could get them to take photos of you with your own camera too. I snapped a few of people posing, but just couldn’t be bothered to line up myself. And as I didn’t have anyone to take my photo with my camera I’d have had to buy one of the official photos which I didn’t want to do either.
Next I had a look around the shop which was decorated to look like the shops in the Harry Potter books with bird cages hanging from the ceiling, dusty looking bookshelves, cabinets of wands, a house elf climbing up a wall cabinet and so on. As well as the usual type of souvenirs – mugs, t-shirts, keyrings, it was possible to buy a wand or a scarf from each of Hogwarts’ four houses or even a fluffy owl (albeit not a real one).
I joined the other tourists in snapping photos inside the shop and then, well that was it really, I’d achieved what I’d come to do. I’d found Platform 9¾.
I wandered back through the station and then had a look round the impressive St Pancras Station before heading back to Euston to get my train to Manchester – the real inspiration behind the Hogwarts Express and Platform 9¾.
Have you been to Platform 9¾? Do you like visiting places that have inspired books or films? Share you thoughts in the comments below.