To get to Hogwarts, the students had to:

  • Travel many hours by regular (seemingly non-magical, and fairly slow) train

  • Then get into magical conveyances in Hogsmeade.

The latter makes sense - you can't apparate in Hogwarts.

But WHY oh WHY did they need a regular train?

Why not:

  • A magic school bus (like Knight one) to Hogsmeade

  • A magic flying dis-illusioned train

  • A bunch of portkeys (heck, they used them to transport the wizards to Quidditch cup in 1994, and IIRC there were a LOT more attendees than students at Hogwarts)!

  • And, at worst, for a couple of Muggle-born students who for some reason can't get to any of the above, arrange something much smaller than a train.

  • 1
    It's surely far more interesting and exciting to get the train? Much better than a rickety old bus? (Just think how big that bus would have been?)
    – AlasdairCM
    Commented Feb 3, 2012 at 11:40
  • 3
    Magicking a train to fly invisibly would be a violation of the laws about Misuse of Muggle Artifacts. They couldn't even claim the loophole Mr. Weasley used, in that they obviously intended the invisible flying train to be used. Also, they'd have to watch out for low-flying planes.
    – Jeff
    Commented Feb 3, 2012 at 14:54
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    Why do you think it was a regular train? Hogwarts' location is hidden. It should be hard to get to it by ordinary means.
    – jfs
    Commented Feb 3, 2012 at 14:58
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    Plot device. I can't think of any other reason.
    – acolyte
    Commented Jan 14, 2013 at 18:45
  • 3
    @Jeff Gold Badge >> Accept 15 rep :) Commented Sep 4, 2015 at 17:26

6 Answers 6


According to the article, "Hogwarts Express" on Pottermore (Or, "Potterless" :-), for a long time parents were responsible for transportation to and from the school. Of course apparating and flue powder were out of the question in order to get directly into the school (because of protective security measures), but other than that there were an assortment of forms of transportation used.

Some rode broomsticks (a difficult feat when carrying trunks and pets); others commandeered enchanted carts and, later, carriages; some attempted to Apparate (often with disastrous effects, as the castle and grounds have always been protected with Anti-Apparition Charms), others rode a variety of magical creatures.

This posed a problem in drawing the attention of Muggles when witches were seen on brooms and, or in flying carriages and the like (pre- "International Secrecy Act" and also pre-"Misuse of Muggle Artifacts" law). The article does not address how transportation was planned out for Muggle-borns at this time (or at any other time really).

Despite Muggle sightings of vast numbers of airborne wizards travelling northwards, it remained the responsibility of parents to convey their children to school, right up until the imposition of the International Statute of Secrecy in 1692. At this point, it became a matter of urgency to find some more discreet method of transporting hundreds of wizarding children from all over Britain to their secret school in the Highlands of Scotland.

Rowling goes on to say that portkeys were arranged and tried but many children got "portkey sick" and the first few days of school were spent in the infirmary for many students. Additionally, Portkeys posed problems because the keys were hard to find and many kids would miss them.

While admitting that Portkeys were not an ideal solution to the problem of school transportation, the Ministry of Magic failed to find an acceptable alternative. A return to the unregulated travel of the past was impossible, and yet a more secure route into the school (for instance, permitting a fireplace that might be officially entered by Floo powder) was strongly resisted by successive Headmasters, who did not wish the security of the castle to be breached.

Eventually the train was established - Muggles were even used in its building and then their memories of the years spent building it, erased.

Where exactly the Hogwarts Express came from has never been conclusively proven, although it is a fact that there are secret records at the Ministry of Magic detailing a mass operation involving one hundred and sixty-seven Memory Charms and the largest ever mass Concealment Charm performed in Britain.

This solution was highly controversial, but proved to solve the problem and has been maintained ever since.

Many pure-blood families were outraged at the idea of their children using Muggle transport, which they claimed was unsafe, insanitary and demeaning; however, as the Ministry decreed that students either rode the train or did not attend school, the objections were swiftly silenced.

She does not discuss why some form of a "knight bus" like apparatus or magic flying train was not used, however, I'd bet that despite the long hours, its a great deal more comfortable than long hours on a broom and perhaps no one minds that part. :-)

A rare event like the World Quiddich cup that will bring in revenue from tourists is likely to be seen as a one-time and worthwhile imposition on the ministry, whereas repeated yearly requirements would seem more like drudgery. I do remember getting the feeling that it was quite a challenge getting all the keys arranged - lots of "magical red tape" so to speak. If the Ministry was going to all that trouble back in the day for Hogwarts only to have a large percentage of the kids miss their times, I'd bet they didn't care if the solution was quick and easy for the students, so long as it was quicker and easier for ministry officials.

The quotes here come from snippets of the article by Rowling herself on Pottermore titled, "Hogwart's Express."

  • 1
    @DVK Bibidibobidiboo! Commented Oct 26, 2013 at 16:21
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    According to Wikipedia, trains were not used to transport people until the 1800s. With the International Statute of Secrecy being established in 1692, this means the magical world was "experimenting" with transportation methods for at least 150 years. I know the wizarding world moves slowly, but come on.
    – trysis
    Commented Jun 22, 2014 at 17:36
  • This isn't counting the Roman Empire having a proto-train 2600 years ago, of course.
    – trysis
    Commented Jun 22, 2014 at 17:37
  • Why should students who live much closer to Hogwarts than to London be forced to travel all the way to London just to get on a train that takes hours? Even if they can travel to Diagon Alley instantaneously by Floo powder, it seems an enormous waste of time.
    – Wallnut
    Commented Apr 25, 2016 at 11:48
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    "Of course apparating and flue powder were out of the question in order to get directly into the school (because of protective security measures)" How was Sirius able to use Floo Powder, then?
    – Alex
    Commented May 28, 2018 at 21:05

I think the only possible answer is the Muggle-borns.

Obviously, the wizarding world has to stay secret from Muggles. But they also must recruit untrained wizards from the Muggle families that birthed them.

Say you're a parent. Your child has always seemed...odd. Different somehow. Special. Interesting things happen around them - often unexplainable, but you rationalize it.

Then they turn 11, and an OWL arrives carrying a parchment letter, sealed with wax, that shatters your world (it could also come by post, of course, which wouldn't change things much). The letter to your child says that magic is real, and your child is a wizard. Your plans for their education go out the window - they have this potential that they must develop.

Most Muggles have never considered magic even potentially real, not since they were children. The thought that there may actually be witches and wizards will frighten you, at some level.

You journey, possibly aided by a mysterious witch or wizard - one of your child's new teachers, to a place you had never imagined could be in London - Diagon Alley. There you see obvious magic, you see potion ingredients that may sicken you, you see, smell, and hear bizarre things.

Perhaps you are calmed and reassured by the teacher. Perhaps Diagon Alley helps you come to terms with things. Perhaps, after all of this, you are actually looking forward to seeing your child grow into a wizard or witch.

Then the Knight Bus shows up, BANG!ing around, careening to and fro with no apparent regard for anyone's safety.

Or maybe a teacher shows up out of nowhere, and makes your child vanish before your eyes.

Or perhaps there's a portkey that they use, and you see your child dragged away by an old boot.

Or they could use a train. A bit old fashioned, it's steam-driven, but you take your child to a perfectly normal train station, enter Platform 9 3/4, and see them board a train that chugs away.

Which way will scare a Muggle parent least?

Also consider the psychological effect on the new Muggle-born student: They leave their parent in a fairly normal way, and their true introduction to the wizarding world is slow - they meet their fellow students, see some minor magics performed. They see interesting and magical treats on the cart. They interact with older students, and the people they'll be spending the next several months living with.

Then, a few hours later, as the sun drops towards the horizon, they get their first view of Hogwarts - a mighty castle, thrusting tall into the darkening sky. Every window blazes with light, and you are awed.

By this point, you are not just ready to learn magic, you are EAGER. Ask any teacher, they'll tell you: the best students are those who are motivated to learn.

TL;DR: It makes the separation easier for Muggle parents and eases the transition of Muggle-borns into the Wizarding world. It also helps drive the students to want to learn, making the teacher's jobs that much easier.

  • The logic seems pretty sound - +1. I'll wait around a bit for some fairy godmother to drop a canon quote or Word of God on my lap before accepting... Commented Feb 3, 2012 at 15:12
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    @vsz: Thing is, it isn't invisible - Harry and Ron could follow it from above easily in book 2.
    – Jeff
    Commented Jan 12, 2013 at 18:10
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    @Jeff: then how can it avoid being detected by muggles? The railroad system is not something where you can just run a train out of schedule with no questions asked, especially a steam locomotive in the last decade of the 20th century without being seen. It's either a plot hole, or only wizards can see it.
    – vsz
    Commented Jan 13, 2013 at 16:04
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    @Jeff It could just be invisible to muggles, like Hogwarts and the Quidditch Cup arena. At least once it's left the station, otherwise the whole "easing muggle parents into it" thing goes out the window when their kids board an invisible train.
    – jono
    Commented Jan 27, 2013 at 10:31
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    @Jeff well whatever you wish to call it, "invisible" or "undetectable" or "unacknowledgable", they still accomplish the same thing: keeping muggles from interacting or reacting to its presence
    – jono
    Commented Jan 27, 2013 at 21:54

Based on some of the events in the first book, I assumed when reading the books and watching the movies that the reason was firstly because of tradition. Especially when you consider the first years had to travel over to the castle by boats. Surely there was a better means than a boat. Then secondly - I was stationed in Europe for several years and found that the most common means of travel in Europe and England is by train. Since the magical world wanted to remain hidden from the muggle world it would make sense then to just go by a secret train that the muggles couldn't see. When I consider these two points, the train seems to make sense.


The train is a symbolic journey of leaving the muggle world behind and entering the wizarding world. Forms of instantaneous magical transport do not accomplish this. There is nothing like a long train ride where you can watch the muggle world receding in the distance, and then a few hours later see the wizarding world emerging on the horizon.

In short it is an age-old psychological phenomenon that is used to demonstrate that they are leaving one world behind and immersing themselves totally in their wizarding schooling, uninterrupted by outside happenings until the end of the semester. It is, in essence, a transitional location in which the young students straddle two worlds and move from one to the other.The state of mind this creates is simply non-existent in most magical forms of travel.

See for example the following quote:

Harry Potter and the Philosopher's Stone, Chapter Six

Harry watched the girl and her mother disappear as the train rounded the corner. Houses flashed past the window. Harry felt a great leap of excitement. He didn’t know what he was going to — but it had to be better than what he was leaving behind.


Also JK Rowling wanted to have a nod to older boarding school books where there is normal a train ride (I can't name any off the top of my head)

  • 4
    Do you have any source or reference to back up this statement? Something from a commentary or interview, perhaps?
    – phantom42
    Commented Jan 31, 2015 at 6:49
  • I just remember it was from a book I read but I can't remember what the book was-only the book was red Commented Jan 11, 2016 at 15:43
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    Notably, this is the opening sequence to Prince Caspian, the second of C.S. Lewis' Narnia series: … and now all four of them were sitting on a seat at a railway station with trunks and playboxes piled up round them. They were, in fact, on their way back to school. They had travelled together as far as this station, which was a junction; and here, in a few minutes, one train would arrive and take the girls away to one school, and in about half an hour another train would arrive and the boys would go off to another school.
    – mattdm
    Commented Jan 19, 2020 at 22:50

In my opinion it was to form friendships. eg The Marauders, Harry Potter, Ron Weasley, Hermione Granger, Snape. So basically it's a friendship train that allows people to get to know each other.

  • 1
    There’s no basis to think that the people who decided to use the Hogwarts Express as student transport had that in mind. There’d be time enough at Hogwarts itself to make friends.
    – Obsidia
    Commented May 28, 2018 at 18:46
  • @Bellatrix From an in-universe view, sure. But from a storytelling point of view... well, this is what happens, so....
    – mattdm
    Commented Jan 19, 2020 at 22:51
  • @mattdm Yes, the question is asked about the in-universe reason, so answers should be based on a possible reason in-universe.
    – Obsidia
    Commented Jan 20, 2020 at 16:04

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