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How many times a year does the Hogwarts Express run between Hogwarts and London King's Cross?

I know the train goes to Hogwarts at the start of the school year near the start of September, and back to London before the summer break, since the books describe Harry ride these several times. But is the train also used for the Christmas break, when most students leave Hogwarts? We never see Harry use it, but that's because he doesn't want to spend the break with the Dursleys. Does it perhaps run even more frequently, so that students with parents in England can visit home several times a year, or shop in Diagon Alley in London?

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    The wikia suggests six times a year, maybe more, as needed. So I think we can assume 6 to be the lower bound, assuming that is correct of course. Though I wouldn't base an answer off of that. – TheLethalCarrot Apr 25 '18 at 12:45
  • As far as I know students aren't permitted to leave school - except to visit Hogsmeade - during term time (unless their parents come and take them out of school), so it's unlikely the Hogwarts Express runs frequently. Six times per school year seems reasonable, as there are three terms. – Anthony Grist Apr 25 '18 at 13:05
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Likely six times in a normal year

The school year at Hogwarts is split into three terms: From the start of the school year until the Christmas break, after the Christmas break until the start of the Easter break, and after the Easter break until the end of the school year.

We know - as the question states - that the Hogwarts Express runs at least twice at the start and end of the school year. However, as students are permitted to return home for the Christmas and Easter breaks, it's extremely likely that the Hogwarts Express runs at the start and end of each term, which would mean it runs at least six times per year.

"Does it perhaps run even more frequently, so that students with parents in England can visit home several times a year, or shop in Diagon Alley in London?"

This seems unlikely.

There's no explicit mention in the books of Hogwarts students being permitted to leave school during term-time, except for the infrequent allowed trips to Hogsmeade (which is a relatively short walk from the school), unless their parents come and take them out of school.

There are also logistical concerns that would appear to make it not worthwhile. Students have lessons Monday through Friday, leaving only weekends when students could potentially return home on a frequent basis.

We know that the Hogwarts Express departs from King's Cross on the 1st of September at 11:00 (11am). We also know that it arrives the same day, though the exact time isn't explicitly stated in the books at any point. This means that the total travel time isn't known, but we can attempt to estimate it.

I believe that in the books it's dark when the Hogwarts Express arrives in Hogsmeade. According to this site sunset in Glasgow1 on September 1st is 20:19 (8:19pm). That would give us a minimum travel time of roughly nine and a half hours.

A travel time of nine and a half hours each way during a weekend is possible, but doesn't leave a huge amount of time in your destination (especially if you have additional travel after arriving in King's Cross). Usage would likely be low, which likely means they simply wouldn't run it at all.

Of course, nine and a half hours might be an overestimate for the total travel time (I doubt JKR consulted sunset times for September 1st when writing the books). However, even assuming the Hogwarts Express arrives early evening - around dinnertime - then the travel time is likely 7 to 8 hours, with the arrival time being between 18:00 and 19:00 (6 and 7pm). That still seems too long to make the trip worthwhile on a weekend.


1 Hogwarts isn't in Glasgow (or central Scotland), but the times shouldn't vary so wildly that it affects the estimate too much.

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Presumably Four to Six Times

We know that students take the Hogwarts Express at the beginning of the year and at the end of the year, as these journeys are documented in most of the books. We also know that students can go home for the Christmas holidays, and Harry in fact does leave Hogwarts for Christmas in both Order of the Phoenix and Half-Blood Prince. In Order of the Phoenix he takes a portkey to Grimmauld Place, and takes the Knight Bus back to Hogwarts:

"You have all used a Portkey before?" asked Dumbledore, and they nodded, each reaching out to touch some part of the blackened kettle. "Good. On the count of three then... one... two..."

They were to return to Hogwarts on the Knight Bus the following day, escorted once again by Tonks and Lupin, both of whom were eating breakfast in the kitchen when Harry, Ron, and Hermione arrived there next morning.

In Half-Blood Prince we are not told how they got to the Burrow, but they return to Hogwarts via the Floo Network:

As he and Ron had left for the Burrow early the next day, he had barely had time to wish her a happy Christmas and to tell her that he had some very important news when they got back from the holidays.

Late in the afternoon, a few days after New Year, Harry, Ron, and Ginny lined up beside the kitchen fire to return to Hogwarts. The Ministry had arranged this one-off connection to the Floo Network to return students quickly and safely to the school.

However, it would appear that these travel arrangements were an exception rather than the norm. In Order of the Phoenix they had to leave Hogwarts under emergency circumstances and wanted security on the way back; in Half-Blood Prince the Ministry apparently set up a Floo connection for security reasons as well. Indeed, earlier in the series we do find the Hogwarts Express being used for the Christmas holidays.

In Chapter Twelve of Chamber of Secrets we find the following statement:

There was almost a stampede to book seats on the Hogwarts Express so that students could go home for Christmas.

In Deathly Hallows when the Ministry was already under Voldemort's control (so there would be no need for extra security traveling for Christmas) we again find the train used for Christmas:

"The only people in real danger are the ones whose friends and relatives on the outside are giving trouble. They get taken hostage. Old Xeno Lovegood was getting a bit too outspoken in The Quibbler, so they dragged Luna off the train on the way back for Christmas."

Hogwarts also has Easter holidays. In all the years Harry attended Hogwarts, though, I don't believe we ever see anyone going home for Easter. However, in Prisoner of Azkaban a conversation between Fudge and Harry implies that students could go home for Easter:

"Ah, you're worrying about the reaction of your aunt and uncle?" said Fudge. "Well, I won't deny that they are extremely angry, Harry, but they are prepared to take you back next summer as long as you stay at Hogwarts for the Christmas and Easter holidays."

Harry unstuck his throat.

"I always stay at Hogwarts for the Christmas and Easter holidays," he said, "and I don't ever want to go back to Privet Drive."

And in Deathly Hallows, though Harry no longer attends Hogwarts, we do hear about Malfoy and Ginny being home for the Easter holidays:

"Follow me," said Narcissa, leading the way across the hall. "My son, Draco, is home for his Easter holidays. If that is Harry Potter, he will know."

"... lucky that Ginny’s on holiday. If she’d been at Hogwarts they could have taken her before we reached her. Now we know she’s safe too."

"We lost Luna at Christmas, and Ginny never came back after Easter, and the three of us were sort of the leaders.

However, we are not told how Ginny or Malfoy returned home. We might assume that the Hogwarts Express is used for Easter just like it is used for Christmas, but on the other hand it is possible that if so few people tend to go home for Easter then they wouldn't bother running the train.

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