Fiction has done much to keep the magic of steam engines alive in the public consciousness. JK Rowling’s Harry Potter series of novels and films that followed are one of the most recent successes, with it’s Hogwart’s Express that departed from London King’s Cross platform 9¾. The locomotive that starred in the role of Hogwarts Castle was ex- Great Western Railway 5972 Olton Hall, painted in maroon. Olton Hall was built in 1937 and never ran in this colour when in service with either the Great Western Railway or British Railways. The livery means that the locomotive stands out from the ten other members of the class that survived into preservation. Despite it’s recent stardom, the fate of this locomotive was for many years in doubt, as after withdrawal in 1964 it languished in Barry scrapyard until 1981 when it was purchased.
Recently, preservation railway forums and social media went hectic after it was mentioned on www.railwaytouring.net that 5972 Olton Hall is to run a special in June before being “taken to the Warner Bros Museum for the rest of its days”. It should be noted that this museum is most likely to be in Watford in the UK and not in the USA, although this is not clear yet. In Orlando there is already a fiberglass replica.
So will the Hogwarts Express disappear into a museum forever? Many enthusiasts are upset about this possible fate of this locomotive and you can understand why – it was not something envisioned by those who saved it from the scrapyard after all. From the speculative evidence it looks to be a possibility that Olton Hall will become a theme park attraction. Let’s not forget that in the movie business things come in and out of fashion over time. It is likely that over time 5972 will become less of an important exhibit and more valuable as a working machine again. These pictures were a case in point, they were taken in Hyde Park at a Christmas Wonderland in 2011. The event had to be closed due to overcrowding – this spot outside the locomotive wasn’t busy in the slightest. In fact there were even seats free to rest! What’s more, when we ran a poll last year to find the worlds most famous steam engine (click here for more), 5972 received just 14 out 559 votes. If 5972 does go away, I think it will come back. Let’s hope in the meantime that if Olton Hall goes into a museum that it serves to continue to stir the enthusiasm of younger generations towards the magic of steam.