The Hogwarts Express has become an iconic steam train in recent times, thanks to the huge popularity of the Harry Potter movie franchise.

Fans of the movies will instantly recognize the red locomotive and will be wondering what model train the Hogwarts Express represents.

In this article we'll take a look at the origins of the Hogwarts Express train, the features of the locomotive and the best scale models of this train available for your model railroad layout.

What model train is the Hogwarts Express?

The history of the Hogwarts Express is an interesting one and its origins are closely tied to the Great Western Railway which primarily connected London to South West England and Wales.

The steam locomotive featured in the Harry Potter movies is 5972 Olton Hall - a GWR 4900 'Hall' Class locomotive built in 1937.

Despite bearing the name 'Hogwarts Castle' in the movies, the locomotive is not in fact a member of the more powerful GWR 4073 'Castle' Class.

It started off its working life based at Carmarthen shed in Wales where it worked a variety of passenger and freight traffic. Subsequently, it was moved to a number of other GWR depots in South West England, Wales and the Midlands. The locomotive was withdrawn from service by British Railways in 1963. It wasn't until 1998 that Olton Hall steamed again as a result of an extensive overhaul and restoration.

The locomotive was named 'Hogwarts Castle' for the filming of Harry Potter and the Philosopher's Stone, released in 2001. It was also used for the subsequent movies in the franchise.

Hogwarts Express, the steam train in Harry Potter's world
'Hogwarts Castle' on display at the Warner Bros. Studio Tour, London.

It's now owned by West Coast Railways and is currently on static display in the UK at the Warner Bros. Studio Tour London - The Making of Harry Potter.

It's finished in the Hogwarts Express red livery, which was specifically created for the films and is inauthentic to what it would have carried when in service for GWR and British Railways.

As a result of the popularity of the Hogwarts Express, there are now a number of model trains that have been created as replicas to the full size version.

Let's take a look and compare the best models.

Best Hogwarts Express train set

There are a few options when choosing the best Harry Potter train set. The most popular Hogwarts Express model train is the Harry Potter train set from Hornby.

This set is considered one of the best all-rounders as it caters for a wide range of age groups, has good build quality and can be easily expanded in the future, if desired.

Hornby Harry Potter Train Set

A great all-round Hogwarts Express model train set.

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One of the most recommended Hogwarts Express train sets is the Hornby Harry Potter Set, which is a good all-rounder that's suitable for beginners and provides a great experience for Harry Potter fans and model train enthusiasts alike.

This train set includes the locomotive, two carriages, track and everything needed to get started.

You can also expand this set with the addition of extra accessories, including the Hogsmeade buildings, which allow you to create a more immersive model train experience.

Another advantage of this set is that, being OO scale, it's also compatible with any existing HO scale locomotives and rolling stock that you may have.

This Harry Potter set also features in our guide to the best Christmas tree train sets and looks great running around the base of the tree during the festive season.

It's certainly one of the best options for a Hogwarts Express electric train set and one that any Harry Potter fan should consider adding to their model train collection or as a beginners set.

You can purchase it here.

An alternative to the Hornby set we've looked at above is the Lionel Hogwarts Express Ready-to-Play set.

Lionel Hogwarts Ready-to-Play Set

A good alternative Harry Potter train set.

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This set is built in a proprietary variant of G gauge - a larger scale than the Hornby set - and includes the locomotive, tender, two coach cars and track to get you started.

It's one of the least expensive Hogwarts Express train sets available, so if you have a limited budget it's a good starter set. However, it's not compatible with standard G gauge products so there are limited options for expandability in the future.

This set is perhaps more suited to going around the base of a Christmas tree due to its larger scale and more simplistic styling. It certainly looks right at home as part of festive season decorations.

As noted earlier, the disadvantage of this set is that it's not compatible with other G gauge track systems, meaning you can't expand the layout with track pieces that you already own.

So, for most people the Hornby set is the recommended Hogwarts Express model train unless you are wanting a train set to run around the base of the tree at Christmas.

Lego Hogwarts Express trains

Lego train sets featuring the Hogwarts Express are also a great option and are sure to appeal to a wide range of model train fans.

As with most Lego products these Harry Potter train sets feature the same exemplary build quality and will last for many years.

Lego Hogwarts Express - Collectors Edition

High quality Lego set for Harry Potter fans and model train collectors.

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The Hogwarts Express - Collectors Edition is a fantastic train set for any Harry Potter fan or model train collector.

With this set you're able to build a replica 1:32 scale model of the Hogwarts Express in detail with the locomotive, coal tender and passenger car all featured.

This set is extremely satisfying to build and makes an excellent display piece due to its quality and exceptional level of detail.

It also includes a set of 20 collectible mini figures that you can use to recreate scenes from the Harry Potter movies.

Whilst this train set may seem expensive at first, Lego Collectors Edition train sets have been known to increase their value if they're kept in good condition. This set is highly desired by Harry Potter memorabilia collectors and model train enthusiasts.

Another option is the Hogwarts Express and Hogsmeade Station set.

Hogwarts Express & Hogsmeade Station

Good value Harry Potter Lego train set.

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This set features a buildable locomotive, tender and 2 passenger cars in addition to the Hogsmeade station building.

Also included are 8 mini figures that complement the train and station layout.

Whilst the Hogwarts Express - Collectors Edition is the best option for most Harry Potter fans, lego collectors and model train enthusiasts this is a great alternative option for kids or beginners.

Summary of Hogwarts Express model trains

The locomotive depicted in the Harry Potter movies hauling the 'Hogwarts Express' is the GWR 4900 'Hall' Class locomotive 5972 Olton Hall.

This locomotive originally worked on a variety of passenger and freight traffic in Wales, South West England and the Midlands from 1948 - 1963.

It'll be familiar to any Harry Potter fan or rail enthusiast and features an iconic red livery created specifically for the movies.

There are a number of options to consider when choosing the best Hogwarts Express train set.

The Hornby Harry Potter Set is the recommended Hogwarts Express train set for most people. It features a high quality locomotive, passenger cars and everything needed to get started quickly. It's also easy to expand the set with additional track and collectable buildings which all contribute to the immersive experience on offer.

If you're looking for a Lego Harry Potter set then the Hogwarts Express - Collectors Edition is the best option. It's a truly unique offering that makes a fantastic display piece that's perfect for any model train collector or Harry Potter fan.

If you're looking to expand your Harry Potter model train collection then be sure to check out our train set guides for the latest releases as well as our beginner guides to model trains if you're just getting started in the hobby.

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