Why Harry Potter went loco for Flying Scotsman
It also reveals that JK Rowling gave a character in the wizardry series the same name as the author of a 1930s children’s book about the Flying Scotsman locomotive which hauled the namesake London-Edinburgh express.
Rowling called a witch who meets Harry in the first book Doris Crockford, who shares her name with the writer of an illustrated tale about the locomotive’s fictional adventures in the far north of Scotland.
National Railway Museum head curator Andrew McLean came across the links during research for his book The Flying Scotsman: Speed, Style, Service, which is being published to mark the completion of the locomotive’s £4.2 million restoration.
The Flying Scotsman, which operated from King’s Cross Station in London from 1862, traditionally departed from Platform 10 at 10am. The Hogwarts Express, the steam train which took Harry and fellow pupils to Hogwarts School of Witchcraft and Wizardry, left from the station’s Platform 9¬¬ at 11am.
McLean said the parallels were “too much of a coincidence”. He wrote: “It is interesting to note that Doris Crockford is also the name of a character in JK Rowling’s Harry Potter books, which are themselves noted for a named express train that departs King’s Cross from a set platform at a set time.”
The witch meets Harry in the Leaky Cauldron pub in Harry Potter And The Philosopher’s Stone during a trip to London to prepare for his first term at Hogwarts.
Rowling has also written on her Pottermore website of the “very personal significance” of King’s Cross Station to her because her parents met on a train travelling between there and Scotland.
Crockford’s book, published in 1937 at the height of the Flying Scotsman’s fame, relates how the locomotive decides to head north from Edinburgh to John O’ Groats without its driver or fireman,
When the engine reaches the end of the line, it fears it will rust away by being unable to turn round, but it is eventually tracked down and returned to safety.
McLean spotted the link with Harry Potter after the National Railway Museum acquired a rare copy of the book last year.
He said that the illustrations showing the locomotive with a face might also have influenced the Rev W Awdry’s Railway Series of books, featuring Thomas the Tank Engine which were first published eight years later.
Also, in a 1968 instalment of the series, Enterprising Engines, the Flying Scotsman locomotive pays a visit to his fictional brother, Gordon the Big Engine. McLean said there was a “fair chance” that Awdry would have seen Crockford’s book.
A spokeswoman for the Harry Potter author said: “We don’t as a general rule comment on the inspirations JK Rowling may have had for the Harry Potter books.”
The Flying Scotsman locomotive, which was saved for the nation by the museum in 2004, is due to makes its inaugural mainline trip between King’s Cross and York on 25 February.
McLean’s book, which is published in April, will be followed by the locomotive returning to Scotland in May for the first time in 16 years.
It will haul a train from York to Edinburgh, followed by a trip over the Forth Bridge to Fife.