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Keeping you safe from travelling on the Hogwarts Express

“End of the line? Harry Potter train waits for ruling on Hogwarts route”, reports the BBC.

Steam journeys on the Harry Potter railway line could grind to a halt if a challenge to safety rules fails.

West Coast Railways (WCR), which operates the heritage route, challenged demands for central locking systems to be fitted to the carriage doors.

The owners of the Jacobite – which appeared as the Hogwarts Express in the boy wizard films – said implementing the new measures could cost £7m.

A judgement on the judicial review is expected in January.

The train operates on the West Highland Line on one of Scotland’s most iconic railway routes – from Fort William to Mallaig – from March to October.

It crosses the Glenfinnan Viaduct, which became an attraction for a new generation of tourists after being featured in Harry Potter and the Chamber of Secrets.

About 750 people per day travel to the end of the line at Mallaig every day in the peak season, with many more visitors travelling to the area to see the train go past.

What is the actual danger for any given person in using the same sort of carriage for one there-and-back journey (with a steward present on every coach) as I and millions of others used unsupervised every day for years on end? Minuscule, of course. Given that no one takes this journey because they must – it is all done purely for fun, because lots of people young and old love historic trains, Harry Potter, or both – why can’t they ask the people who choose to make the journey whether they consent to take this tiny risk?

Answer: because safetyists get their fun from making sure no one else has any. I mean that close to literally. No one whose goal was actually making people meaningfully safer would spend five minutes on this particular risk. But there is satisfaction to be had in controlling others, especially if you can tell yourself that you are overriding their own judgement of what they want to do for their own good.

17 comments to Keeping you safe from travelling on the Hogwarts Express

  • Nicholas (Unlicensed Joker) Gray

    You’ve got that right! The new New Zealand Government, as opposed to the old, has promised to end the country’s progressive smoking ban, so people will be able to choose if they want to smoke. Darn. I was all set up to import cigarettes into NZ, and sell them at high prices to anyone who could pay, and become a new crime-lord (remember Prohibition?). The safetyists, also known as wowsers (We Only Want Social Evils Removed), are very angry about this. They think the Tobacco Companies must have been behind it.

  • Paul Marks

    If someone is stupid enough to unlock a door on a fast moving train and step out – well, then they are very stupid indeed, unless they want to hurt themselves (in which case they will find some way to do so).

    A society can not effectively function without people showing what the philosopher Thomas Reid called “Common Sense” – trying to substitute endless regulations for the population following basic sense, will lead to breakdown.

    Sadly the United States seems to be even further down this road of endless regulations and endless legal cases, rather than expecting ordinary people to show basic Common Sense, than the United Kingdom is.

    As the American Founding Fathers (Thomas Reid was their favourite philosopher) would have pointed out – if one can not trust ordinary people to exercise basic Common Sense in their lives (if one needs endless regulations and endless tort law legal cases as well) then one can certainly NOT give such people any role in choosing the government or taking part in such things as criminal or civil trials (as the jury). Indeed Ludwig Von Mises made this point in the 20th century – that it was utterly inconsistent to say that people could not manage basic things in their own lives, but then to say that people should have the vote to decide on a government that would control everything.

    Either humans are human beings, thinking persons, or they are not.

    And such beings do not open the window on a fast moving train, unlock the door, and step out – at least not unless they want (they choose) to hurt themselves.

  • Paul Marks

    Thinking about it….

    Even in the 19th century some (some) of the “educated” elite who declared that they were democrats did NOT support the traditional democratic institutions such as the annual gatherings in some Swiss Cantons to decide matters.

    Why the obsession with “representatives” deciding things – rather than the people themselves?

    Unless the idea was that the election of these people was to be “guided” (rigged – as in some American States in 2020 and 2022) or that the representatives were not really intended to be making the policy decisions either – with policy really being decided by officials and “experts”, as in modern Britain.

    For example, did elected politicians debate and vote on these railway regulations – or did officials and “experts” create the regulations?

    Having “scientific experts” decide on, for example, the price of bread – is no more rational than a vote on the matter, or some mad dictator (who hears voices in his head) deciding the price of bread.

  • Patrick Crozier

    It’s not a complete non-issue. According to The Times of 4 August 1923, “There were twenty-four fatal and forty non-fatal cases of falling out of carriages during the running of trains…”

  • Brian, follower of Deornoth

    Unlocked doors appear to be a pretty big issue on the railways. Hence this forty-page report about someone crocking themselves with one. Or perhaps we have a lot of safety officials with not enough to do.

  • Natalie Solent (Essex)

    Patrick Crozier, I take your point, and it was a good thing that when the time came to replace the train carriages of my youth the new designs had safer doors, but it’s all in the numbers. You could probably give me chapter and verse on how many millions of rail journeys were safely made in 1923, but I know the number would have been huge. Compared to that, the number travelling on the Hogwarts Express is tiny, so the risk of that specific type of accident is also tiny.

  • druid144

    I think that the knee jerk reaction from us oldsters may need rethinking. We grew up in a society that knew life could be risky and trained (sorry!) their off-springs to take care and look out for danger.

    Todays generations have experienced increasing safety and may be of the “if it weren’t safe, they would stop us from doing this” mindset. It may not occur to them that playing with a door handle while the train is doing 50mph over a high viaduct, may not be a good idea…
    Personally, I’d happy to see the breed improved by a little Darwin-ing, but that would probably see the train shut down and the viaduct demolished.

  • DiscoveredJoys

    Rules, and their unthinking and slavish observation, are far more important than real life and common sense. If we let people avoid implementing the rules they might not avoid other important rules like paying for a TV Licence or not eating our 5 a day. They might not do the bidding of our betters (sarcasm).

    Or better still leave the handles in place and get everybody who joins the train to pay a small fee to offset any damage claims.

  • Jim

    “Sadly the United States seems to be even further down this road of endless regulations and endless legal cases, rather than expecting ordinary people to show basic Common Sense, than the United Kingdom is.”

    From my experience of visiting the US, the opposite is true. I remember visiting the Hoover dam and peering over the (unprotected apart from a low wall) edge down the front of it, and thinking ‘If this was in the UK there’d be a steel fence 8′ tall here and signs everywhere telling you that falling off a dam will kill you’.

  • djc

    The railway carriages of my youth c1960) only had a handle of the outside. To open the door it was necessary to lower the window (heavy, held by a leather strap) and open the door from outside. Not something that happens accidentally.

  • Steven R

    On this side of the Pond, when someone does end up dying from this there will be cries in the press of “why didn’t somebody do something?,” the legislators and regulators come up with tons more laws and rules because of the cries of the outraged, and the owners of the company are sued into bankruptcy. Everyone loses. Now that the owners of the train know there is a solution to their problem, a problem that doesn’t really exist but there you go, they should just implement it and pass the costs to their consumers, and call it a day.

    If/When they end up going out of business anyway, just put out a final press release explaining they lost their shirts doing this and all those who can’t ride a train to a fictional place can take it up with Parliament and the various regulatory agencies and here are their addresses.

  • There are idiots who try to open the doors of airplanes in flight. I’m sure when those who succeed reach the Pearly Gates, St. Peter congratulates them on winning their Darwin Award.


    It’s easier to open the doors on trains. We seem to be raising a generation of damn fools. Let them Darwin out of the next generation.

  • Snorri Godhi

    They could spend much less money by hiring somebody to manually lock the doors, and another person to check that every door is locked, all before the train starts.

    It should also be possible to install a device on each door that won’t lock the door, but will detect whether the door is locked. That should be fairly cheap.

  • bobby b

    And yet they still sell chainsaws.

    Likely because they don’t yet have an entire bureaucracy devoted to justifying their own efforts and costs for logging safety.

  • Paul Marks

    bobby b – I suspect it is only a matter of time before chainsaws, and even kitchen knives are banned in Western countries.

    “Why do you want a knife? There are government feeding centres!”

    Still – the system may well collapse soon, it is hard to tell when it will finally collapse.

  • Fraser Orr

    What a bunch of muggles… I mean all a mischievous young wizard needs is a quick flick and alohomora, and their silly locking system is defeated.

    Two other points:
    * The point of the lawsuit is not safety it is compliance. The point is genuflecting to the dementors.
    * A fascination reality — the word “alohomora” I used above is in my spell check dictionary… Merlin’s beard!!

  • EarnestCanuck

    Can’t seem to find the story, but I believe Britain’s thrice-damned Elf’n’Safety, not long ago, instructed residents of a tower block *not to use* provided fire extinguishers if they came upon a blaze. Retreat and call in the fire professionals, was the directive.

    The thinking seems infected by Expertmania: matters of self-defense (and indeed, self-preservation) are best left to paid and trained agents of the state. Don’t you understand liability, citizen??

    Thus here in Canada, even semi-weapons like brass knuckles, pepper spray and stun guns are prohibited. Knives, sure, why not? Prime Minister Trudeau has all but averred that Canucks do *not* have a right to self-defense. And if you are burned up, beaten or raped cos the government took away your basic tools of protection, well, at least the authorities will arrive… eventually. Maybe.