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30 Magical Hidden Secrets at the Wizarding World of Harry Potter – Diagon Alley

Spoiler warning: There are no major plot spoilers on this page, but if you don’t want to know anything about how Harry Potter and the Escape from Gringotts and the Hogwarts Express work, stop reading now.

21. Bill’s microscope

Wiseacre's Wizarding Equipment

In Wiseacre’s Wizarding Equipment, sitting on Bill Weasley’s desk is the microscope that Bill uses in the pre-show portion of the Harry Potter and the Escape from Gringotts.

22. The moving picture

Weasleys in Epypt

In the pre-show for the Gringotts ride, look out for a moving picture frame showing the Weasley family in Egypt, seen in Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban.

23. Big screens

Screen Goo

Some 17,000 square feet of projection surfaces are used within the Gringotts attraction. The screens were built by Winter Garden, Florida-based Phoenix Rising, with the largest being 110 feet in circumference, 45 feet high and with a vertical and horizontal radius of nearly 55 feet. The surfaces are coated with Goo Systems Global’s Screen Goo, a specially formulated, highly-reflective acrylic paint that allows any smooth paintable surface to be transformed into a high performance projection screen.

Filling the enormous screens is a task that is beyond even modern high-definition projectors. Instead, a number of projectors are combined together in order to increase the total resolution of the image. The images from the different projectors are overlapped, with the images being visually joined together using edge blending. This technique involves varying the brightness of the overlapping image regions in order to ensure that they appear to be a single, seamless image to those viewing them.

24. Not so steamy after all

All the steam puffing out of the Hogwarts Express trains is strictly for show (and it’s quite a show). The trains are not powered by good old-fashioned coal, but instead work more like a funicular railway of the type that usually runs up and down a steep hillside like this one in Fribourg, Switzerland:

Funicular Railway

There are no engines on-board the two Hogwarts Express trains. Instead, they are pulled along by a cable, driven by a motor that is (presumably) housed at one of the two stations. The system was built by funicular railways specialist Doppelmayr, who boast: "Hiding behind the detailed reproduction of the renowned steam train is a modern funicular ropeway constructed by the world market leader in ropeway engineering."

25. Just one track

There may be two trains travelling back and forth between Diagon Alley and Hogsmeade, but that doesn’t mean there are two separate tracks for them to run on. Instead, both trains share a single track – except for one point in the middle, where they are able to pass each other.

Flanged wheels on the outboard side of the trains follow the outer rail, whereas unflanged wheels on the inboard side stick to the opposite rail, enabling the two cars to pass each other. A similar split section from another Doppelmayr funicular is shown above.

26. Heading the wrong way

Hogwarts Express

You’ll have noticed, of course, that there’s nowhere for the two trains to turn around (and, given the cable system employed by the ride, that would be impossible anyway). What does that mean? Simple – you travel in reverse from Hogsmeade to Diagon Alley.

27. Fake wheels

Hogwarts Express train

Those massive, “steam-driven” wheels you see when you climb aboard the Hogwarts Express are another show element – they’re fake. The actual wheels of the train are hidden underneath.

Interestingly, the fake wheels only exist on one side of the train. The other side doesn’t have them, as you can see if you check out these aerial photos from Pixels at the Parks.

28. The “3D” windows

You’ve probably guessed that the windows of the Hogwarts Express compartments are not actually real, and that you aren’t really looking out at the British countryside. In fact, hidden beyond the fake windows is a decidedly unattractive backstage area of Universal Orlando.

What you may not have figured out, though, is how those fake windows provide such an impression of depth, even though you’re not wearing 3D glasses. The answer is that the edges of the display are curved, helping to overcome the impression that you’re just staring at a high-definition monitor (which, essentially, you are).

29. Platform 9 ¾

Platform 9 3/4

With the Hogwarts Express trains looking suitably authentic, the two stations closely resembling their movie counterparts, and the journey having been created, there was still one more challenge facing Universal Creative. In the movies, Harry and his friends enter the hidden Platform 9 ¾ at Kings Cross by running directly through a brick wall. This memorable effect would have to be recreated in the Wizarding World’s new attraction. But how?

In the end, Universal accepted that actually having guests pass through a brick wall was not practical. Instead, they devised a neat effect for the benefit of waiting riders using the Pepper’s Ghost technique that dates back to the 19th century. A sheet of glass sits between those “walking through” the wall and those watching them, built into a large luggage cart. In conjunction with mirrors and lighting and sound effects, this creates the illusion for those watching that guests in front of them are passing through the wall. However, the guest in question actually simply walks through a zig-zag section of queue, with a sound effect playing to indicate that they have passed through onto the mythical platform, ready to begin their magical journey to Hogwarts.

30. Is that really Harry?


You may notice that the voices of Harry and Hermione don’t sound quite right on either of Diagon Alley’s rides. That’s because Daniel Radcliffe and Emma Watson opted out of reprising their roles.

 “A while ago, they asked me to do more stuff for the theme park,” explained Radcliffe in May 2014, “and that was my moment to try and draw a line because that theme park is going to keep expanding, and keep going to more countries, and there’s going to come a point where I’m going to be 30 years old, and if I was still doing that then, that would be a huge problem.”

Learn about the history of Universal Orlando

 The Unofficial Story

To learn about the history of the Universal Orlando Resort, check out Universal Orlando: The Unofficial Story - the first book ever to document its creation and evolution, from its debut to the present day. The book is available from and in paperback and Kindle formats.

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There is 1 comment.

There is no Crumple-horned Snorkack, I was in that store 2 minutes ago and asked the staff. That part isn't true.


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