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Hogwarts Express may be off the rails


The Jacobite Steam Train, a popular tourist ride in the Scottish Highlands, and which featured on the route of the Hogwarts Express in the Harry Potter movies may soon be at the end of the line, unless a wizard can give it a spell.

The train, which runs across the dramatic curved Glenfinnan Viaduct, is threatened by a safety rule that requires trains operating on main line routes to have central locking systems for their doors, rather than the passenger-operated doors that were once common and still exist on the Jacobite train.

When central locking, designed to prevent passengers from jumping or falling from a moving train were first required in 2003, a ten-year exemption was granted for services operating under 40 mph, as nearly all excursion lines do. That was extended in 2013, but the exemption is coming to an end.

A number of vintage operators have complied with retrofits to their equipment, but West Coast Railways, operator of the Jacobite train, say the cost to do that on their fleet of 120 vintage cars is too high, and would make the business unprofitable. Modern trains are air-braked using a compressed air system that doesn't exist on steam-age trains, whose brakes are vacuum-operated.

West Coast has sued the Office of Rail and Road over the issue, and a judgment is expected in February.

The best part of every trip is realizing that it has upset your expectations

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