The Harry Potter Train – Jacobite Steam Train
The Jacobite Steam Train is a steam locomotive train currently operating as a tourist train that covers the Fort William-Mallaig route. This route was inaugurated in 1901 and connects the mountainous area of Fort William with the Atlantic Ocean. In 1967 all steam locomotives were replaced by diesel locomotives. As of 1984 this route returned to work continuously, as a tourist attraction, and the original steam locomotive was recovered.
When does the Jacobite Steam Train run?
The train runs from May to October and makes two daily trips between Fort William and Mallaig. The route is 84 miles and the duration is two hours. The tickets are highly sought after and in February we already made the reservation for the month of August.
Currently the service has two steam locomotives. The locomotive’s boiler is fueled with coal. In addition to the driver, two more operators were on the train to replenish the fuel.
Various steam locomotives have been used to haul the service over the years, mostly of types that would have been used on the route in pre-1967 steam days, including:
- 61994 The Great Marquess; designed specially for the route in the 1930s.
- LNER Peppercorn Class K1 2-6-0 No. 62005 Lord of the Isles; a 1940s development of the K4 design.
- LMS Stanier Class 5 4-6-0; known as the “Black Fives”.
The highlight of the trip was when the train passed over the Glenfinnan Viaduct, built on 21 arches. As we have mentioned before, it became famous thanks to the Harry Potter movies. When you cross the viaduct you have a good view of the Jacobite monument at Glenfinnan and Loch Shiel. The train passes through a historic area linked to the Jacobite revolts of the 18th century.
After passing through the viaduct the train made its first stop. At Glenfinnan station you could visit a small museum on the history of railways in the Highlands.
The next stop is Arisaig, a small town, which according to the way station indicated, is the most westerly mainland station in the United Kingdom.
The next stop is Mallaig, which is a small town, on the shores of the Atlantic Ocean, with a port that has an active fishing fleet. In addition to here, ferries leave for the Isle of Skye and the nearby small islands.
Return to Fort William
The train made the same stops as on the way out and a small shop with souvenirs from the railway and from the Harry Potter movies was set up in one of the cars.
The seven carriages are seated by railway enthusiasts from all over the world, fans of the old technique and tourists who want to travel in an unusual way through the beautiful Scottish Highlands. And there are also the fans of Harry Potter, because the Jacobite is the train that in the films about the famous wizard’s apprentice represents the Hogwarts Express, that train that leaves platform 9 3/4 of London’s King’s Cross station to take students to Hogwarts school.
A little history
The Mallaig Extension of the West Highland Line opened in 1901 and was operated by the North British Railway. It was intended to help open up this rural and remote part of the Scottish Atlantic coast, and the building of the line was heavily subsidized by the British Government. It became part of the London and North Eastern Railway at the Grouping in 1923, and British Railways at Nationalization in 1948.
Regular steam services over the West Highland Line were withdrawn in 1967, in line with the British Rail Modernization Plan which outlined the replacement of all steam locomotives with more efficient and reliable diesel locomotives.
In 1984, ScotRail re-introduced a steam-hauled service over part of the line, in an effort to encourage tourism and increase income on the heavily subsidized line. Called the West Highlander, it proved successful and continued in subsequent years. It was later renamed The Lochaber.
In 1995 following the privatization of British Rail, the operating license for the West Highlander trains was granted to West Coast Railways (WCR), and they began operating the service that summer under the new name of The Jacobite (after the historic Jacobite political movement which has many local connections).
The daily service departs Fort William at 10:15 and arrives at Mallaig at 12:25. The return from Mallaig departs at 14:10 arriving back into Fort William at 16:00. The service crosses the additional afternoon train at Glenfinnan on Mondays to Fridays and this is the only regular crossing of two steam services passing each other on the national network.
In 2011, for the first time, WCR added a second daily The Jacobite from Fort William to Mallaig due to demand, using Ian Riley’s Black 5 44871 and a spare set of coaches that were formerly used for The Cambrian. The additional service departs Fort William at 14:30 with an arrival time back in Fort William of 20:30 and runs from June to August, Monday to Friday.
The future of The Jacobite was thrown into doubt in 2015 by the complete suspension of West Coast Railways’ train operating company license. The ban was lifted on 8 May 2015, allowing the service to resume. West Coast Railway were banned again between February and March 2016.
How to get to Fort Williams
from New york City or any city in the United States
From London by Car to Fort Williams: 9 hr 38 min (518.8 mi) via M6