REVIEW: Hogwarts Express – 2018 version

One of the 2018 Harry Potter sets I initially thought I would give a miss was the new Hogwarts Express. I already had the three previous versions (though not the very rare motorised variant of the 2004 set) – but to be honest none of them really look that well. So a few years ago I embarked on building my own version, which looks much better, but unfortunately is problematic when running on track due to the overhang of the front of the train. I realised the 2018 model might resolve that, and include a very nice looking train station part as well, so in the end this set ended up in the shopping cart as well. Long coming, here’s finally my review.

Box and content

The box art follows the general design of the other 2018 Harry Potter sets and looks attractive with the bright red stream engine arriving at platform 9 3/4 and professor Lupin fending off a dementor.

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As usual, the back of the box shows the various play features of the set, most interestingly how the Hogwarts student can walk through the wall to platform 9 3/4.

Also, having the side of the train carriage come off makes it a lot easier to play with, which is a significant improvement over previous versions.

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Inside the box you’ll find 7 numbered bags with parts and a plastic bag with the instructions and sticker sheet (making the stickers safe from the risk of being crumpled and damaged in the box). Overall, the amount of bricks seemed quite reasonable for the set of this price point.

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There are quite a few stickers and as always it would have been nice with some more printed parts and less reliance on stickers.

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Minifigures

The set includes six minifigures. Not surprisingly is include Harry Potter and his friends Ron Weasley and Hermoine Granger, though it would be nice at times to see other students, for example Neville (looking for his toad) or Draco (teasing Harry, Ron and Hermoine as usual).

For Harry, Ron and Hermione, the short non-articulated kids legs are used. In this series of sets these legs have been used for year 1-2 students at Hogwarts, and slightly longer teenage legs for years 3-4. With the 2018 sets focusing on years 1-2, it is appropriate to use the smaller legs.

They all have an alternative gave print too, showing them scared.

All the students have printing on the backs of their torsos as we’ve gotten used to.

In addition to the three students, you’ll find professor Lupin (a bit inconsistent with the students representing year 1-2, but Lupin didn’t arrive till their third year on Hogwarts), the trolley lady (with a cart full of sweets/lollies) and a dementor (which Lupin surely will take care of).

Looking closer, we see again very impressive torso prints, in particular on Lupin.

Only Lupin and the trolley witch have alternative facial expressions, the witch looking scared, and Lupin as werewolf. The werewolf print looks amazing. I had kind of hoped for a sleeping Lupin, but I’m glad they did the werewolf instead.

Their torso backs are also printed for completeness.

Trolley talk

Ron came with a trolley loaded with two suitcases and his rat scabbers.

When building it, I realised the promotional polybag (30407) that came out along with the 2018 wave of sets and included Harry Potter, Hedwig in a cage and a trolley had the same design and complements the set perfectly. So I took a break from the big set to build this too.

Here are the two trolleys together (using the Harry Potter figure from the Hogwarts Express set so both him and Ron are in casual clothes).

One thing that bothered me was the lack of wheels, so I’ve added a few 1×1 round plates (in silver) here.

The trolley lady not surprisingly also comes with a trolley. This is loaded with lollies, including what is probably a box of Bertie Bott’s Every Flavour Beans and a chocolate frog (see my chocolate frog box and wizard card instructions here).

Chocolate also played a role when Harry first met the dementors on the train in The Prisoner of Azkaban. Here Lupin gave him some chocolate that helps you recover when you’ve passed out due to dementors.

Unfortunately there is no chocolate bar included, but here I’ve added one I had as spare.

Now Lupin is ready to save Harry from the dementor.

The train

Enough talk about minifigures – the true star here is the train. It is the first Hogwarts Express train released by LEGO to utilise the larger, and for a steam engine much more realistic looking train wheels, and what a difference it makes.

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Here is the full stream engine with stickers. While it appears slightly shorter than the real one, it looks great overall in the red and black colour scheme and pearl gold decorative parts.

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The tender is quite small, but matches the train well. The exposed studs at the back of the tender annoys me though. I guess 1×1 red tiles were not in production in 2018.

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Having completed the tender, you get to start on the passenger carriage next. This also differs from previous versions of Hogwarts Express having one side that opens. With the roof off as well, that gives plenty of scope for playing what’s happening inside the train – much more so than if only the roof came off.

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Here is the complete train. It looks great, but many may want to source bricks from Bricklink for a second (or third) passenger carriage.

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I only wish they had used bricks instead of panels for the sides of the driver cabin. That would have avoided having an open side visible from the front.

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Station

Kings Cross (same as included in 2001 set 4708), but with a very different implementation to how the figures enter Platform 9 3/4 walking through the wall. Instead of a swirling door, this time a piece of the wall is hinged with Technic pins allowing it to swing up and let figures in. This works better in my opinion.

You start with building the platform.

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Subsequently you add pillars and arches, quite similar to the actual architecture at Kings Cross.

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A connecting pedestrian bridge to neighbouring platforms complete the station.

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There were a few small alterations i wanted to make while building, including replacing the Technic bricks the door to platform 9 3/4 hinges on with 1×2 bricks with pin.

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That avoids having the hole from the Technic brick visible on the pillar. Luckily I had a couple of spares in tan.

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Lastly there were an exposed studs on the handrail of the pedestrian bridge. I added a couple of 1×1 reddish brown tiles there. As there are already several such tiles included I’m a bit perplexed why the didn’t include two more to avoid this.

Overall impressions

As my final verdict, I’m really glad I got this. It is by far the best Hogwarts express train released to date. The minifigure selection is great and the station well executed.

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The train can relatively easily (I’m not saying cheaply) be motorised as explained here.

As always, there are few minor points detracting. The use of non-articulated legs means the students stand rather than sir on their chairs, though this is mostly hidden by the armrest.

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The opening of the side of the carriage (similar to 2019 Knight Bus) allows much better play opportunities that when only the roof comes off as previous versions. This allowed me to take this photo.

Then the trolley lady can make a trip through the carriage selling her chocolate frogs and other stuff. Unfortunately there is no room for the trolley, when the passenger carriage is closed.

While the side can be opened, this train has no train doors (similar to all the previous versions), and no train driver (it is a magic train, so maybe it doesn’t need one).

The minor things aside, this is by far the best Hogwarts Express train ever released. As the 2019 sets are hitting the shelves now, it may be a good time to pick it up (if you haven’t already) before it is gone.

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