It’s famously the London terminus of the Hogwarts Express, but King’s Cross was nearly an inner-city hub for a very different kind of transport. Read on to find out what on earth we’re talking about and discover a bunch of other King’s Cross facts.
Anyone who doesn’t know that they can catch the fictional Hogwarts Express from King’s Cross Platform 9 and 3/4 has probably been living under a rock for the past 20 years. Less well known is the fact that J.K. Rowling’s parents met on a train to Scotland that departed from King’s Cross. Years later, this fateful encounter inspired her to include the station in her international bestselling Harry Potter book series, which in turn saw King’s Cross introduce Platform 9 and 3/4 to the station concourse with a luggage trolley embedded in the wall for Potter fans.
Back in 1931, there was a proposal to provide London with an inner-city airport by constructing a circular runway on the roof of King’s Cross station, with elevators employed to lift aircraft up to the runway from hangars below. While this would have been a remarkable feat of engineering for the age of propelled aviation, the jet era and its long runways would have made the airport redundant for everything except light aircraft.
While most places that have banned smoking have done so on the grounds of public health, London Underground did not. In 1987, a devastating fire ravaged King’s Cross station after a discarded match set the underside of a wooden escalators on fire. The flames spread, ultimately taking the lives of 31 people and injuring 100 more. Smoking has been banned on the London Underground ever since.
Whatever you may think about Richard Branson’s misguided attempts to smear Labour Party leader Jeremy Corbyn during the Traingate Scandal, there is no denying that Virgin Trains is one of the biggest rail companies in the UK. Incredibly, as many as 60% of Virgin train journeys either begin or end at King’s Cross station.
Absurdly, King’s Cross is the only railway station in London to have a Platform 0. Unfortunately, there’s a perfectly logical explanation – it was only opened in 2010 as a consequence of recent refurbishment work that included a new platform next to Platform 1. Alternative options were considered, including renumbering platforms, or creating a ‘Platform Y’ (York Road is next to the new platform), but they were ultimately dismissed as being too confusing for passengers. Unfortunately, Network Rail totally missed an opportunity to create a real Platform 9 and 3/4 here with the renumbering.
While the train to Hogwarts can famously be caught from Platform 9 and 3/4 at King’s Cross station, J.K. Rowling has admitted that she got confused and was actually describing Euston station when she describes the station from which the Hogwarts Express departs. Rowling was living in Manchester at the time, and she’s written some pretty good books, so we’ll let her off.
Although all the King’s Cross station signage (including London Underground’s associated King’s Cross St Pancras tube station) includes an apostrophe, there are plenty of examples where it has been omitted. These range from dubious sources like Wikipedia to more respectable websites, like those Camden Council and even City Hall – though all three sources include plenty of instances that either feature or omit our possessive friend. Grammatically speaking, of course there should be an apostrophe: the area took its name from a statue of George IV that briefly stood at the junction where Pentonville Road, Grays Inn Road and Euston Road cross each other.