Some content in this article is derived from information featured in Harry Potter and the Cursed Child, and, as such, spoilers will be present.
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This mass operation was led by the Ministry of Magic, at the time headed by Minister Ottaline Gambol, in an attempt to acquire the Hogwarts Express in order to solve the age-old problem of student transportation to and from Hogwarts School of Witchcraft and Wizardry. The details surrounding the origin of the Hogwarts Express are not widely known and have never been conclusively proven, although there are confidential records at the Ministry Headquarters detailing this operation.
As it is known from historical accounts and from evidence left in early woodcuts and engravings, students at Hogwarts School of Witchcraft and Wizardry used to arrive at school in any manner they pleased: broomsticks, enchanted vehicles like carts or carriages, Apparition (often with disastrous effects), magical creatures. It was the parents' responsibility to convey their children to school. These disorganised and various modes of magical transport were the cause of many accidents, not to mention the annual Muggle sightings of vast numbers of airborne wizards travelling northwards.
After the imposition of the International Statute of Secrecy in 1692, it became urgent to find a more discreet method of transporting hundreds of students from all over Britain to Hogwarts. As such, the way students were taken to and from Hogwarts School of Witchcraft and Wizardry had to be regulated: Portkeys were therefore arranged at collecting points all over the country. However, Portkeys proved not to be the ideal solution to the problem of school transportation (up to a third of students would fail to arrive every year due to having missed their time slot or having been unable to find their Portkey, and many students were prone to Portkey-sickness, leaving the hospital wing packed in the first few days of term). A return to the unregulated travel of the past was impossible, and other magical routes into the school (like the usage of Floo Powder) were strongly resisted by successive Headmasters, who were concerned the security of the Castle would be breached.
In 1827, Ms. Ottaline Gambol rose to the position of Minister for Magic and in that capacity, she became intrigued with the problem and proposed a daring and controversial solution: the adoption of a Muggle train.
One night in 1830, a task force of Ministry wizards was sent to Crewe, in Cheshire, England, to obtain one of the Muggle trains. This mass operation resulted in the casting of one hundred and sixty-seven Memory Charms and the largest ever mass Concealment Charm performed in Britain.
The morning after the operation, the villagers of Hogsmeade were astounded to see the scarlet steam engine (later christened the Hogwarts Express) and that they had a railway station. In Crewe, several bemused Muggle railway workers spent the rest of the year grappling with the uncomfortable feeling that they had mislaid something important.
The Hogwarts Express underwent several magical modifications before it was approved by the Ministry for school use. Many pure-blood families were outraged at the idea of their children using a Muggle means of transport, which they claimed was "unsafe, insanitary and demeaning". The Ministry, however, decreed that students that did not ride the train to the Castle did not attend school, and so the objections were promptly silenced, thus resolving the dilemma of student transportation that had been going on since the 1690s.
It was only Minister Evangeline Orpington, who was in office between 1849 and 1855, who came upon the idea of adding a concealed platform at King's Cross Station that could only be accessed by witches and wizards.
- Pottermore (Mentioned only)