LEGO Harry Potter 76423 Hogwarts Express & Hogsmeade Station [Review]

The June 2023 Harry Potter wave includes a handful of unique treatments of the subject matter, and we’ll start our coverage with 76423 Hogwarts Express & Hogsmeade Station. This isn’t quite unique, but it does include the first Hogsmeade Station since 2004! And compared to the most recent Collector’s Edition Hogwarts Express, it is compatible with LEGO track, a welcome change. It also intriguingly features the return of metal train axles after a 5-year break. Does the rest stack up, or is it off track? Here’s our review of the set, which contains 1074 pieces and 8 minifigures, and will be available starting June 1st for US $129.99 | CAN $169.99 | UK £114.99.

This set is based on a license The LEGO Group has with the Warner Brothers films, not J.K. Rowling directly. The transphobic views expressed by Rowling do not reflect the values of The Brothers Brick or, indeed, those of The LEGO Group. The magical world Rowling created, in which many who felt a bit different could see themselves, meant a great deal to so many people, including those that Rowling now demeans. TBB affirms each individual LEGO fan’s choice to claim a piece of the world for themselves, or to reject it entirely.

The LEGO Group provided The Brothers Brick with an early copy of this set for review. Providing TBB with products for review guarantees neither coverage nor positive reviews.

The contents

Inside the box are the instructions and sticker sheet (protected in a cardboard envelope), eight numbered bags, and an unnumbered bag that contains four pieces of straight track, two on-ramp/re-railer track adapters, and two sets of steam drivers (each containing two flanged drivers and one blind).

The train

Bags 1 and 2 build the locomotive, based on the real-life Great Western Railway Hall Class, no. 5972 “Olton Hall”. The most basic differentiator of any steam locomotive is the wheel arrangement, and the set gets it right, and reasonably proportionate as well. Olton Hall is a 4-6-0: four leading or pilot wheels, six driving wheels (connected to the drive shaft, in other words, powered), and no trailing wheels (when present, these would be under the firebox or cab).

The proportions are pretty good at the 6-stud-wide scale that LEGO uses for almost all trains. The front, black part of the smokebox should be a bit longer, and the cylinders that the drive pistons go into could be more robust, but lots of curved pieces, including the new 2×2 curved plate with cutout, lend good shaping, and the front bumper is especially well done and a good match for the movie and real-world locomotive.

That front buffer, though, contains a fascinating decision. As page 57 of the instructions illustrates, complete with ghost blue hand and lots of arrows, this locomotive cannot navigate LEGO curves if the pilot wheels (the front, small wheels that are the 4 in that 4-6-0 notation) can’t turn separately from the main body and the driving wheels. So the front buffer is reversible – one way keeps the pilot wheels straight, severely limiting any ability to turn, but flip it upside down, and there’s about a 30-45 degree turning radius possible – assuming that the pilot wheels stay between the two guide pins, and under any sort of moderate play, they will not, so it’s more like 180 degrees of freedom.

One way, with the pilots clipped to the main, it doesn’t turn much at all; reversed, the pilot doesn’t clip in and rotate relatively freely. I did wonder how much the “no turns” configuration would affect operation on regular lego curves, and … not to jump ahead in the chronology of the review, but yeah, it doesn’t work. The train either comes up off the track or derails entirely.

Moving on, bag three builds the tender (or in the LEGO description, coal car), which also has the correct number of wheels compared to the prototype (original real-world object). It’s a basic lil’ guy, and maybe could be a bit longer, but it gets the job done. Unfortunately it really doesn’t have enough room in it to hide a battery box, which is one of the primary ways that this size of LEGO steam locomotive gets motorized. Folks who want this train to run under power will likely need to expand the tender significantly, or motorize one of the coaches instead.

One thing that’s very interesting, though, is that as soon as we get to the three wheels on the tender, we have the return of metal train wheel axles. LEGO had made all-plastic wheels, complete with some video comparisons about rolling resistance, and they were all that was included in sets from 2019 to 2022. But in 2023, we’re back to the metal axles.

Bags four and five build the coaches – or from the outside, one passenger coach and one baggage combine, err, trolley witch compartment? It’s great that we get two coaches for play/faraway looks (and don’t take the tender for granted – some Hogwarts Express models haven’t included one!) … but let’s be blunt: these coaches are pretty sad. They are very small, there are no doors, the windows are small, and they “seat” a maximum of 4 minifigures – “seat” in quotes because five of the eight included figures have short legs and can’t sit down, so they have to be placed standing, which makes the “table” being all the way on the floor even more awkward.

Another interesting parts decision is that the whole train uses technic connectors between cars, instead of the magnet couplers that have been used in other train sets through last year’s. Maybe it’s a cost saving measure? Or maybe the magnets would have looked awkward with the tiny coaches with a single wheelset at each end. It’s a little unfortunate since as a British train the Hogwarts Express coaches should have the buffers that have always been molded in to LEGO’s magnet couplers.

The station

The last three bags go into Hogsmeade Station. It’s a modestly scaled, open-backed structure, and it’s lovely. You can see the character and features of the full-sized station scaled down into this play model. Maybe a bit more dark tan and nougat would have matched the original better, but that feels picky.

Features include a bathroom, the Owl Post, of course ticket sales, and some cozy fireplaces. The included ticket is a lovely print, though I suppose it technically should be punched since it’s for travel from London to Hogsmeade.

Add in the included track, and it’s a satisfying play setup.

There are eight 1×1 pieces used to “detail” the track, and this feels like a wasted gesture. There isn’t an obvious way that 8 pieces could improve the rest of the build, but they end up looking quite sad. For contrast, here’s how the station looks with track that’s ballasted (detailed with wooden ties and the gravel that provides support and filler in between ties and the rails) using the common LEGO train community standard.

The minifigures

Five students are included, with a first-ever minifigure of Lee Jordan, and while these provide play value, the uniforms are very common at this point, and as previously mentioned, the short legs mean that mixing these figures with the train is quite awkward. LEGO’s set description calls this the arrival of new first-year students at Hogwarts, which makes the fact that the students already have house colors very confusing – they haven’t been sorted yet! Hermione does include a molded skirt, and all of the students have alternate expressions on their heads.

The Trolley Witch and train conductor match the figures previously exclusive to the Collector’s Edition Hogwarts Express, though this train conductor has a different head with more grey hair. The conductor’s torso in particular is very nice and doesn’t have any skin-tone printing, making it easy to re-use for any kind of figure; it’s great to have it more available. The included trolley really emphasizes how tiny the passenger coaches are, but is loaded with nice treats including the great print for Bertie Bott’s Every Flavor Beans.

Hagrid is the same mold and print that’s been used since 2018, but only the fourth appearance, so a welcome inclusion. He also holds a nice printed tile with Harry’s family photo album.

Conclusion and recommendation

This is a set defined by the decisions and compromises that were made to get it to this price point. Include track, but a full loop would be too expensive. No to powering the train – the electronics would increase the cost tremendously and the locomotive and tender would likely need to be increased in size. Add the re-railer pieces to act as ramps/bridges from floor play up to the track at the station. Have two coaches and a tender to make it a more complete train, but simplify and downsize the coaches to save parts. Bring back metal axles for the train wheels because … actually I’m really curious about that, I don’t have a theory – but don’t use magnet couplers.

It comes together in a reasonable but imperfect play experience. The re-railers work okay, but you have to make sure that each car – not just the locomotive – is inside the outer ridge when it starts going up the ramp, and perhaps because of the extra swing of the technic couplers, and the lack of a magnetic pull to try to bring things back to center, that did not happen automatically. I had to center each car as it reached the ramp, and even then, at any sort of speed, it’s 50-50 if the train ends up on the track.

The pilot wheels, at the front of the locomotive, are the least successful compromise in my judgement. It feels as though the need for those wheels to be able to pivot independently of the main frame was recognized, but there wasn’t a solution that gave it enough stability, so the choice was made to secure it in place, but also allow flipping it over for when you need to turn? It’s the first time I can remember seeing something like this in a LEGO train, and I have to guess that the pilot will simply be discarded or go missing in a lot of kids’ play.

The station and the decent size and shaping of the locomotive are the best arguments in favor of this yet. At $130 in the US, it’s reasonable value for a licensed set, especially with the inclusion of track and train wheels. But the compromises involved make it not a must-buy at all. I suppose Lee Jordan fans might need it. Otherwise, this is a solid playset for kids close to the starting 8-year-old recommended age range who are lucky enough to get it. Adult builders will probably want to see a significant sale, though.

76423 Hogwarts Express & Hogsmeade Station contains 1074 pieces and 8 minifigures. It will be available starting June 1st from the LEGO Shop and worldwide for US $129.99 | CAN $169.99 | UK £114.99 or from Amazon. It may also be available from third-party sellers on eBay.

The LEGO Group sent The Brothers Brick an early copy of this set for review. Providing TBB with products for review guarantees neither coverage nor positive reviews.

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8 comments on “LEGO Harry Potter 76423 Hogwarts Express & Hogsmeade Station [Review]

  1. Annoyed dad

    This is the second article I’ve ran into where you go out of your way to dunk on an adult that doesn’t have the same views as you. The younger fans get stuck in the crossfire. Why not just stick to legos??

  2. Ricardo D'artist

    I have subscribed to your reviews for a long time but never noticed your team taking sides in political commentary. Please do not turn this Lego community into a arena for your political opinions. Let’s talk Lego and leave politics to other forums!

  3. Jimmy

    The pilot wheels flip feature seems like something that came out of play-testing. I presume it’s more satisfying as a kid to roll around the carpet without those wheels trying to steer you off sideways?

    I also wonder if the Technic pin connection is at least partially a similar reason -how easy is it for magnet-equipped cars to become separated if you’re playing on a surface that’s not smooth track?

  4. Shane Church

    I would really have loved to have seen a comparison to the previous iterations of the train, especially on the locomotive. This iteration of the train seems dramatically compromised from the most recent 6 stud wide, train-compatible version in the 2019 75955 Hogwarts Express set too.

  5. Tobi

    Hey TBB, in contrast to some other voices here I want to thank you for including the disclaimer. I love you for not giving in to the few, who claim to speak and decide for everyone.
    You are awesome!

  6. Francis Urquhart

    I suspect many of your readers disagree with your opinion of JK Rowling, while others won’t care. Broadcasting it in a set review is unnecessary and smacks of virtue-signalling.

  7. Jeremy Carson

    From my experience with all of the other 6 stud wide versions of the Hogwarts Express, I will definitely attest to the technic couplings being much better than the magnetic couplers for play on any surface that isn’t LEGO train track. The 2001 version of the train (4708) had magnetic couplers and wheels that were incompatible with the train tracks, and even playing on hard floors, the couplers didn’t work all that great.

    Flash forward to my son getting the 2018 version (75955), and the Technic couplings solve that problem of car detachment very nicely, and if you have any of the old magnets (Parts 73092 and 2920), you can add magnets to the cars with minimal problems.

    As someone who has a collection of the 6-stud wide versions (2001, 2010, 2018) of this train, I will likely be adding this one to my collection and layout.

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