Hogwarts Express – «Olton Hall» No. 5972 – Great Western Railway «Hall» Class
Any sufficiently advanced technology is indistinguishable from magic (Clarke’s Third Law)
The witches and wizards of Great Britain enjoy access to several transport systems. The Ministry of Magic has a Department of Magical Transportation to supervise them. It is composed of several teams of civil servants. The Apparation Test Centre controls training to Disapparate / Apparate, and issues the relevant licences. The Broom Regulatory Control checks broomsticks. The Floo Network Authority and the Floo Regulation Panel deal with connections of fireplaces as entry points to the system. And the Portkey Office organised the mass travel to and from the Quidditch World Cup. It was an outstanding achievement.
The Ministry owns some cars that look just like the muggle ones for all the world to see. But they may accommodate far larger riderships, because their inner space grows as required. Their drivers somehow manage to be always first when the traffic lights are about to go green. Maybe they are just charmed muggle artifacts, but we’re not told.
There are some private transport systems. The Hogwarts pupils travel by rail from King’s Cross Station. They board the Hogwarts Express at Platform Nine and Three-Quarters. The red locomotive in the film closely resembles a muggle one named «Olton Hall», No. 5972 in the West Coast Railway. And the cars do look a lot like two SKs and two BSKs. All this is just a coincidence, because the crest at their sides clearly marks them as the rolling stock of the Hogwarts Railways, and therefore magical. Since there are no intermediate stops between London and Hogsmead, we may assume that the whole line is hidden from muggle sight, just like the College itself.
First-term pupils take boats driven by magic to cross the Lake. Maybe this is done to symbolically mark their transit to Apprenticeship. There must be some reason to use a different system for them, and them only. Senior pupils proceed to Hogwarts in seemingly horseless carriages. We learn in the fifth book that they are drawn by thestrals, magic winged horses that are seen only by some wizards.
In the Triwizard Tournament we see different conveyances from other colleges. The Beauxbatons vehicle is a very big carriage, drawn by twelve huge Abraxan winged horses. And the ship from Durmstrang has never sailed the «normal» seas. She somehow appears, or Apparates maybe, in the lake in front of Hogwarts.
Knight Bus – Image found at http://hpland.altervista.org/index2.php?hp=mezzi
And there are other private vehicles. The three-decked Knight Bus provides emergency transport for stranded witches and wizards. It looks very much like a private concern. They do charge a fee, collected by conductor Stan Shunpike. Harry pays eleven sickles, but we are not told how do they manage to find him when he needs their service. But they do it very efficiently.
To convey visiting customers to their safe boxes, Gringotts Bank has a network of underground railways, served by motorless carts running at «breakneck» speed.
Private individual transport
Usually, wizards Apparate or fly on their broomsticks. They may own winged horses. There are many breeds of them. Abraxans are palomino and very large, and must be fairly expensive to keep, because they will drink only pure malt whisky. Aethonians are chestnut. Granians are grey and fast. Thestrals, if you can see them, are black. Their owners must renew the Disillusionment Charms on a daily basis, in order to keep them hidden from prying muggle eyes.
And they use improved muggle vehicles too. Flying carpets are nowadays illegal in Great Britain, since they are listed in the Registry of Proscribed Charmable Objects. Ministry cars do not fly, and we may asume that they have been painstakingly disguised. Now Sirius Black has a flying motorcycle, and Hagrid borrows it to go about Dumbledore’s business. And Mr. Arthur Weasley has a flying Ford Anglia that has been doctored in several ways. And he is a civil servant in the Misuse of Muggle Artefacts Office too…
Centaurs would be the ideal steeds, having the strength and stamina of horses, and lots of brainpower too. The little snag is that they use it, with regrettable stubbornness, to refuse such menial jobs as carrying wizards on their backs. Dragons are Bad through and through… and quite unfit to ride indeed. Hippogriffs are not tame either, but they seem less smart than Centaurs and will allow some wizards to climb on them, if they follow the correct procedure. Fawkes, Dumbledore’s phoenix, may haul incredible loads, but his owner has many means of moving around and he rarely uses him for such purposes.
And there are two devices that do not fit in any of the previous categories. Vanishing cabinets coupled by pairs allow users to travel between them. Since they do not operate in connection with the Floo Network, they are effectively outside ministerial control. Perhaps they should be outlawed. And Time-turners do not transport you through space, but through time. Luckily Lord Voldemort has not got hold of any of these. They are too easy to put to evil uses.
Now, if you have read this far, you may be wondering why I have compiled this catalogue of magical devices. Not that many years ago, Great Britain had a public transport system that ranked very high among the best in the world. Railways reached and served every town and village in the country. Steam engines were fast and safe, and some very able engineers were using their brains to improve their economy and efficiency even further. Then the Government chose to adopt American models. Increasing use of cars led to a huge expansion of the motorways. The flood of private automobile vehicles has become an unmitigated nuisance. And just to enliven things, oil shortages threaten to freeze the system. It is painfully obvious that public funding must go to public transport, where it belongs. Railways are coming back, and they will stay.
In Ibiza we are well behind the times, and very much out of our reckoning. Travelling with muggle vehicles has become both inconvenient and impossibly expensive. So, we will have to join the wizarding community in order to get some magical means to move our little selves in the future.
If you realise that you are following the wrong path, it does not matter how far have you gone on it: turn around and go back.