Day 5: Virgin Trains East Coast & Northern Rail from London to Sheffield

Luckily for me, I found a cheap fare back to Sheffield on the train, though with a weird transfer, so I did actually manage to make a London to Sheffield journey by rail on this trip.

The train departs from King’s Cross, one of 18 stations under the “London Terminals” cluster. Make sure you take note which station to go to when you book your ticket as your printed ticket will only state “London Terminals”.

The platform with a perpetual queue at King’s Cross is, of course, Platform 9¾ for the Hogwarts Express bound for Hogsmeade station, primarily catering for students of the Hogwarts School of Witchcraft and Wizardry.

Simply walk directly through the walls over here, or run if you’re nervous, to access the platforms.

If you haven’t realised already, this is just a prop for Harry Potter fans to take a photo with at King’s Cross. You can’t really board the real Hogwarts Express from the wall. Moreover, this is located at the waiting hall, and not between Platforms 9 and 10.

Though you can’t really go to Hogwarts in real life, you could purchase a souvenir ticket with a lanyard of your favourite house, uniform accessories such as ties and jumpers, and other forms of souvenirs at the souvenir store of its namesake just beside this “platform”.

Just diagonally above the fake platform and half-trolley, is the actual departure board for real trains and non-wizard passengers. The painful thing about travelling from terminals in the UK is that you will not know which platform your train departs from until about 15 minutes before your actual departure when it finally flashes, which results in a lot of people staring intently at the board around this area, and then rushing through the gates once the platform numbers appear.

My train to Retford, a Virgin Trains East Coast InterCity 225, departing from Platform 1 of King’s Cross.

The interior of Standard Class on Virgin Trains EC. This is the quiet section of the train.

Each seat has a slip with your reservation on it. Don’t remove this or try to take another person’s seat, or you may be fined £50, if I remember it correctly.


A food bar is available on board as well if you would like some refreshments.

The interior of First Class.


Sceneries between London King’s Cross and Retford.

Arrived at Retford on time, with a short walk across a bridge from the East Coast Main Line to the platforms for Sheffield on the Northern Rail Sheffield – Lincoln Line.

A British Rail Class 144 Pacer on service to Sheffield and onwards to Doncaster.

The interior of the Pacer.

A great view along the way to Sheffield. Probably not for the locals there, but excellent for tourists like me.

Arrived at Sheffield on time where the train changes direction to continue to Doncaster.

The total fare for this journey is only £8.90 with a 16-25 Railcard discount, and it was the only such fare on that day, so I am indeed pretty lucky, though it’s a slightly longer journey as most trains will connect via Doncaster instead of Retford.

Buying a ticket also makes be eligible to get a PlusBus for Sheffield for £2.50, valid on the same day of travel as my train ticket, which would allow me unlimited rides on all modes and companies of transport in Sheffield, so I’ll be trying out the Sheffield Supertram next.

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