Thursday, June 21, 2012

Hogwarts Express Speculation 6/21/12

Disclaimer:  We are not permit experts.  The following article is speculation based on laymen observations of permit review comments.

© 2012 Warner Bros. Pictures.  All Rights Reserved.
Activity has picked up on The City of Orlando's review of permits related to the Hogwarts Express attraction coming to Universal Orlando as part of the Wizarding World of Harry Potter expansion.  From certain review comments, some details about the stations and ride may be gleaned.  We will not make any promises about the accuracy, we can only do our best with what is public record.

First off, The City of Orlando has changed the name of Project 3641 (South Station), and it is now labeled Project 4691 (Connector.)  Both now have the Connector project number of 4691.  From this, we are inferring that someone originally mixed up the two permits when they were originally posted.  As more information has come out, it is looking like the permit originally labeled as the Connector was, in fact, for South Station (Hogsmeade Station.)

Our reasoning: The Connector permit and North Station basically have the same price tag tied to "Sewer Benefit."  This cost seems to be related to the amount of water displaced.  North Station, of course, is being built on what used to be Jaws, and South Station is being built on top of a Dragon Challenge pond.  Both are displacing quite a bit of water.  Also, North and South Station will most likely be similar in size, so the permit costs should be nearly identical.  Currently, North Station is $7917; South Station is $381.04; and Connector is $6394.50.  As you can see, it seems like they were mixed up from the start.

Even more evidence exists that the permit originally labeled "Connector" was really South Station.  In the review comments for Connector, there are references to load areas, unload areas, capacity, and other details that would be associated with an attraction station.  We have been led to believe that the Connector is the train itself by a Phase 2 contractor.

© 2012 Warner Bros. Pictures.  All Rights Reserved.
Now, on to the interesting things brought up in the review comments.  The things that most stand out are certain capacity figures related to unload & egress, the mention of a "ticketing structure," and an "exit tunnel."

For North Station (Platform 9 3/4), the reviewer says, "the exit capacity for the occupant load is deficient. (occ load 1259 capacity 1170)."  This is according to the Life Safety Code which requires a minimum amount of exit space based on occupancy of a space.  We are going to infer that the current exit space is insufficient to hold the occupancy load of 1259 and is only capable of handling 1170 in its current state.  That is not to say that the train capacity is 1259 or even close to it.  Even if the capacity of each train is a third or fourth of that figure, it will be a people eater (a monorail holds around 400.)  However, sometimes exit capacity is calculated for an entire structure, so this figure may be for all of North Station in the case of evacuation.  Again, speculating based on limited knowledge and facts.

The North Station will also have a boiler room.  We are speculating that this will be for a steam effect at the station.  Expedition Everest at Disney's Animal Kingdom uses a boiler for its steam effect at the load station.

Hogsmeade Station from Harry Potter & the Philosophers Stone
© 2012 Warner Bros. Pictures.  All Rights Reserved.
For South Station (Hogsmeade Station), the reviewer says he/she has trouble deciphering capacity of a few aspects of the station.  The only number thrown out is 204 for an entry stair which does not do us much good.  The South Station plans are apparently unclear in other ways:
"Cannot determine from the plans the true occupant load, entry points, exit points, what is the ticketing building for, and exit tunnel, what it the occupant circulation paths, etc. This will affect the total occupant load and egress capacity for this building."
As mentioned earlier, there is the mysterious "ticketing building."  Some of the biggest speculation surrounding the Hogwarts Express project is how Universal would handle ticketing.  Most thought this would prevent the attraction from happening.  Like the reviewer, we want to know what this ticketing building is for.  Is it just there thematically, or will it be a functional ticket booth for guests who need to upgrade to a 2-Park ticket?  We're hoping that it is just there thematically, and if not, hopefully the ticket building has a big queue for the ill-prepared.

Future site of Hogsmeade Station.
© 2012 Universal City Development Partners.  All Rights Reserved.
© 2012 Google Earth.  All Rights Reserved.
Another interesting mention is the exit tunnel.  Now that we know that Hogsmeade Station will be sitting between the Dragon Challenge tracks, perhaps this tunnel will take us between Dragons and Sinbad so we do not see Sinbad as we exit.  Or maybe it is just a simple exit tunnel.  Food for thought.

Just in case there are still doubters that this is for the Hogwarts Express, both permits reference the building connecting to a ride system.

As for the Connector, nothing interesting to the report.  Again, another reason why we think the permits were mislabeled.

Since posting this article yesterday, the City of Orlando has once again changed the permit numbers for South Station and the Connector.  The permit originally labeled as Connector is now for South Station and numbered Project 3641.  The permit originally labeled as South Station is now for the Connector and numbered Project 4691.

Please leave us comments on what you think, or tweet us @Parkscope.  Also, join in on the discussion of #WWoHP2 on Orlando United.

Permit Links:
North Station
South Station

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