Jon and Helen Cluett were stranded with their four children, ages 6, 8, 10 and 12.
The family of six was spending a vacation camping in the Scottish Highlands. But on Friday, Jon Cluett woke up and walked out of his hut on Loch Eilt to find that their 16-foot red canoe had disappeared, likely washed away by the river, the Associated Press reported.
“The entire area was underwater. The rocks I’d tied the boat to were pulled apart and the boat was gone,” Cluett, a pastor from Stirling — 120 miles away — told the BBC.
The hike back to the family’s car was three miles, too far to walk for the young children, particularly since the ground was so marshy. Train tracks ran through the area, but walking along them seemed too dangerous.
“In the end I decided the only option was to phone the police and mountain rescue, ask if they have any local knowledge that could help us out,” Jon Cluett told the BBC.
Little did he know their solution would end up delighting his children.
One of the trains that runs on that remote set of railroad tracks is the Jacobite, an old-fashioned steam train immediately recognizable to fans of the Harry Potter movie series. In the Harry Potter universe, young wizards and witches take a train called the Hogwarts Express to school each year.
Warner Brothers cast a Jacobite steam train as the Hogwarts Express and even filmed the Harry Potter movies along the route it runs from Fort William and Mallaig. The one used in the films is in Los Angeles, but other Jacobite trains look identical, the Press and Journal reported.
And the police were sending one to pick up the family.
“The policeman said, ‘We’ve arranged for the next train passing to stop for you, and you’re not going to believe this but it’s the Hogwarts Express steam train. Your kids are going to love it,’” Cluett told the Associated Press. “They know the Harry Potter films and they know that are filmed in the Highlands. But they hadn’t put all of that together in their heads until they saw the train.”
When they finally saw it, they lit up with glee.
“We threw all our stuff into some bags and boxes and ran out of the door … at the same time as the train is coming around the tracks,” Cluett told the BBC. “The train is getting closer, we’re running down, stuff bouncing everywhere, big smiles on the kids faces. It all started to be fun at that point.”
“When they saw the steam train coming, all sadness left their little faces and was replaced by excitement and fun,” he added.
The train dropped the family off at the next stop, where Cluett managed to get a ride to the family car. While he’s happy his children had “an adventure,” he wishes he still had his canoe and asked campers to keep an eye out for it.
“It’s got to turn up at some point. The thing is 16-foot-long, red and floats,” he told the Associated Press.