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Great American Railroad Journeys

Michael Portillo crosses the Atlantic to ride the railroads of America, armed with Appleton's General Guide to the United States.

Genre: Documentary

Actor: Michael Portillo

Country: UK

Duration: N/A

Quality: HD

Release: 2016

IMDb: 8

Season 1 - Great American Railroad Journeys
"Michael begins his American odyssey in New York City. Starting at Grand Central Terminal, the 'gateway to the nation', he boards the Manhattan subway system, the busiest rail transit system in the US. His first stop is the Rockefeller Centre, where he gets a bird's eye view of Manhattan Island and learns how about the technology which enabled the city to build up. Portillo heads to the Financial District, where, over a Lobster Newberg, he finds out how the dodgy political dealings of the era's famous industrialists earned them the nickname 'Robber Barons'. He observes their better side at the Metropolitan Museum of Art as he learns that philanthropy helped the city's burgeoning art scene, before finishing his journey midtown, among the bright lights of Broadway."
"Michael continues his American journey in Manhattan's Lower East Side, where he narrowly avoids a scrap with an historic gang of New York and visits the grim tenement buildings where thousands of the city's immigrants lived and worked. In the West Side, Michael discovers how a once lethal run of track has been transformed into a public park, raised above the city streets. Forsaking the rails for a ferry, Michael heads for Ellis Island, where some 12 million immigrants entered America. Michael is given a privileged tour of the gleaming new transport hub under construction close to the site of Ground Zero."
"From Manhattan, Michael follows his Appleton's Guide east, travelling on the Long Island Railroad. He begins in Brooklyn, where he learns the incredible story behind the world's first steel suspension bridge. Divided by a common language, Michael struggles to order a pizza before continuing to Queens and the site of an ambitious engineering project that will transform New York City's rail network. Moving east through Long Island, he visits one of the country's most decadent mansions, owned by an oil tycoon known as Mr Monopoly, where he gets into a flap dancing the Charleston, before ending his journey on Long Island's eastern most tip at New York's first lighthouse."
"Michael follows America's mighty Hudson River north, riding on the United States' national rail carrier service, Amtrak. He learns from Amtrak's police chief about some of the nation's most infamous train robbers, then upriver at Tarrytown, he is spooked by the stories of one of America's greatest writers, Washington Irving, author of Sleepy Hollow. On the east bank of the Hudson, he stops at Garrison, site of many guerrilla battles during the Wars of Independence, where he hears about the greatest turncoat in American history and learns about the many famous military leaders who trained at West Point."
"Michael Portillo continues his railroad journey through New York State following his Appleton's Guide. Beginning in the city of Poughkeepsie, he visits a famous all-female university, alma mater of Jane Fonda and Meryl Streep. He discovers the tumultuous history of the Poughkeepsie-Highland Railroad Bridge and follows the train line up to the Catskill Mountains, admiring its picturesque scenery from an altogether different type of line - a zip wire. Back on safe ground, he discovers that the dramatic landscape inspired artists of the Hudson River School. Arriving in New York's state capital, Albany, he samples a drop of Albany Ale before rubbing shoulders with the State Senator."
"Michael heads west through New York State. He has a lightbulb moment in Schenectady, when he discovers how Thomas Edison's General Electric Company also leads the way in modern rail technology. In Utica, he investigates Lock 20 of 57 along the early 19th-century Erie Canal - 325 miles of waterway which connected the Great Lakes with the Atlantic Coast via the Hudson River. A yellow brick road beckons Michael to Chittenango, where a Kansas farm girl introduces him to a lion, and a tin man. On a hillside near Palmyra, Michael finds out about a farm boy, Joseph Smith, and his Book of Mormon, from one of the 15 million believers who follow his religion today. Further west in Rochester, Michael discovers the story behind another famous 19th-century name still trading today: George Eastman, who launched mass market photography with his Eastman Kodak company."
"Michael braves the awesome power and drenching spray of Niagara Falls on the Maid of the Mist to share what artists, daredevils and millions of tourists have billed as one of the most spectacular experiences on the planet. Reaching Buffalo, he lunches on the city's famous Buffalo wings and discovers it was once the centre of the world's grain trade. Touring Silo City, Michael learns about the invention which propelled the port of Buffalo into its dominant position - the grain elevator - and how the railroads sealed the deal. Awe-inspiring engineering is revealed at the 12-acre Colonel Ward water-pumping station, the largest construction ever built on the Great Lakes, and capable of delivering 30 million gallons of water per day to the city of Buffalo."
"Michael embarks on a new railroad journey from the city of brotherly love, Philadelphia, south to the first permanent English colonial settlement in North America, Jamestown. He feasts on a gargantuan Philly cheesesteak, then looks to work off the calories with a run past the city's famous landmarks, in homage to one of Philadelphia's most famous sons, Rocky Balboa. All pumped up, he heads to Pennsylvania University to tackle the football team under the instruction of its fearsome coach. In the cradle of American independence, Michael discovers how, in 1776, liberty was proclaimed throughout the land yet millions remained enslaved. Alone in a cell, Michael reflects on the 19th-century Pennsylvania system of incarceration at the Eastern State Penitentiary before heading to the gambling resort of Atlantic City and its famous boardwalk."
"Michael hitches a ride with the Amish in a horse-drawn buggy through rich countryside settled in the 18th century by religiously oppressed Europeans. Charmed by their modest way of life, he watches as they sell their beautiful quilts at auction. In Strasburg, known as Traintown USA, Michael joins the crew of the oldest continuously operated railroad in the United States. After oiling the magnificent engine, he rides on the footplate of the vintage steam locomotive. His last stop on this leg is Gettysburg, the most famous battlefield of the American Civil War, where, in 1863, President Abraham Lincoln made a momentous speech."
"Michael reaches a milestone on his American journey: the boundary between the northern and southern states, known as the Mason-Dixon line. He discovers the origins of what became for black Americans the border between slavery and freedom, in an 18th-century English dispute over land. On the Wilmington and Western Railroad, Michael meets the passenger train Phoebe Snow, created by the railroads at the turn of the 20th century to reassure passengers that clean burning coal wouldn't make their clothes dirty. Michael uncovers the explosive history of gunpowder production in Delaware, begun by a Frenchman, whose chateau still stands. He then takes a boat trip up the Susquehanna River following the route taken by one of the first English settlers, John Smith."
"In Baltimore, home of the first railroad in the United States, the Baltimore and Ohio, he discovers how the first American steam engine, the Tom Thumb, owed much to pioneering British technology. He investigates race relations in the troubled city, taking a drive downtown with a former drug dealer, now a teacher. On the city's beautiful east coast, Michael discovers the impressive star-shaped Fort McHenry and learns how the Star-Spangled Banner national anthem was born. Medics at the city's Johns Hopkins Hospital show Michael how their institution has grown from its 19th-century foundation by the railroad magnate into a world-leading centre for healthcare. And at the city's Lexington Market, Michael learns what gives a Maryland crab cake the edge."
"Michael arrives in the nation's capital, Washington DC. He admires its fine public buildings, including the largest library in the world, and discovers how the capital was built from scratch after a political compromise between north and south. At the Bureau of Engraving and Printing, Michael meets the man responsible for engraving the portrait of President Abraham Lincoln on the current five-dollar bill and gets his hands on more money than he has ever held in his life. In the offices of The Washington Post, Michael learns about corruption in the corridors of power and how the newspaper toppled a president. He finishes this leg of his journey in the auditorium of the theatre where, in 1865, President Abraham Lincoln was assassinated."
"On this leg, Michael soaks up some old-school jazz in Washington's U Street neighbourhood, where the big band jazz king, Duke Ellington, was born and began his career. He also grabs a bite at Ben's Chili Bowl, the legendary diner chosen by President Obama for a snack before his inauguration. He follows his guidebook to the United States Naval Observatory, the nation's timekeeper, where he discovers how and why the railroads established four time zones across the continent in 1883. Heading south to Alexandria, Virginia, Michael explores a former slave market and hears how African Americans were bought and sold. He ends this leg in Mount Vernon, the Palladian home of the nation's first president, George Washington, where he gets into a spot of bother at an archaeological dig."
"Michael Portillo arrives in Manassas, scene of two crucial battles during the American Civil War - the first railroad battles in US history. In Fredericksburg, Virginia, he tries his hand at bottling bourbon corn whisky and learns how it became the nation's spirit. In Richmond, a plate of ham and eggs with southern grits sets Michael up for a tour of the Virginia state capitol building, where he learns about the terrible dilemma faced by one of its most famous sons, General Robert E Lee. Charmed by the English heritage of this former colony, Michael puts on his dancing shoes and heads for a cotillion ball, where it seems manners are the name of the game."
"In Petersburg, Virginia, the choir of the First Baptist Church is in fine voice as Michael discovers how, during the 19th century, coded messages were delivered to slaves who hoped to escape via the so-called Underground Railroad. Michael ploughs his own furrow in a field in colonial Williamsburg, a living history park, where he learns from costumed re-enactors what life was like for both master and slave. It's battle stations in Norfolk, home to the United States Atlantic Fleet, where Michael is invited on board the USS Wisconsin to hear about the first duel fought between iron-clad vessels in 1862 and Britain's role in it. Michael reaches the end of this American journey in Jamestown, the first permanent English settlement in North America, where he finds out about the settlers' grim struggle for survival led by Captain John Smith and Pocahontas."
Season 2 - Great American Railroad Journeys
"Michael Portillo crosses the Atlantic once more to ride the railroads of North America with his faithful Appleton's Guide to the United States and Canada. Amid breathtaking scenery, he encounters magnificent beasts, joins intrepid explorers and witnesses unique customs on an awesome 1,500-mile journey to recapture the excitement and promise of the 19th-century American Frontier.\n\nIn St Louis, Michael ascends America's monument to the Wild West, the astonishing Gateway Arch, the tallest free-standing monument in the United States, and makes a delightful discovery inside it. And on the banks of the Missouri River, he is invited aboard a magnificent replica of the original keel boat used for a historic expedition."
"Michael continues his American rail journey west from St Louis to Jefferson City, Missouri, following the tracks of European settlers in the 19th century. He begins this leg at the birthplace of a rural icon in Washington, Missouri, where he attempts to craft a corn cob pipe.\n\nIn Hermann, Missouri, Michael tucks in to bratwurst as he discovers the descendants of German settlers in the town continue their traditions today. And in the Missouri state capital, Jefferson City, Michael finds an enormous fortified building that served as the jail for the entire Wild West."
"Following in the footsteps of European settlers, Michael Portillo rolls westwards across the United States. With true frontier spirit, he discovers the hidden pleasures of 19th-century railroad workers in Sedalia, known as the Sodom and Gomorrah of the West, and discovers the birthplace of ragtime and its most famous composer, Scott Joplin.\n\nAboard a horse-drawn wagon in Independence, Michael confronts the brutal hardships faced by early pioneers on the wagon trail and discovers a living history museum town where the clock stopped in 1855. He ends this leg in the rail hub of Kansas City, Missouri, where freight trains can be a mile long."
"On the next leg of his American adventure, Michael Portillo hits cowboy central in the former meat-packing capital of America - Kansas City, Missouri. In Paola, Kansas, Michael auctions livestock to the latter-day John Waynes of the state and then dines out on smoky spare ribs.\n\nIn the West Bottoms district, he explores the city's Irish heritage and discovers the first Irish business opened in America, still family- owned and run by the great granddaughter of the founder. In St Joseph, Missouri, Michael discovers the legendary Pony Express, not a train but a mail service, and investigates the treacherous death of the outlaw Jesse James."
"Michael Portillo continues his 1,500-mile journey through the American Wild West, armed with his 19th-century Appleton's Guide. In Lawrence, Kansas, Michael enjoys a prairie chicken dance with a student of the Haskell Indian Nations University and learns how Native American Indians were treated in the 19th century. Michael joins the Jayhawks basketball team in the famous Allen Field house stadium with energetic encouragement from their cheerleaders, before travelling through Tornado Alley to Topeka to meet one of the first storm chasers in America. Driving out on the Great Plains, Michael learns about the Tallgrass Prairie and comes face to face with a herd of wild buffalo."
"Michael Portillo's first stop aboard the Southwest Chief is Dodge City, Kansas, a famous frontier town of the Old West, where he visits the notorious Long Branch Saloon, scene of many shoot-outs.\n\nHe finds the Dodge City Cowboy Band performing at the city depot and breaks bread with a descendant of a railroad land agent who sold thousands of acres of land to 19th-century European settlers.\n\nNear Lamar, Colorado, Michael visits the scene of a terrible massacre of American Indians, who found themselves in the way of white settlement of the Great Plains."
"Michael Portillo hits ranching territory in Las Animas County, Colorado, where he follows in the footsteps of 19th-century dudes from the east coast who came to experience life as cowboys. First up - how to use a lasso.\n\nAt Bent's Old Fort, Michael learns about the Mexican-American War of 1848 and finds himself inspecting the troops. He also looks at America's relationship with firearms at a NRA shooting centre in Raton, New Mexico, and discovers how guns won the West.\n\nBack across the state line in Pueblo, Colorado, Michael is drawn to a giant steel mill mentioned in his Appleton's that produces rails a quarter of a mile long, transported on special trains."
"Michael Portillo reaches the Rocky Mountains of Colorado at Canon City, from where he heads out into the spectacular gorge of the Arkansas River aboard the historic narrow-gauge Royal Gorge Railroad. Along the way, he learns how controversy over the construction of the railroad caused bullets to fly.\n\nIn Colorado Springs, Michael discovers an unexpected British outpost where he is enlisted to join the cricket team.\n\nAt the foot of Pike's Peak, a choir sings an iconic American hymn, composed at the turn of the 20th century and inspired by the magnificent views to be seen from the summit. Michael heads 14,115 feet above sea level to see it for himself, aboard the Pike's Peak Cog Railway."
"Michael Portillo arrives in Santa Fe, the state capital of New Mexico, and once the capital of a Spanish kingdom. He explores the beautiful colonial architecture of the city and is invited to visit a Native American pueblo atop a 367-foot-high sandstone bluff.\n\nMichael eavesdrops on rehearsals for Puccini's Girl of the Golden West at the glorious Santa Fe Opera House, and at the Governor's Palace learns about the author of the biblical epic Ben Hur.\n\nFinally, Michael catches up with two of the famous Harvey Girls at the La Fonda Hotel to hear about Fred Harvey, the railroad caterer from Lancashire who made his fortune in America."
"Michael Portillo is in Albuquerque, New Mexico, a city situated on the Rio Grande River. Once the headquarters of the Acheson, Topeka and Santa Fe Railroad, Albuquerque has treasures in store for rail fans, including an enormous locomotive weighing over 450 tonnes. It is being restored by volunteers, and Michael lends a hand.\n\nMichael then feels the heat of New Mexico's chilli pepper in a restaurant and learns how to make enchiladas.\n\nMichael joins the Grand Canyon Railway at Williams, Arizona, to reach one of the most spectacular sights on Earth. He learns how the 7-million-year-old gorge of the Colorado River was preserved for the nation."
"Michael Portillo begins a new journey from Minnesota's Twin Cities in the north of the US to Memphis, Tennessee, in the Deep South.\n\nIn this leg, Michael discovers how Minneapolis, part of one metropolitan area with its immediate neighbour, St Paul, harnessed the power of the mighty Mississippi to become a great industrial centre. It is also the artificial limb capital of the world.\n\nIn St Paul, meanwhile, Michael visits the birthplace of F Scott Fitzgerald and meets a jazz age trumpeter and Fitzgerald fan who introduces him to the Jay Gatsby lifestyle."
Season 3 - Great American Railroad Journeys
"Armed with his 19th-century Appleton's guidebook to the United States and Canada, Michael Portillo embarks on a 1,100-mile railroad journey from Boston, Massachusetts, across the border to Toronto in theCanadian province of Ontario. Along the way, he encounters revolutionaries and feminists, pilgrims and witches and rides some of the oldest and most breathtaking railroads in the world."
"Michael Portillo's 19th-century Appleton's guidebook leads him to the Parker House Hotel, where in his best pinny, he whisks up a Boston cream pie."
"Led by his 19th-century Appleton's guidebook, Michael Portillo's railway journey continues through New England. On the banks of the Providence River, he discovers a club that traces its roots and culinarytraditions back to the 1840s. Michael joins in with one of its legendary open-air 'clambakes'."
"Following a special 1899 Canadian edition of his Appleton's guide, Michael Portillo has left the United States and crossed the border to embark on the next leg of his rail journey in Canada.\n\nIn the vibrant metropolis of Montreal, he discovers how French and British colonial roots have influenced the city's construction, cuisine and culture. Undaunted by his guidebook's description of the treacherous Lachine Rapids, Michael gets a thorough soaking on a white-knuckle boat ride down the St. Lawrence River.\n\nAt the city's prestigious McGill University, Michael learns of its role as a pioneering medical establishment in the 19th century. He unearths a mausoleum amidst the text books and volunteers as a guinea pig at the university's cutting-edge neurology department. In search of the city's black Canadian heritage, Michael is introduced to the dazzling piano playing of 20th-century jazz legend Oscar Peterson.\n\nHis Montreal tour ends with a visit to Cirque du Soleil HQ for a very special behind-the-scenes tour of an icon of modern French-Canadian culture."
"Steered by his Appleton's guidebook Michael Portillo's train journey continues in Canada's Quebec province.\n\nVenturing into the wooded hills of Vaudreuil, Michael explores a Canadian icon, maple syrup, and unearths its sweet secrets. Returning to the rails, he journeys west into Ontario and learns of Scotland's influence on Canadian culture. At Alexandria, a tartan army escorts Michael to the 70th annual Canadian Highland Games, where he dons his kilt and attempts to toss the caber!\n\nIn the capital, Ottawa, Michael visits Canada's parliament and hears how the new nation slowly developed its autonomy after confederation in 1867. Michael visits Ottawa's historic Central Experimental Farm where pioneering discoveries at the time of his guidebook launched a wheat boom that helped Canadian agriculture to dominate the world."
"Using his 1899 Appleton's guide, Michael Portillo's rail odyssey through eastern Canada continues along the Grand Trunk railway, following the route of the St Lawrence River.\n\nAt Brockville, he leaves the tracks for a nautical pilgrimage through the beautiful Thousand Islands. In the port city of Kingston, Ontario, Michael visits Fort Henry and, dressed for the occasion, is entrusted to fire the naval guns that protected the nation's southern border during the 19th century.\n\nTravelling west to Port Hope, he learns of the antics of a celebrated 19th-century high-wire walker known as The Great Farini. And, in the spirit of showmanship, Michael tests his balance with the modern sport of slack lining.\n\nThis leg of the journey ends in Oshawa at the opulent home of the McLaughlin family, who helped build a new economy for Canada when they switched from manufacturing carriages to motor cars."
"Michael Portillo's railway journey across eastern Canada concludes in the nation's largest metropolis, Toronto. He begins his Toronto tour at Union Station. Now busier than the city's international airport, Michael is shown the ambitious engineering works underground to support the growing number of commuters.\n\nFrom the dig down, he boldly goes to the dizzying heights at the CN Tower for an extreme outdoor experience at the top of the structure. Nerves are calmed at the Royal York Hotel, one of a network of luxury hotels built by the railway known as the 'castles of the north'.\n\nCatching the street car, Michael finds out how Toronto made itself a magnet for money after it set up its own stock exchange, but not before he presses the button to open the day's trading.\n\nEnding his time in the city's High Park, he seeks out the origins of a celebrated Canadian song that helped to shape the maple leaf as the country's national symbol."
"Led by his late 19th-century Appleton's guidebook, Michael Portillo sets off on a 1,000-mile American adventure to discover how the railroad conquered the wild landscapes of the West and transformed California into America's wealthiest region, one which has\n\nrevolutionised the world.\n\nBeginning in the Silver State of Nevada, Michael takes to the skies over the dramatic Sierra Nevada mountain range. At Lake Tahoe, he hears of the first white explorer, dubbed 'The Pathfinder', who learnt the lay of the foreboding land and paved the way for the first settlers to arrive. Travelling on the historic Virginia and Truckee heritage line, Michael heads for the vast deposits of silver and gold ore that built Virginia City, once dubbed the richest place on earth. At Chollar Mine he explores the short-lived mining boom and meets a pistol packin' preacher when he swings by the Silver Queen saloon.\n\nCrossing the border into the Golden State of California, he ascends the 7,000ft granite cliffs to the Donner Pass where ambitious plans to plough a rail route through the rugged terrain were made a reality by Chinese labourers, at huge human cost. In the spirit of Western horsemanship, Michael ends this leg in Colfax and gets in the saddle for a spot of cowboy dressage."
"Continuing his epic Californian rail journey, Michael Portillo begins this leg at the very spot that triggered the 1848 gold rush. He finds out how California's mineral treasures and population swell helped fast-track the region's statehood, with significant political consequences for the national slavery battle. Michael pans for gold in the clear waters of the American River, and delights in a titillating spectacle at California's first public theatre.\n\nVenturing underground, he discovers how the streets of Sacramento were raised following the Great Flood of 1862 and visits the newly\n\nconstructed $900 million dam to improve the city's flood defences. It is a first for Michael in the kaleidoscopic sweet factory of an iconic American confectionary brand that can trace its roots back to the 19th century. And, taking a cue from his guidebook, he explores the fruits of the Napa Valley enjoying a gourmet lunch on board the Napa Valley wine train before joining the harvest of the state's distinctive Zinfandel grape."
"Armed with his trusty Appleton's Guide, Michael Portillo's rail journey through California takes him to the commercial metropolis of San Francisco. Riding through the vibrant streets by cable car, Michael finds out how 19th-century engineering overcame the challenge of scaling the city's steep hills and gets behind the scenes with the 144-year-old engines driving the cables.\n\nIn the Presidio neighbourhood, Michael discovers San Francisco's long tradition for fine printing and learns the historic hand-crafted techniques before his treasured guidebook is evaluated by the experts. Hitching a ride on a hippy 'love bus' to the heart of the gay district, Michael traces the roots of the city's LGBTQ scene back to the era of the gold rush and is invited to a fund-raising 'drag brunch'. He stops off at the marina to tuck into a local seafood speciality brought to the city by Italian immigrants. And, heading across the bay to Sausalito, he boards a schooner to hear the story of Matthew Turner, the most prolific ship builder of his time."
"Michael Portillo resumes his exhilarating tour of San Francisco to find that diversity has been at the heart of the city since the days of the gold rush, though not always harmoniously so. Following his Appleton's guide, Michael heads to Chinatown to hear of the huge contribution Chinese immigrants made to the economy, working as miners and building the transcontinental railroad. He discovers an entrepreneurial community who overcame discrimination laid down by the law, and finds that fortune favours the brave with iconic Chinese treats created in America!\n\nIntrigued by a reference in his guidebook, Michael goes in search of lavish public baths to unpack a landmark incident in 1897 whereby an African-American sued one of the richest white men in the state. At one of the oldest private athletics clubs in America, Michael gets to grips with the sport of handball, first brought to San Francisco by Irish immigrants in the 1850s. And joining the police's Marine Unit, he heads out into the bay with a force who has been keeping the waters safe since the 1860s."