Great American Railroad Journeys: Series 2
Michael Portillo crosses the Atlantic once more to ride the railroads of North America with his faithful Appleton’s Guide to the United States. 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.
Part 1: St Louis Missouri
In 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.
Part 2: St Louis to Jefferson City Missouri
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. In 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.
Part 3: Sedalia to Kansas City Missouri
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. He ends this leg in the rail hub of Kansas City, Missouri, where freight trains can be a mile long.
Part 4: Kansas City to St Joseph Missouri
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. Michael discovers the legendary Pony Express, not a train but a mail service, and investigates the treacherous death of the outlaw Jesse James.
Part 5: Lawrence to Topeka Kansas
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.
Part 6: Dodge City to Lamar Colorado
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. Near 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.
Part 7: La Junta Colorado to Pueblo New Mexico
At 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, and discovers how guns won the West. Across the state line in Pueblo, New Mexico, 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.
Part 8: Canon City Colorado to Colorado Springs
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.
Part 9: Santa Fe to Acoma New Mexico
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.
Part 10: Albuquerque New Mexico to the Grand Canyon
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. Michael 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.
Part 11: The Twin Cities St Paul
In 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. In 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.
Part 12: The Twin Cities Minneapolis
Michael Portillo continues his journey from the northern state of Minnesota to the Deep South. Michael discovers the story of Hiawatha and his lover Minnehaha, an epic poem featuring American Indian characters. He then meets a Dakota Sioux expert on Native American culture to learn about a dark chapter in United States history and how it is marked today. And there is a taste of the golden age of luxury rail travel as Michael bounces on a bed in a beautifully restored Pullman carriage.
Part 13: Red Wing Minnesota to La Crosse Wisconsin
Steered by his Appleton’s Guidebook, Michael travels along the Upper Mississippi to Red Wing, Minnesota, and the home of Laura Ingalls Wilder, author of Little House on the Prairie. Joining the Empire Builder rail service, he travels to Winona, where he finds out how in the 19th century the US Army Corps of Engineers made the Mississippi navigable. The river is maintained today not just for freight, but to host bald eagles and pelicans too.
Part 14: Tomah to Portage Wisconsin
Michael reaches Tomah, Wisconsin, where he helps harvest cranberries, an important crop for the US. Boarding the Empire Builder rail service once again, he travels to Wisconsin Dells, where an innovative photographer first captured motion.
Part 15: Milwaukee to Racine Wisconsin
Michael is in Milwaukee, located on the shore of Lake Michigan and home of the Harley-Davidson. Michael learns about the history of motorcycles there, the first of which was made in 1903, and hitches a ride on the back of a modern version.
Part 16: Chicago the Windy City
Michael is blown away by the skyscrapers in Illinois’s Windy City, where he discovers how modern Chicago’s skyline replaced a largely wooden city, destroyed in a great fire shortly before his Appleton’s Guide was published. Training with the city’s firefighters, Michael learns today’s fire department respond to half a million emergency calls a year.
Part 17: Chicago US Rail Hub
Michael Portillo continues his 1,000-mile journey from the northern state of Minnesota to the home of the blues in Memphis, Tennessee. Today, in the nation’s rail capital, where tracks pass underground and overground and are elevated into the air, Michael investigates the ultimate marshalling yard.
Part 18: Homewood to Champaign Illinois
Michael is invited to visit the Frank Lloyd Wright-designed house that changed the face of American architecture. On the platform at Kankakee station, Michael parties with the locals as they celebrate the City of New Orleans rail service, immortalised in song by Arlo Guthrie.
Part 19: Mattoon Illinois to Columbus Kentucky
Riding the mainline of mid-America, Michael stops at rural Mattoon, where he gets a taste of the tough early life which shaped President Abraham Lincoln. Wiping the sweat from his brow, Michael struggles to split one rail compared with Lincoln’s estimated 700 a day.
Part 20: Memphis Tennessee
Michael Portillo travels the lower Mississippi aboard a paddle steamer to hear about the life and work of former river boat captain, Samuel Clemens, better known as Mark Twain. In the city of Memphis, Tennessee, Michael visits the historic Elmwood Cemetery, where he uncovers the story of a devastating epidemic, which claimed the lives of thousands. He discovers one of the largest rail freight hubs in the United States and in the home of the blues, meets contemporary artist Cedric Burnside in studio before joining millions of Elvis fans at Graceland. An invitation to a duck palace and the honorary position of Duck Master carry curious responsibilities at the 19th-century Peabody Hotel.