I know that I will never get to ride all the great trains of the world but luckily there are no shortage of documentary programs on television about or featuring railways.
While I especially like the ones that focus on the railways themselves my love of travel means that I also like those that are more travel documentaries.
Here are a few that I’ve been enjoying lately.
Billy Connolly’s Tracks Across America – Billy travels around America by train stopping to look at interesting things along the way.
Great British Train Journeys
Great Continental Railway Journeys – Both of these programs made by the BBC are hosted by Michael Portfillo who visits various locations which featured in his old Bradshaw’s Railway Guides.
Railroad Australia – This one, made for the Discovery Channel focuses on various railway operators around the country.
Mighty Trains – Another Discovery Channel program about iconic trains around the world.
Here are some older ones.
Chris Tarrant’s Extreme Railways – Riding on some of the world’s wildest railways.
The Tube – Interesting series about the London Underground.
Slow Train Through Africa – A five-part series of African train journeys hosted by Griff Rhys Jones.
The one that started it all for me
One of the first railways documentary series I can remember watching was the BBC’s “Great Railways Journey’s of the World” starting in 1980. This is the predecessor to the programs now hosted by Michael Portfillo. It was eight episodes with various presenters such as Ludovic Kennedy and Michael Frayn but my favourite episode was “Confessions of a Train Spotter” hosted by Michael Palin. I think it was his first travel film.
These programs and others like them have allowed me to vicariously experience such trains as The Indian Pacific, The Canadian, The Glacier Express, The Blue Train and the Trans Siberian. I hope that if I’m ever lucky enough to do some more travelling I’ll get to ride on some of them myself.