Great American Railroad Journeys

Great American Railroad Journeys

Mon, 07/17/2017 - 9:00pm - 10:00pm

Pictured: Host Michael Portillo

Credit: APT

In Great American Railroad Journeys, host Michael Portillo (Great Continental Railway Journeys) crosses the Atlantic for an epic trip down the East Coast of the United States.

Following the 1879 guidebook Appleton’s General Guide to the United States, he travels from New York City to historic Jamestown, Virginia. Along the way, he visits famous landmarks, samples local cuisine, and investigates America’s diverse cultural origins and complex social history. The 8-part series, Great American Railroad Journeys, airs Mondays, July 17-September 4 at 9 p.m. on WXXI-TV.

Episode 1 - "Manhattan: Grand Central to World Trade Center" airs Monday, July 17   Michael Portillo crosses the Atlantic to ride the railroads of America with a new traveling companion. Armed with the 1879 edition of Appleton's General Guide to the United States, Portillo begins his American adventure on Manhattan Island. Starting at New York's Grand Central Terminal, he boards the Manhattan subway system -- the busiest rail transit system in the U.S. He learns about Manhattan's iconic skyscrapers then heads to the Financial District, where, over a lobster Newberg, he finds out how the dodgy political dealings of the era's most prominent industrialists earned them the nickname "Robber Barons." In an urban oasis, Portillo learns how a swampy wasteland was turned into one of the largest and finest parks in the world: Central Park. A celebrity welcome from the resting actors of Broadway awaits him at Ellen's Stardust Diner. In the Lower East Side, Portillo is drawn into a scrap with one of the neighborhood's infamous historic gangs and he visits the grim tenements where thousands of immigrants lived and worked. He then heads by ferry to Ellis Island, the gateway to America for many millions seeking a new life in the new world. He finishes this leg of his journey with a tour of the gleaming new transport hub under construction close to the site of Ground Zero.

Episode 2 - "Brooklyn to Montauk" airs Monday, July 24  From Manhattan, Michael Portillo follows his Appleton's General Guide east to Long Island. Beginning in Brooklyn, he hears the moving story behind the construction of the world's first steel suspension bridge high above the East River. Below ground, he investigates the arrival of New York City's first subway and the dangers faced by the men who built it: the "sandhogs." At the Brooklyn Navy Yard, Portillo discovers the dry dock where warships were built to defend American trade against the British and tastes the modern day moonshine now produced there. He follows in the footsteps of thousands of early 20th-century holiday makers to what was once America's playground, Coney Island. Continuing on the Long Island Railroad to Queens, Portillo investigates the site of an ambitious engineering project that will transform New York City's rail network. A model town built by an Irish immigrant who became one of the richest men in America is Portillo's next stop before he heads to the island's Gold Coast. There Michael relives the fun of the roaring '20s at Oheka Castle, a vast private residence once home to a rail tycoon before becoming a weekend retreat for New York City's garbage men. In East Hampton, Portillo discovers Home Sweet Home before ending his journey at the Montauk lighthouse on Long Island's easternmost tip.

Episode 3 - "New York City to Albany" airs Monday, July 31 Michael Portillo follows America's iconic Hudson River north through New York state. Beginning at New York City's Penn Station, Michael rides Amtrak. He hears from Amtrak's police chief how railroad policing began to tackle the nation's most notorious train robbers, among them Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid. Upriver at Tarrytown, Portillo is spooked by a famous American ghost story, the Legend of Sleepy Hollow. On the east bank of the Hudson he stops at Garrison, where he hears about the greatest turncoat in American history and the many generals trained at West Point, the United States Military Academy. In Poughkeepsie, Portillo visits Vassar college. Vassar counts Jackie Kennedy Onassis and Meryl Streep among its former students. He discovers the tumultuous history of the Poughkeepsie-Highland Railroad Bridge and follows the train line to the Catskill Mountains, where he bravely admires the scenery from an altogether different type of line: a zip wire. Back on safe ground he learns how the magnificent 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.

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