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Great British Railway Journeys

Michael Portillo follows in the footsteps of the father of the train timetable in this revealing portrait of Britain through the eyes of the cartographic genius that was George Bradshaw.

Prior to the 1840’s, travelling across Britain was a complicated affair at best. For a country with over 20,000 miles of track there was - amazingly - no such thing as a national railway timetable or map.

Bradshaw quickly became the ‘word’ for timetable, with the publication of the first Bradshaw Monthly Railway Guide in 1841.

Using the ‘Bradshaw’ as his guide, Michael makes four epic, five-part journeys across the series, each one stripped over a week.

With Bradshaw’s Descriptive Railway Guide in hand, he traverses Britain’s railway network, visiting the guide’s recommended landmarks, staying in its suggested hostelries, drinking in its preferred inns and taking part in its recommended events and markets.

Where tracks no longer exist, alternative ways of following the former routes are found - anything from traction engine to canal boat.

The series is a snapshot of Britain today: its people, stories, scenery, architecture, customs, history and how life and landscape has changed over the last 150 years since Bradshaw became a household name.