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4.8 out of 5 stars97
4.8 out of 5 stars
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This series of 25 programmes delivers a delightfully whimsical package of social, cultural and industrial heritage, neatly packaged into easily digested half-hour episodes. The clever concept is exactly the same as for the first series: presenter Michael Portillo follows Bradshaw's Victorian Railway Guidebook of routes on rails across the UK, to see what remains the same and to highlight what has changed. He zigzags from town to country, from ports to cities, admiring architecture along the way, and stopping to talk to the people whose lives are still intertwined with Britain's railway system.

If you haven't seen any of the programmes before then it's a lot like Coast, except the theme is our railways instead of the sea. The second series is in many ways better than the first: Portillo is more relaxed and the breadth of subjects covered is rather greater. There is also more information about the trains themselves (even some steam trains: great!) and the railway network this time around.
The scope of the series should please most people, as it follows routes along the west coast of Scotland (Ayr to Skye) and in the south-east of England; from London Bridge to Hastings and from Brighton on the south coast to Cromer; then in Wales from Ledbury to Holyhead, and from Newcastle to Melton Mowbray.
Most of the journeys feature spectacular scenery. All involve a variety of encounters which serve to illustrate Britain's sometimes bizarre blend of historical happenstance. The segments typically last five or a few more minutes and jump from alpaca fleeces to early locomotives, from military history to Turkish baths, stopping to take in snippets of geology, haggis making, historic shipyards, fictional figures of literature and how cricket became a national sport, a trip to the royal observatory and the background to `shoddy' cloth - all this and more, woven together along the thread of the railways.
Perhaps the most moving moment of this series is when Portillo meets the great-great-granddaughter of George Bradshaw himself. He's obviously delighted by the archive papers she brings along.
I also adore the archive photos, which are artfully contrasted with the current landscape. Sometimes they show how little has changed... and sometimes they reveal how massive the changes have been over the course of a few generations.

Some people, perhaps the more serious-minded, don't approve of the generally upbeat tone of this series and it does tend to do little more than skim the surface of the subjects it covers. These are only snapshots, after all; the modern equivalent of postcards from Victorian resorts.
However, Portillo is a canny chap, and often sneaks in subtle comments which confound expectations. He doesn't pull many punches about the collapse of British industry or the problems of the 20th century, either. The series doesn't whitewash events... but it does tend to seek out the positive stories rather than dwell on negative aspects.
The result is both educational and entertaining: visually stimulating, charming, witty and informative. Anyone interested in our industrial and social heritage should definitely enjoy watching this series.

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on 22 May 2012
Quite simply a very enjoyable dvd. No better way to unwind and escape from hectic work. Should be prescribed as a relaxation remedy on the NHS. Thank you Michael Portillo
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on 18 March 2013
I liked the personal touches which show how clearly Portillo knows his subject. A labour of love in every respect. Pity then that the producers have chosen to begin every short episode with upwards of five minutes of repetitive introduction, using footage seen at the beginning of every episode, which is why I have given only four stars to my assessment. After one or two episodes we have clearly understood that the series is based on the works of Victorian writer and map maker George Bradshaw. This does not need repeating. Similarly, the last few minutes of each episode are spent in previewing the following episode. A waste of time.

This second series is an improvement on series one, mainly because Michael Portillo is more relaxed and is able to talk more freely to the interesting people he meets. These conversations add to the overall quality of the series and reduce the impression of it being a Portillo monologue.

I now look forward to the forthcoming series on continental European rail routes.
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on 28 February 2012
This is the second set of dvds to be released. All of the programmes on the dvds have a great coverage of the rail journey which is being made. I already have series one and will certainly be buying series three when it becomes available. As with the accompanying books I would recommend them to anyone who is interested in railways and train travel.
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on 8 February 2012
These journeys are some of the most interesting programmes that heve appeared on TV for a long time. They encapsulate the many wonders that exist within the British Isles, brought to life by Michael Portillo's excellent dialogue and some superb photography. Along the way, we are introduced to many interesting people who keep much of the industry and crafts etc. going in these modern times. Excellent!!
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on 3 March 2012
The second series of Michael Portilos, Great British Railway Journeys, is very good value. Full of interesting references and is complimented by having your `Bradshaws` Guide by your side.
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on 1 March 2012
Exellent series.Michael Portillo makes you feel you are on the train with him,and his enthuisiasum is catching.Shows towns and villages I have never been to.His insight into these railway journeys is amazing .Will watch the dvds again in the near future.Great escapism.
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Michael Portillo, featuring his interesting sartorial choices, is our tour guide to the rail tracks. With his Bradshaw in hand, we follow him on his journeys as armchair travellers.

I was surprised that this series was not available on Blu-ray.

I find all these series of his just ideal for relaxing after coming home after a day's work. Indeed I first saw them featured on TV around teatime. In some respects the bygone eras he covers strike me as being a more civilised time to be alive. (This was before the horrific carnage of the first World War and the changes to society that ensued thereafter).There was a gentler pace to life instead of the frenetic one that we experience nowadays. This is part of the charm of the series.
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on 13 October 2012
This is really a interesting documentary..that is presented by the previous English politician , Michael Portillo. I was wary of this aspect at first..but he is great at presenting British cities and rail journeys...and mixing with the people who he interviews with. Very likeable personality , and great content for a documentary. The Series 1 is around 10 hours long and the series 2 is around 12 hours both together give you nearly 24 hours of content showing the different cities. regions connected by rail around England, Wales, and well as bits of Ireland and connections from England by ferry.

Highly recommend this.
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on 19 November 2013
I am not into trains at all. But this series is absolutely great. Micheal Portillo is a lovely presenter, and makes everything and eveywhere he visits such a joy to see. The series is very informative of the area's he visits hopping on and off the trains,many of which I have now visited since watching the series.
Places I would not have normally thought about visiting. I now have the first 3 series. all of which are wonderful to watch. And can't wait to get series 4.

Thanks Micheal you are a pleasure to watch again and again. Hope many more series and in the pipeline.
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