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Great Australian Railway Journeys, 15 April 2024, BBC Four

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Great Australian Railway Journeys

In the first episode of Great Australian Railway Journeys, airing on BBC Four on Monday 15 April, Michael Portillo embarks on an epic train journey across Australia, travelling from Port Augusta to Darwin aboard the legendary Ghan Railway. With his trusty 1913 Bradshaw’s Guide in hand, Portillo uncovers the history of this ambitious transcontinental railway project, which stretches nearly 2,000 miles across the country’s vast red centre.

Portillo begins his journey in Port Augusta, located on the southern harbour of South Australia. He learns that the construction of the railway, which aimed to link Darwin in the north to South Australia, was motivated by economic reasons. However, the project faced significant challenges due to extreme weather, floods, and financial crises, and it took nearly a century to complete.

Steaming through the Flinders Ranges, Portillo rides the Pichi Richi heritage railway, the only remaining section of the Old Ghan line still in operation. He then boards the modern Ghan at Alice Springs, a luxurious passenger service with two locomotives, three power vans, four kitchens, five restaurants, five bars, and 23 carriages.

In Alice Springs, Portillo meets the indigenous Arrernte people, joining them around their campfire to hear dreaming stories and share bush tucker. He also learns about the mistreatment of their grandparents’ generation under government policies of forced assimilation.

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Nearby, at Bond Springs Cattle Station, Portillo discovers the rags-to-riches story of Sidney Kidman, the early 20th-century cattle king. He meets the family who now runs one of Kidman’s former ranches.

As the Ghan continues its journey towards Darwin, Portillo is surprised by fellow passengers who are fans of his distinctive colourful wardrobe. He also makes a stop in Katherine, exploring the traditional lands and exquisite Katherine Gorge with a local Aboriginal guide.

Arriving in Darwin on the eve of ANZAC Day, Portillo joins Australians in commemorating the First World War battle that defined their nation.

Great Australian Railway Journeys airs on BBC Four at 7.00 pm on Monday 15 April 2024.

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Isabelle aka Izzy Jacobs is the UK previews specialist at memorabletv.com. Isabelle is particularly drawn to crime dramas, but she also has a not so secret love for all things reality TV. In addition to her work at memorabletv.com, Isabelle is also an avid traveler and a devoted foodie.

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