Next Episode of Great American Railroad Journeys is
Michael Portillo crosses the Atlantic to ride the railroads of America, armed with Appleton's General Guide to the United States, published in 1879.
Michael Portillo continues his 1,000-mile journey from the northern state of Minnesota to the home of the blues in Memphis, Tennessee. Today, in the nation's rail capital, where tracks pass underground and overground and are elevated into the air, Michael investigates the ultimate marshalling yard. At the ornate Palmer House Hotel, Michael teams up with the head chef to recreate the original chocolate brownie, invented by Bertha Palmer for Chicago's World Exposition in 1893. He discovers the origins of the Sanitary and Ship Canal and uncovers the history of an incredible civil engineering project which raised the city to new heights. Heading deep underground, Michael inspects a modern day scheme on a similarly awesome scale, described by the boss as the largest toilet in the world.
Steered by his Appleton's Guide, Michael Portillo continues his 1,000-mile rail journey south from Chicago through Kankakee to Champaign, Illinois. In full swing on the fairway at the Flossmoor Country Club, Michael discovers how wealthy businessmen from the city flocked to play and how the railroads fostered the growth of suburban life. Beside the Kankakee River, Michael is invited to visit the Frank Lloyd Wright-designed house that changed the face of American architecture. On the platform at Kankakee station, Michael parties with the locals as they celebrate the City of New Orleans rail service, immortalised in song by Arlo Guthrie. He gets his hands on a vintage hooter riding on the Monticello Heritage rail line and in Champaign learns a thing or two at a railroad university.
Armed with his 19th-century Appleton's Guide, Michael Portillo continues his 1,000-mile journey, beginning and ending on the Mississippi River from Minnesota to Tennessee. Riding the mainline of mid-America, Michael stops at rural Mattoon, where he gets a taste of the tough early life which shaped President Abraham Lincoln. Wiping the sweat from his brow, Michael struggles to split one rail compared with Lincoln's estimated 700 a day. Basket in hand, Michael joins the Schwartz family apple harvest in Centralia and learns how to make apple butter. He uncovers industrial unrest in the coal mines of Carbondale then heads to Kentucky and the banks of the Mississippi, where a bloody conflict unfolded which proved decisive in victory for Lincoln's Union.
Armed with his Appleton's Guide, Michael Portillo travels the lower Mississippi aboard a paddle steamer to hear about the life and work of former river boat captain, Samuel Clemens, better known as Mark Twain. In the city of Memphis, Tennessee, Michael visits the historic Elmwood Cemetery, where he uncovers the story of a devastating epidemic, which claimed the lives of thousands. He discovers one of the largest rail freight hubs in the United States and in the home of the blues, meets contemporary artist Cedric Burnside in studio before joining millions of Elvis fans at Graceland. An invitation to a duck palace and the honorary position of Duck Master carry curious responsibilities at the 19th-century Peabody Hotel.
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