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World War I was a railway war. Michael Portillo finds out how the railways helped to precipitate a mechanised war, shaped how it was fought, conveyed millions to the trenches and bore witness to its end. He takes to historic tracks to rediscover the locomotives and wagons of the war that was supposed to end all war and hears the stories of the gallant men and women who used them in life and in death.

Genres: History | War
Station: BBC Two (UK)
Rating: 0/10 from 0 users
Status: Ended
Start: 2014-08-04

Railways of the Great War with Michael Portillo Season 1 Air Dates


S01E01 - A Railway War Begins Air Date: 04 August 2014 17:30 -

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Michael travels through Britain and northern Europe uncovering railway stories from the Great War. He begins his quest in the French city of Metz on European tracks built with war in mind, charts the birth of the railway war at a small station in Luxembourg and discovers how Britain's railways coped with the challenge of sending thousands of troops to join the conflict from Southampton. Finally, he returns to France to learn how the early war of movement gave way to the stalemate of the trenches.


S01E02 - Railways and Railwaymen Called to Action Air Date: 05 August 2014 17:30 -

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Michael travels through Britain uncovering railway stories from the Great War. His journey begins in England's north east, where he finds out about the brave railwaymen who paid the ultimate sacrifice. Moving south to Oxfordshire, he learns how the manufacturing expertise of the railways turned a crisis into a victory. In Hampshire, Michael meets the proud son of a railwayman who, as a Royal Engineer, taught soldiers to be railwaymen and trained railwaymen to be soldiers. Finally, on the south coast he meets the big guns that turned the tide of war.


S01E03 - Keeping the War Moving Air Date: 06 August 2014 17:30 -

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Michael travels through Britain and northern France uncovering railway stories from the Great War. He gets hands-on experience of the miniature tracks and trains that kept supplies flowing to the front line and visits North Eastern Railway Headquarters in York to find out about the Great War's forgotten railway leader. He hears the story of the Bath railway poet, and pays homage at the site of Britain's deadliest train crash in Quintinshill. Finally, Michael crosses the Channel to discover how the railways fed millions of men in the trenches from a depot in Abancourt.


S01E04 - On Track to Victory Air Date: 07 August 2014 17:30 -

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Michael travels through Britain and Belgium uncovering railway stories from the Great War. At Bristol's Temple Meads station he hears a first-hand account from the front line, then in Yorkshire discovers how women took over railwaymen's roles and began to literally wear the trousers. He finds out about the extraordinary exploits of Belgian trainspotters who spied on enemy rail movements, and hears how the end of the war also marked the decline of the railways.


S01E05 - Railways and Remembrance Air Date: 08 August 2014 17:30 -

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In this final episode, Michael explores the aftermath of this earth-shattering conflict. For four years, the railways had fed the front line with vast numbers of men, munitions and supplies. But even after the armistice had been signed in a railway carriage, the work of the railways was not done. As Britain continued to mourn its dead, the railways played an important part in their remembrance. Michael hears stories of railway war heroes and encounters a remarkable railway wagon used to honour them. He hears how the railways helped give birth to battlefield tourism, and in the cemeteries of Ypres he meets the great-grandchildren of some of the fallen.

Railways of the Great War with Michael Portillo Actors

Michael Portillo(Presenter)



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