By Justin RouillonWednesday 20 May 2020
The coronavirus shutdown and isolation measures really reinforced something in our household. What began with a mild obsession over Thomas the Tank Engine a few years back has now developed into a full-blown love affair with railways for my five-year-old son. He is really, really into trains.
He’s collected all manner of them — plastic locos, Lego trains, those retro-styled Brio wooden rail sets and we’ve enjoyed going to those model railway exhibitions. You know, the ones where old blokes empty the shed of their toy trains for the weekend, much to the delight of their wives.
My boy has even got a railway bucket list on the go, already ticking one off when he rode the Kuranda Scenic Railway in Far North Queensland a year ago.
As it may have been with your family, over the last two months there’s been a fair bit of screen time. Much more than we would usually allow. So, it was inevitable we would be searching for railway content.
Here are my family’s top 5 train-themed shows you can stream for free right now with your family, or maybe you’re just looking for something a little different to what you usually watch.
The World’s Most Beautiful Railway
SBS On Demand, rated G
It’s a big call to make but this show about the Scottish rail network delivers on all counts. The program follows the stories of the workers; the drivers and guards, engineers and volunteers who keep infrastructure intact, including The Flying Scotsman and a number of other heritage steam locomotives, as well as tourists and enthusiasts who come for the stunning scenery. The landscape is breathtaking, from the vast mountains of the highlands to heather covered moors — it’s a visual feast. You’ll also see some of the network’s man-made landmarks like The Forth Bridge and Corrour Railway Station — the most remote station in the UK, and made famous in Ewan McGregor’s breakout film Trainspotting. And, what visit to the Scottish Railway would be complete without a trip to Mallaig in the West Highlands, where you’ll cross the Glenfinnan Viaduct, otherwise known as the Harry Potter Bridge.
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Griff’s Great Australian Rail Trip
ABC iview, rated G/PG
Hosted by Welsh comedian and travel enthusiast Griff Rhys Jones, this is the show that will give you some inspiration for your next adventure, before those international borders open up again. Griff crosses the Australian continent in every direction, stepping aboard iconic services such as The Indian Pacific, The Ghan, The Spirit of the Outback and The Spirit of Queensland. Along the way he tries to uncover the true essence of Australia and our people, and journeys through some of our most isolated areas, meeting plenty of characters and showing off the wide brown land that even most Aussies haven’t seen with their own eyes.
Bonus: Although not railway related, if you like Griff’s style it’s well worth checking out his New Zealand sojourn in Griff’s Great Kiwi Road Trip.
Great British Railway Journeys
SBS On Demand, rated G
With his Victorian era Bradshaw’s Guide in hand, host Michael Portillo takes you on a journey back in time. The era in which George Bradshaw published his rail travel guide was one where Great Britain was the world’s superpower, fueled by the Industrial Revolution and the vast railway network that crossed the country. As much a show for the history buff, Portillo uncovers stories from a bygone time, and shows how the railways changed lives across the UK. From the ultra-wealthy who were building their empires, to the working classes being able to travel for the first time, the railways changed the face of Great Britain. And with 11 seasons having been produced since 2010, there are plenty of episodes for the train enthusiast in your house.
7plus, rated PG
The documentary series takes you around the globe with each episode focusing on one particular train. Presenter Teddy Wilson has the train enthusiasts dream job as he shunts his way from one epic rail journey to another. From crossing the Swiss Alps to crossing deserts, this series features icons from the world of rail — The Bullet Train, The Ghan, The Canadian and the engineering wonder of the White Pass and Yukon Route.
All The Stations
YouTube, no rating
This travel-vlog style YouTube series is hosted and produced by married couple Geoff Marshall and Vicki Pipe. They documented their 2017 mission to travel to each railway station in mainland Great Britain — yep, that’s all 2563 stations! — as a way to inspire the British public to fall back in love with its railway system. Amazingly the four-month journey was crowdfunded by enthusiasts after the couple raised £38,000 (AU$71,000) to document the journey. The episodes have attracted hundreds of thousands of views, with a journey that began in Penzance on England’s south western tip, all the way to Wick in the far north of Scotland.