40 years old – I’ve just re-watched my favourite ever railway programme

I’ve been a railway enthusiast ever since my Grandad on my Mother’s side took me to watch trains in Kirkby-In-Ashfield Nottinghamshire as a toddler. Unsurprisingly, I watch most railway programmes that come on the TV but every now and again I have to go back and watch my favourite one from the original 1980 BBC series of Great Railway Journeys. It’s called Coast to Coast and is in my view a masterpiece with my all time TV presenter Ludovic Kennedy at the helm throughout the 1 hour programme.

I’ve blogged about it before and here’s a link back to that previous posting


So why raise it again now? Well to celebrate the episode’s 40th birthday and why not. If you would like to watch it here’ a link:-


American railways – Amtrak’s first 40 years – Ludovic Kennedy & Bill Withers


Amtrak has a video – accessible via the link above – about it’s first 40 years of operation

I first started to take an interest in US railways as a consequence of seeing Ludovic Kennedy’s Great Railway Journey program ‘Coast to Coast'(New York City to Los Angeles). It was a part of the original and classic series of BBC railway journeys that launched a whole new career for Micheal Palin.

Railways have always been in my blood because I was brought up in a Nottinghamshire mining town where railways were everywhere around you. The writing of Ludovic Kennedy, who penned many books in his long and fascinating life, has also been another great interest of mine, so bringing railways and Kennedy together in the classic first series of Great Railway Journeys of the World was a treat not to be missed. The series was first aired in 1980 and this particular episode opened my eyes to the American Railroad.

Most folks who remember this BBC series will probably recall the journey of Michael Palin from London to Kyle of Lochalsh by train but for me Kennedy’s journey across America on the recently formed Amtrak was a delight (not least because Bill Withers great song – Lovely Day – was a part of the soundtrack and Kennedy was a great Liberal thinker, writer and activist) and I became hooked on the railways of the USA. Here’s a part of the program on You Tube – sadly its rather poor quality both in sound and picture. And even more sadly the episode has never been released on video/dvd.


Oddly, and I’m not sure why, I have yet to ride on Amtrak or indeed any American train. The nearest I have got is riding on Via Rail in Canada.

Bizarrely, I actually encountered Ludovic Kennedy at a Liberal Democrat conference on one occasion when he was a very old man confined to a wheelchair. I say encounter as I literally fell over his wheelchair in a crush of people in the foyer of the conference venue. If memory serves this happened in Southport’s Floral Hall.