This week saw the return of Britain’s favourite ex-Tory government minister as Michael Portillo takes his pastel jackets stateside for the second series of Great American Railroad Journeys.
Since publishing Help me, I’m becoming a Trainspotter I’ve been taken aback by the literally half a handful of people who have confided a shared love of trains to me.
Some encouraged me to go deeper, highlighting items on the TV schedule with Chris Tarrant and Joanna Lumley apparently aping Portillo on their own adventures.
BBC4 even launched Trainspotting Live, a whole series devoted to one of Britain’s most peculiar of pastimes which was in no way to be confused with the misadventures of a group of Edinburgh based drug addicts.
Others invited me to join them on a train journey, or sent brochures of organised European railway excursions.
You don’t need to take numbers to have fun trainspotting you know!
One lady who contacted me on Twitter told me that I should not be concerned about my inner-trainspotter, and that buying a copy of Bradshaw’s 1863 guide denoted “intelligence” and that it was ok to be a “rail enthusiast.”
Sadly, others have expressed how trains, and in particular, Michael Portillo’s Great British Railway Journeys have affected their relationships. “My Mrs would rather I watched pornography,” was one particularly upsetting response on Twitter.
Well, perhaps Mr Portillo will “do Dallas.” You never know.
Here’s the thing.
Michael Portillo’s Great Railway Journeys are not really about trains or railways.
They are about travel, about people, about history.
Swapping his trusty Bradshaw’s for an Appleton’s Guide, Portillo focuses on the hands that built America as he cheerily recounts how the West was won and where it got us.
Expect inspiring stories and trivia aplenty on the men and women who followed the American dream and found their fortunes on the railroads.
Expect to see more history from below and how the railroads aided the manifest destiny of a nation stretching from coast to coast and across a continent many thought to be ungovernable due to it’s vast size.
Public transport may never be as sexy, and trains may lose their appeal to most healthy commuters beyond the age of 4; but they have also played a massive part in our socio-economic history and perhaps nowhere more so than in the land where car is king.
So don’t be afraid of society’s branding of trainspotters as hopeless, bespectacled nerds in anoraks, follow Michael Portillo’s example and embrace your inner-trainspotter.
‘Great American Railroad Journeys’ is on BBC2 at 6.30pm each weekday evening and available on the iPlayer.
NOW READ: Help me, I’m becoming a Trainspotter