I’ve just caught up with Michael Portillo on BBC iplayer as he explores the borders, travelling south down the East Coast Main Line from Berwick to Newcastle, and then in the next episode from Newcastle to Carlisle.

The Royal Border Bridge, opened in 1850 gets a starring role, allowing the Newcastle & Berwick Railway which opened as far as Tweedmouth in 1847 to join with the line from Edinburgh south to Berwick which reached the river Tweed in 1846. George Stephenson’s magnificent viaduct finally allowed the complete east coast route to operate, though it would be a further 50 years before trains could make a proper through journey from London to Edinburgh without reversing at Newcastle.

The programme also features stops at Alnmouth and Morpeth, breifly deviating to visit Barter Books in the old station at Alnwick and the First Class Lounge from SS Olympic which now forms the dining room in the White Swan Hotel in Alnwick. There is also a quick trip to Ashington to see the world’s biggest pit village, and to the Mining museum at Woodhorn.

All in all a great perspective on the premier route between England and Scotland. Its a shame the Waverley isn’t open to see what Bradshaw had to say about the magnificent scenery through the Tweed valley to Galashields and then on to Carlisle via Hawick.

If you haven’t seen it yet go catch it on iplayer before it vanishes into the ether.

Great British Railway Journeys (Hardcover)


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