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Michael Portillo: Great Australian Railway Journeys “Canberra to Melbourne” Series 01 E04

14/08/2020

Armed with his 1913 Bradshaw’s Guide, Michael Portillo crosses the south east of Australia from the seat of government in Canberra to the multi-ethnic heart of its second largest city, Melbourne.

Floating above Canberra in a hot air balloon, Michael sees how Australia’s Bush Capital was planned in the early 20th century. He discovers the story behind the Ashes at the hallowed Melbourne Cricket Ground and cheers for England in the last 20 20 match of the season. Hard on the heels of the infamous outlaw Ned Kelly, Michael enjoys a special screening of the world’s first feature film, made in 1906, which tells of his exploits. At the beautiful former home of superstar soprano, Dame Nellie Melba, Michael discovers her origins and her global fame and listens to one of her best-known songs.

The Puffing Billy narrow gauge steam railway, built in 1900, takes Michael through the rainforest of the Dandenong mountains across a spectacular trestle bridge. Michael meets some of the 1,000 volunteers who keep the line in service.

Michael finishes at Birregurra, 80 miles west of Melbourne, on a 500-acre sheep farm, which was founded by British settlers from Devon during the 1840s. Here, he discovers the story of Australia told in a single family – and learns how to shear a sheep.

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