From digging up ancient artefacts to swimming in the freezing Arctic Circle, Nick Knowles is experiencing the wonders of the world, by train.
Over six fantastic globe-trotting trips he immerses himself in the people, landscapes and culture of Peru, Mexico, Alaska, Norway, Vietnam, and Malaysia, hopping aboard some incredible trains as he undertakes some of the most breath-taking railway journeys in the world.
In Peru he takes a stunning boat ride across Lake Titicaca to the floating islands of the Uros, and in Mexico a magical trip on El Chepe, the Copper Canyon railway. Then there’s a trek to the Matanuska Glacier in Alaska and an overnight stay in a converted train carriage turned hotel, parked on a disused railway bridge over the River Namsen in Norway.
This rich, high-octane series is a sparkling exploration of the land, each country’s rich and poor, incredible engineering feats and mind-blowing vistas. The series begins with Nick travelling across Mexico. From Los Mochis in Sinaloa to Creel in Chihuahua, Nick Knowles’ railway adventure is jam-packed with incredible sights and people on a route from the Pacific coastline at Sinaloa through the incredible Copper Canyon to Creel in Chihuahua.
Before boarding his train, Nick visits Topolobampo, a coastal port, where freight trains carrying goods to and from container ships join the railway line through the Copper Canyon. Boarding the passenger train next morning, Nick settles in for his 10-hour ride to Creel.
The first stop is the old Spanish fort town of El Fuerte, which claims to be the inspiration for that legendary hero of multiple Hollywood films, Zorro. Back on the train, Nick is bowled over by the extraordinary engineering achievement of the Temoris Loop where the train doubles back on itself twice, once actually inside a mountain, in order to gain 700 feet quickly.
Actress Claudia Arana tells Nick the story of Albert Kimsey Owen, the visionary C19th American railway engineer whose ambitious idea this line was. She treats Nick to an abridged version of her one-woman puppet show describing Kimsey Owen’s plan to start a Utopian community in Sinaloa, where there would be no currency and no private property.
The community didn’t last, but his railroad dreams did. Chihuahua is home to the Mennonites, a religious group who, like the Amish before them, fled religious persecution in Europe. They finally settled in Mexico 100 years ago and have become famous cheesemakers in Chihuahua.
The train moves on to Divisadero, where there’s a street market run by the indigenous Raramuri people. Nick tastes meat-stuffed gorditas made with blue corn, and Nick gets his first proper sight of the remarkable canyon system, dubbed ‘Mexico’s Grand Canyon’.
The last leg of the journey is only 36 miles but the route winds slowly through the mountains at dusk. Creel is cowboy country and Nick gets suited and booted for a visit to a ranch where he learns to lasso cattle and takes a gentle trot through the stunning hills above Creel, a true vaquero at last. Mexico is a land of colourful contrasts and Nick has enjoyed every mountainous mile of this winding, climbing, intricate journey.
Amazing Railway Adventures begins Friday 17th March on Channel 5.