Back in 2011, Billy Connolly travelled along America's most famous highway Route 66. Now the Big Yin is taking on its railroads: chugging "the wrong way round" and beginning in the Windy City (Fridays, ITV, 9pm).

The US boasts some of the best train trips in the world, whether your taste is for mountains, rolling valleys or vintage trains. These are our favourites.


The California Zephyr: Chicago to San Francisco 

This is a top contender for the most scenic railroad in North America. The 2,438 mile-journey takes you through the Rockies, the canyons of the Colorado River, the plains of Nebraska and the snow-capped Sierra Nevada mountains. It takes two days so be sure to book a sleeping car.


 The Coast Starlight: LA to Seattle

 

The 1,377-mile, 34-hour Coast Starlight links the cities of the West Coast and is up there with the California Zephyr for spectacular scenery: the Diablo mountains, California's great valleys, San Francisco Bay, the Cascade Mountains, the jagged cliffs and fog-shrouded peaks of the Pacific Ocean shoreline. Book a seat in the Sightseer Lounge Car for the best view.


 For more information or to book, call American Sky on 01342 886762 and quote "Radio Times"


The Southwest Chief: Chicago to LA

It takes 43 hours to do this 2265-mile trip. If you just want to do the most scenic section, skip the Mississippi and the plains and board at Trinidad, Colorado. From there, the train passes through the Sangre de Cristo mountains (and some of the last semaphore signals in use on American railroads), New Mexico's highlands and the Rio Grande. Disembark at Williams Junction, Arizona, for a bus connection to the Grand Canyon's century-old vintage railway – a two-hour trip with musicians and actors who tell tales of the Wild West.

Back on board the Southwest Chief, you'll chug through canyon passes only a few feet wider than the train, the Mojave Desert and Cajon Pass, before arriving in LA.


 The Durango and Silverton railroad: Durango, Colorado 

The Durango and Silverton Narrow Gauge Railroad – to give its full name – was constructed in 1882 to haul gold ore from southwest Colorado's San Juan mountains. Nowadays, it's the view that is precious. The coal-fired, steam-powered locomotive winds climbs 3,000 ft through the two-million acre San Juan National Forest, affording stunning views of its canyons and 14,000 ft peaks. The round-trip takes a day, including a two-hour stopover in Silverton. Reserve a seat in the "Historic Narration Car" to hear tales of yesteryear from actors in period costume.


Radio Times Travel offer: Independent rail tour of East Coast USA, exploring Boston, New York, Philadelphia, Colonial Williamsburg and Washington DC from £1,689pp


Pullman Rail Journeys: Chicago to New Orleans

Pullman's impeccably restored 1940s cars transport you back to the golden age of rail travel – but come with mod-cons like wifi access as well as Art Deco fittings and porter-call buttons. Trains depart in the early evening and reach New Orleans the following afternoon. After departing from Chicago Union Station, passengers are served Illinois Central Railroad's traditional "King's Dinner". Fares include meals and beverages, so make sure you stop by the Adirondack Club Car for a classic cocktail. 


Napa Valley Wine Train: Napa, California

The civilised way to see America's most famous wine region is aboard the vintage Napa Valley Wine Train. A variety of trips are available, offering guided tours and tastings at wineries, and seasonal special events and talks. While the sun-drenched vineyards roll by, passengers are served a gourmet dinner with a glass of wine, naturally. 

Billy Connolly's Tracks Across America begins on 1st April, ITV at 9pm

Need a present for a train buff? Bradshaw's Continental Railway Guide, as seen on Great Continental Rail Journeys with Michael Portillo, is available for £21 including p&p from the Radio Times bookshop. Published in 1863, it's a fascinating guide to Europe’s rail network on the very brink of the First World War. 


For more information or to book, call American Sky on 01342 886762 and quote "Radio Times"


Radio Times Travel offer: East Coast rail tour from £1,689

A fabulous two-week holiday exploring the fascinating East Coast cities of Boston (three nights), New York (three nights), Philadelphia (two nights), Colonial Williamsburg (two nights) and Washington DC (three nights), letting the train take the strain as you travel between locations. This is an independent tour, allowing you to explore at your leisure and choose whatever you want to see. The price includes return transatlantic flights, 13 nights of hotel accommodation, Amtrak Rail between cities, porterage of one bag per person and city tours in Boston, New York, Philadelphia and Washington. Click here for more details or call 01342 886 903 and quote "Radio Times".