In 1882, in Portugal, the Beira Alta railway was inaugurated. It was considered the most important transnational track that connected Portugal by the shortest route to the heart of Europe. Considering its importance, the inauguration was attended by the Royal Family and Portuguese high society. Amongst the entourage was Bronislaw Wolowski, a Polish journalist, living in France and Austria, who took notes about the festivities, which were later published in a book. This essay analyses that work as an example of travel writing that observes the periphery from a semi-peripheral perspective. The essay shows how Wolowski, a member of the centre, but with a peripheral background, represented peripheral Portugal and its investment in railways favourably. The essay argues that Wolowski’s visit to Portugal resonated with his own peripheral past, while his experience in the centre motivated him to link the Portuguese modernisation effort with the path to “progress”.