Wednesday, July 05, 2006

The Secret Railroad





***This post has been updated. Scroll down to read the latest. Be sure to read the comments section for insights, memories and behind the scenes glimpses from one of the voice actors.***

Back in the eighties, Saturday afternoons meant watching The Secret Railroad (on TVO/Global Television) in a mesmerized silence with my brother. It was one of his favorites and he soon had me addicted to its surreal beauty. It was about a boy named "Simon" who discovers a magical and unused railroad in the basement of his apartment building. We lived in an apartment building growing up, so this had added meaning for us. The train was able to transform itself and travel to other worlds. The lyrics of the theme song are as follows:
When you are feeling blue,
When you are feeling down.
Just do what Simon did;
Go underground.
Down there in the dark,
You hear a happy sound.
It's the secret railroad.
Adventure bound!
You better climb on board
the train's about to leave.
All you need is a passenger.
Your tickets, please!
I'd like to take that ride again.

Sources: The Secret Railroad-tvo and Fightsim.andyjohnston.net

NOTE: September 17, 2008. TVO response can be found here along with a brief update on available YouTube clips.


UPDATE: March 28-30, 2012. Reader "J" shared the following purchase information for The Secret Railroad (English version) on VHS: 

Hey everybody, I stumbled across this thread while searching for another childhood great "Ludwig" and thought I could help. I searched for episodes of The Secret Railroad about 7 years ago and found them ... the entire series! They were sold in Montreal through a company called Filmoption International (www.filmoption.com). They had the rights to the original archives (I believe) and they made VHS dubs off of that... yes, I said VHS. You'll probably be hard pressed to find this on DVD, but possibly VHS. Hope this helps...Consequently, I work at TVO. We're always fighting to try and get those old but great shows available to fans. It's just that it's extremely expensive.  I'd be happy to provide more info if you'd like. Keep up the good fight—j.
UPDATE: July 25, 2012. Ross received a disappointing response from FilmOption: there are no plans to release The Secret Railroad either on DVD or VHS (tried contacting them myself but didn't receive a response). So it's back to the drawing board...yet again. The hunt continues. Good luck everyone!

UPDATE: November 9, 2012. Voice actor Doug Heintzman (Simon) shares memories of working on the animated series. Read here or in the comment thread below.

46 comments:

  1. Those saturday morning/afternoon Global TV cartoons make me miss my childhood too. It almost makes me ache when I think of it.
    Thanks for the pics of that great old show.

    ReplyDelete
  2. I totally agree with you on that Derek. Those cartoons were so different than the ones they have today. The Secret Railroad especially brings back that ache.

    Thank you for commenting and come back to visit anytime!

    Cheers :)

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  3. I'm still looking for Secret Railroad video online. I miss the Simon and Stella and Melinda and Mr Passenger. I did manage to find A Cosmic Christmas on youtube if anyone remembers that one....

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  4. Hello Ehm Gee! I'm looking for that video too. If you ever do see it, please let me know! I found that Cosmic Christmas video too recently. I posted it as well. Thanks for letting us know though! Thanks for visiting and drop by soon! Cheers! :)

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  5. Anonymous3/29/2008

    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=HaGXgPMK57Q

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  6. Cheers and thank you for the link! :)

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  7. Anonymous9/16/2008

    My Name is Doug Heintzman. I was the voice of Simon. I have lots of fond memories of working on the Secret Railroad. At some point I had some of the original scripts. I would love to see some video if anyone knows where it is. I see someone has posted the some of the French dubbed versions on youtube. Any leads on the English ones?

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  8. Wow! Hello Doug, unfortunately I don't have any leads on the English versions. I've scoured the web looking for them. I guess we could write to TVO or Global. Which network produced it? If they only knew the amount of people wanting to see this program again, then just maybe they'd rebroadcast it or sell some DVDs! Fingers crossed.

    Thanks so much for stopping by and sharing your lovely comments with us. I'll keep looking and hopefully, this time something will actually turn up! Cheers. :)

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  9. I contacted TVO Customer Relations and here's what they had to say about The Secret Railroad:


    "Thank you for contacting TVO. Unfortunately, as with other acquired programs from the 70’s, 80’s, and 90’s, the broadcast rights for The Secret Railroad have expired. There are no plans to renew those rights, nor is this series available for sale from TVO."


    So I guess we're left with our memories of the show, unless someone, somewhere, had actually videotaped the originals.

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  10. Anonymous1/18/2011

    Hi! My name is Apostolos and I am from Athens/Greece. I was born in 1973. Secret Railroad was one of my favorites tv series during my childohood. Stella! I was in love with her ;-) So sureal. So real. You could travel with the train wherever you wanted. I am glad that influenced more people than me. Greetings from Greec! Take the magic train and come! :-)

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  11. Hello/Yassou Apostolos! So lovely to have someone visit this blog from Greece! :) You described the show perfectly, it was so surreal and so real at the same time. So magical. We were lucky to grow up with such a show weren't we? They don't make them like that anymore. Do come and visit us again Apostolos. Cheers from Canada.

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  12. Douglas Heintzman2/14/2011

    Hi this is Doug Heintzman again. As I mentioned a few years ago I was Simon on The Secret Railroad. We actually produced it out of Montreal. Caroline (Stella) and I were students at the Montreal Children's theater school. Peter Sanders was the brains behind the project and came to our school to audition kids for the parts. This series earned me my ACTRA membership and working papers. Niel Shee was George Passenger. At the time Niel was the vice president of ACTRA and took me under his wing and gave me lots of fatherly and career advice. We recorded it in a few studios including Place Youville in Old Montreal. The three of us voiced all the characters in the series. Strangely I actually never got to see it (outside of screening) because it didn't air in Montreal. It was on Global and shown in Ontario and out west and I think sold to some other geographies. TVO picked it up later. It was translated into French later as well. The Wikipedia entry is wrong. I was going to change it which made me think back to your blog and wondering if you had any luck with video.

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  13. Hi Doug! So lovely to hear from a member of the cast! As of yet, I have not been able to find a copy of the English version of The Secret Railroad. So disappointing. I even checked with "Retrontario" (check out his collection on Youtube) and he pointed me to the French versions on YouTube - he also is looking for a copy. There's nothing on eBay either. I'll keep asking around, I'm sure someone has videotaped a few episodes. I'll do another post and see if it refreshes any memories.

    Thanks for checking in and sharing your story with us. An honour indeed. Cheers :)

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  14. Hello, everyone. I'm a big fan of The Secret Railroad, but there was no page for it on IMDB. So I pulled together everything I found about the show on the Interwebs and had them add a page for the show. Here's the link:

    http://www.imdb.com/title/tt1869120/

    If anyone knows info about the show, please add it there.

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  15. Wow, thank you so much for creating and sharing that page with us Bryan! The devotion (even after all these years) to The Secret Railroad by its devotees never ceases to amaze me. Bravo. :)

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  16. I loved this show too, as a boy, and it saddens me that there is no way to get a copy of it. I've seen the french clips on youtube, but never found anything beyond that. there isn't even anyone sharing videotape recordings off of to tv, via torrents.

    It seems so strange, someone must own the rights, have the originals.

    like others have said, I see the drawing style, the animation style of things i watched when i was a child and i ache.

    I found a canadian halloween cartoon from '78, "witches night out", last year. soo good, and yet it is never broadcast. it was probably broadcast on cbc, rather than tvo.

    i'm enjoying poking around this blog

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  17. idleprimate: thank you for your comment. Fellow fans of The Secret Railroad are amazing. You described the "ache" that you feel and I could not agree with you more. Not being able to see the show again, has left a void for its faithful who are now well past adulthood. It's frustrating that we can't even locate a trace of the English version. I've tried all those avenues you mentioned and even contacted TVO. Hopefully they'll update their retro archive page with at least one snippet of the show. Fingers crossed.

    Witches Night Out rings a bell. But I haven't seen it in ages.

    So happy you like this blog. Please do drop by whenever you can!

    Cheers :)

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  18. Anonymous7/04/2011

    hello boyz and girlz i'm from Greece
    too and also born in '73 and i just had a youtube epiphany remembering the sheer Psychedelia of Secret Railroad and so i ended up in this blog,does someone know if i can find the theme song please anywhere in the net?..thank u and be well!

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  19. Hello! Greetings from Canada to you in Greece! :) I believe only the French versions are up on youtube. The English version has proven difficult to locate - the holy grail if you will. I'll check around again and see if I can track it down anywhere. Thanks so much for visiting and commenting. Cheers :)

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  20. Anonymous1/26/2012

    Hi Chelly,
    Thanks for starting up The Secret Railroad group here! It is nice to know that there are others who appreciate how great the show really is. Crossing my fingers that one day in the not too distant future,that we will be able to purchase the series on dvd!
    I used to watch the show faithfully on TVO & Global! Brings back so many great memories. Does anyone remember the english series Vision On that TVO used to show as well? That was one of my favs growing up in the `70`s too,I was born in `67!
    Keep up the good work and keep us posted!
    Sincerely,
    Kevin :-)

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  21. Thanks so much for your lovely comment Kevin!

    It's so sweet to chat with fellow fans about this unique show. It never ceases to amaze how fond us Secret Railroaders have been of this program even as the decades passed. If they ever release it on DVD there will be many happy people—namely those of us who had our childhoods in the 60s, 70s and 80s. I don't recall Vision but now I will definitely look it up. I must have seen it as I watched so many of TVO's programs as a kid. :) Thanks so much for letting me know. Come back and visit any time! Cheers. :)

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  22. PS: If any new info comes to light, I'll definitely keep everyone posted. :)

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  23. Anonymous3/28/2012

    Hey everybody, I stumbled across this thread while searching for another childhood great "Ludwig" and thought I could help. I searched for episodes of The Secret Railroad about 7 years ago and found them ... the entire series! They were sold in Montreal through a company called Filmoption International (www.filmoption.com). They had the rights to the original archives (I believe) and they made VHS dubs off of that... yes, I said VHS. You'll probably be hard pressed to find this on DVD, but possibly VHS. Hope this helps.
    j

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  24. Anonymous3/28/2012

    Oh, yeah ... they are the English versions!

    ReplyDelete
  25. WOW! Thank you so much J!! Finally some good news on the Secret Railroad front. I'll definitely check out this link and pass on the info. Cheers. :)

    ReplyDelete
  26. Anonymous3/29/2012

    Your very welcome Chelly. Let me know how it goes. Consequently, I work at TVO. We're always fighting to try and get those old but great shows available to fans. It's just that it's extremely expensive. I'd be happy to provide more info if you'd like. Keep up the good fight.
    j

    ReplyDelete
  27. Thank you so much J!!! It's awesome that you work at TVO and thanks also for the insight into how complicated it is to get those old shows on air. I'll followup with filmoption and hopefully, fingers-crossed have at least a VHS copy of the Secret Railroad one day. Do let us know if you have any more updates in the future. Cheers my friend! :)

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  28. Hi,

    I just emailed FilmOption to find out the price, format and availability. Will report back.

    Anyone interested in Fables of the Green Forest?

    Anyone remember that other show, like Fables of the Green Forest but set in a swamp? Very Asian looking and broadcast in Ontario around the same period?

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    Replies
    1. Thank you so much! I haven't followed up with FilmOption yet (sidelined with the flu). Can't wait to hear what they have to say.

      Yes I love Fables of the Green Forest. Here are links to two posts I've done on that gem:

      http://imissmychildhood.blogspot.ca/2006/07/fables-of-green-forest.html

      http://imissmychildhood.blogspot.ca/2008/05/update-fables-of-green-forest.html

      I remember that other show you're talking about but I can't recall what it was called. Now I must research this.

      Thanks so much for your comment. Looking forward to hearing from you again. :)

      Delete
  29. Anonymous7/15/2012

    Has anybody had any luck with FilmOption??? I was so excited to hear that it might actually be possible to get copies of this great childhood show. It has always been one of those 'must haves' that I have always wanted to share with my kids... The last treasure I found to share with my kids was a dvd set of Tales of the Wizard of Oz--still humming the theme after 35 years!!
    Cheers Everyone!!!
    jp

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    Replies
    1. Ah the Tales of the Wizard of Oz, now that's a gem!! Great find! Thanks for the reminder, I'll follow up with Film Option and report back. If anyone else has luck, let us know. Cheers :)

      Delete
  30. Anonymous7/25/2012

    Hi all,
    Another searching fan here (also born in '73). I contacted FilmOption and received the reply below. I followed up about a VHS version but the answer was still: sorry, no.

    ***Response:
    Hi,

    I am really sorry, this title is not available for sale yet. I know it’s a great cartoon but we don’t have it on DVD.

    Best regards,

    ________________________
    Sabrina Bouchard
    Filmoption International inc.
    Coordination de post-production /
    Département DVD
    3401 Saint-Antoine O
    Westmount, Qc
    H3Z 1X1
    tel: 514-931-6190 poste 2289

    ***Follow up response:

    Hi Ross,

    The cartoon is not available on VHS either.

    I will let you know if we release it in the future but it’s not planned yet.

    Do not hesitate ton contact me if you need any other information.

    Thank you,

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    Replies
    1. Thank you so much for letting us know, I really appreciate it. I contacted Film Option too but they never even responded. Darn, I thought we finally had a window of opportunity here. Back to the drawing board.

      Delete
  31. Anonymous9/07/2012

    It's so cool to know that there are others out there who cherish shows like this. For sure it is a reminder of more simpler times. Always loved the style of animation of this show and I wish I had access to them so I could share them with my son today.

    ReplyDelete
  32. I love all the heartfelt comments this gem of a show inspires. Thank you for adding to our ever growing Secret Railroad comment thread (or tribute board more like). If only we could get our hands on the series somehow and share with the next generation. Cheers!

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  33. I grew up with the 'Secret Railroad'. After reading the comments on this page, I felt compelled to do something so I decided to email the president and vice president of Filmoption the following:

    Hi Ms. Rouillard,

    It is my understanding that Filmoption owns the rights to an animated childrens tv series called the Secret Railrod that was produced in Montreal and broadcast through TVO in the late 70's/early 80's.
    On behalf of the thousands of us fans who grew up watching the 'Secret Railroad', we would love it if you could somehow make the series available again on DVD or any other format, otherwise this television GEM will be lost to history forever and that would surely be a shame.

    I know you've probably been asked about this before but I really feel it is important to archive TV shows like this. It may take some time and some technical expenditure but it would be worthwhile. It is important to keep shows like the 'Secret Railroad' alive by preserving it for it's sentimental, cultural and artistic value.
    Will you please consider taking this initiative?

    Many thanks
    (end of email)

    I hope this old tv cartoon doesn't get lost to the winds of time. But in all honesty ...it doesn't look promising ...we'll see.

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    Replies
    1. Wow, thank you so much Rufus!! You're awesome! That was a great email. I'll keep my fingers and toes crossed that they do something about it. Let us know if and how they respond. Cheers :)

      Delete
  34. Douglas Heintzman11/09/2012

    This is Doug Heintzman (Simon) It is so much fun to read these remembrances. Because we made the show in Montreal I never got to see the show on TV. I did get to see it being created. We worked on script and voices first. 3 of us did all the voices. We had only very rough story boards to go on and once and awhile we helped evolve them. We recorded the scripts first and then the animation was done. Like many cartoons the characters were made to look much like the actors voicing them. Although Neil Shee didn't look much like Mr. Passenger and my eyes are not quite that far apart in real life.

    I remember recording the first few episodes and having no real idea what the show was going to look like.

    I remember Peter (Sander) as a very fatherly figure who took us under his wing and included our ideas in the scripts and story lines as well as getting to understand how all the huge sound boards worked. I remember his coaching on what a adolescent abominable snowman might sound like. Because I recorded the series over a period of 4 years or so my voice pitch changed. Fortunately it didn't outright break so after the first 2 years we started to record at one speed and play back a bit faster to pitch it up. The animators then worked off the pitched up version to get the animation synced.

    Anyway it was a wonderful learning experience.

    I think I may have some original scripts in a box in my parents basement somewhere.

    I would dearly love to get my hands on copies of the show.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. wow, thank you so much for visiting this blog once again and for your lovely comment (an honour indeed). I'll repost your comment as a separate blog post for all the Secret Railroad enthusiasts out there. So many of us have tried to obtain copies of the show, even contacting organizations that may have some connection (broadcasters/distributors) to the show (TVO, FilmOption) but no one has had any luck as of yet.

      We'll keep trying. Everyone keep sharing your memories of this show. Cheers! :)

      Delete
  35. An old classic from Québec, back in the days when one could be intelligent, witty in a cartoon and avoid preaching to kids. And it had a healthy dose of psychedelic, dream-like imagery.

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    Replies
    1. Your description of the Secret Railroad is just perfect. It was indeed psychedelic and so unlike anything else on TV at that time or now. Oh just to see a full episode again! :)

      Delete
  36. Anonymous10/31/2015

    I keep checking in hoping to find that the series has been released on video.... I'm still hoping!!
    Cheers everybody!
    Jp

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  37. Still hoping too. Let's keep our fingers crossed. Cheers :)

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  38. Any news? I loved this show so much as a kid!

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    Replies
    1. It was such an awesome show. No news, unfortunately. :( Haven't heard anything in awhile.

      Delete
  39. Anonymous4/29/2017

    "Don't stop believing!"

    ReplyDelete

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