Friday, November 09, 2012

The Secret Railroad: Update 2

Sources: The Secret Railroad-tvo and

I was delighted to receive a comment today from Doug Heintzman the actor who as a child voiced the character of Simon in the animated cult classic The Secret Railroad (1977). Doug alongside a community of Secret Railroad enthusiasts worldwide have been actively hunting for an English version copy of the original cartoon with disappointing results: all leads have directed us back to where we started—empty handed. Below is a copy of Doug Heintzman's comment, sharing a behind the scenes glimpse into the production of the animated series. A gem indeed for all the fans of The Secret Railroad who still ache to see this show. Thanks so much Doug!

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.

Doug's comment above adds to his previous comments which provide additional insight into the history and production of the show:

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? (September 16, 2008)

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. (February 14, 2011)

Read the original comment thread to enjoy memories from fans around the world. To date it's the most commented post on this blog! Also click here to read all blog entries discussing The Secret Railroad.


  1. Oh gosh I still have my cassettes from my kitty days. I have one from my favorite summer of all time and I even named it 1984. I made the recordings with all the neighborhood kids who I was friends with and best of all my former neighbours, who where my best friends and very much like the brothers I never had. We made all sorts of shows like one where me and another girl form another neighbourhood who I when to school with recited the story about Little red riding hood and later Old Mc Donald farm. But mostly it was sounds of every day silliness. I’m sure they still play but you could probably hear the age in the tape.
    I haven’t played them in a long time because it breaks my heart. They remind me too much of my former best friends, neighbours and imagined brothers. Sadly we drifted away cause they found better things to be friends with and forgotten about me, like a forgotten teddy in a dusty corner. Such as cruel life, life goes on.

    I apologize for the unhappy ending.

    1. Aww Tina! You are such a sweetie and I can't imagine anyone doing that to someone as lovely as you. Hugs for you my friend. You are always welcome and cherished by me! xo

      I love how you described everyday silliness. That perfectly described the things my brother and I did. I also love how you recited stories and songs. I'll bet it sounds wonderful. Thanks so much for sharing this precious memory with me. :)

    2. Is there any way you'd consider lending them out? I'd be happy to do a VHS transfer to digital. I used to have one Secret Railroad episode way back in the day recorded off TV, but we ditched all our old videos :-(

    3. Hi Lawrence, unfortunately I don't have any of the episodes of Secret Railroad on video (or in any format). The episodes are highly sought after by fans who fondly remember the series. It's one of those rare gems that (seemingly) has not been preserved.

      Ditching old videos — I know that feeling all too well. :(

  2. Oops looks like I posted in the wrong thread regarding the previous post. But that's what you get when your being distracted.

    Anyways this is yet another show I don't remember. Maybe they never played it in my neighbour hood or I was just to young to remember this one.

    BTW have you seen my tiger illustration?

    1. It was on TVO and Global in the late 70s and early 80s. You probably were too young. I'm not sure when it stopped airing. I don't even recall it being in syndication.

      No probs at all about posting the comment above on this post. :)

      I just checked your refurbished website and holy smokes Tina!! It looks amazing. You are incredibly talented. I just love your work. Are you on Tumblr? There are tons of illustrators there posting their work.

  3. Anonymous11/27/2012

    It's sad to see that Canadian children's shows didn't get preserved like American and even European shows. Look how all the disney classics been preserved. Why not the same care here? And TVO wasn't any better; they destroyed many, many old TV shows. Just really irresponsible.

    1. Irresponsible is right, couldn't agree with you more. So pathetic. Judging by all the people who've contacted me about The Secret Railroad, the show resonated deeply with its viewers. Thirty odd years later, we're still on the hunt for it.

      Thanks for the comment. Cheers :)


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