The Star Tugs Company Ltd was founded in 2012 as a group of dedicated fans who had successfully recovered the props and models from the TV series "TUGS" and were in the process of restoring them to their former glory. After holding events across the UK, the group now has a permanent home at the Midland Railway Center in Butterley.
On a fairly warm August bank holiday saturday morning, I was at the event. After entering the station, walking along the platform and into an engine siding, here was the coach that the group had managed to acquire as a new permanent home. It's 2 large and green Mark 1 British Rail coaches, with a Thomas the Tank Engine faceplate on the front.
I paid my pound coin to attend the event, as I was here mainly for this, not really having the time or the money to ride along the route set out by the vintage trains, going back and forth along a restored Victorian line.
Once inside the event, the directly on our left was the model for the Sea Rogue. As his body was recycled so many times for the series, the producers had left little references on his body, including "WHICH TUG AM I?" painted in white on his deck and "SCHIZO" on his rear registration plate. He would also be used for BLUE NOSE as well, as evident by the front label peeling off to reveal part of the name.
Next, we have one of the heroes of the series, Ten Cents. Once again, in great shape. How these models worked, is that they weren't floating in water. They were placed on trollies in the water and pulled slowly, giving them the appearance of weight. The heads and faces were operated by remote control and smoke was pumped through the hull. Each tug required 4 people to operate it, meaning that 13 episodes took almost an entire year to make.
One of the two that were bought out especially for the opening of the new venue and for Bigg Weekend was the character of the Fire Tug. As he was a specialist secondary character, his hull was not used for one off characters as seen in the series.
Boomer is next in the case. His first appearance was as "Sea Rogue's Uncle" in the episode "Pirates" and the face mask for the older character is seen in the case,along with all the pieces used to make him. He would later appear in the episode "Jinxed" as Boomer, an unlucky tug that would cause problems wherever he went.
Zip, as seen here, is one of the villains from the series, working for Captain Zero. Based on a 1920s gangster in appearance. As well as the models, you can see the molds for the face masks and the remote control for the face.
Sunshine, as seen here, is one of the main characters in the TUGS TV series. His model here comes with the smiling face and extra accessories, as well as a spare head, so fans can get an up close look at how they work and the internal workings.
O.J. was another tug of the main cast. Portrayed as an older character, but wise beyond his years and served as mentor to the younger tugs, Sunshine and Ten Cents. However, the model itself was taken after TUGS had ended and had been recycled into the LAKESIDER III for Thomas the Tank Engine. Here is OJ in his LAKESIDER format. You can still see the general shape of the character.
Lillie Lightship was one of the more important secondary characters in the series. Based appearance wise, on a 1920s flapper or socialite. She had a battery inside her to power the light. Plus, the early face masks indicate that early plans would have given the models a flatter face, very similar to Thomas, however, the plan was scrapped and the faces were made round and given a more lifelike and 3D appearance.
Next to a TV displaying episodes from TUGS, was the model for Zug, another villain from the series. As well as the model, there are a number of spare parts and molds for the spares.
In the final two cabinets in the first carriage, were a selection of merchandise and paperwork from the original series. There were also items for sale from the Star Tugs Trust as well, showcasing what they have for sale.
I understand that looking at old props from a kids TV show from the 1980s may not be to everyone's taste, but if you did live in the UK or any other country that did get TUGS either as it's own standalone show, or rebranded, then definitely check this exhibition out.