Bigg City Port set with lighting equipment

Tugs was shot in live-action animation.




  • It took over a year to make the thirteen episodes for the series.
    • Originally, the episodes were as long as 30 minutes, but was changed to 20 minutes as the original run-time was too long to keep the attention of the audience. [1]
  • While the show was being produced, huge wooden paintings of Ten Cents and Zip stood at the entrance of Shepperton Studios.
  • Each crew member of the production team had a Star Tug & Marine jumper.
  • The Star Fleet are loosely based off the tugs of San Francisco, and the Z-Stacks are based off the Moran Fleet of New York City.
  • The Walt Disney cartoon, Little Toot, served as an inspiration for the series.
  • Robert D. Cardona went to the United States in March 1990 to set up a deal with American distributors. Plans were made to redub the series with New Jersey, Mid West, and Bronx accents. But unlike Thomas the Tank Engine & Friends and its American spinoff, Shining Time Station, an actual US dub for this TV show sadly never came to be. To date, its US dub has never surfaced on the internet.
  • The remotes that were used to control the eyes from Tugs were the same type remotes that were used to control the models for the first eleven series of Thomas the Tank Engine & Friends.
  • According to Shaun Prendergast, voice-over sessions were usually done with actors being alone in the booth, but occasionally scheduling clashes resulted in the actors providing voices in the same session.
  • The voice actors were freelance and never credited. Shaun Prendergast admitted in an interview with The Star Tugs Company he was unaware he wasn't credited for his roles.
  • Mike O'Donnell and Junior Campbell recorded the music for TUGS using a Prophet 2000 sampler and a Roland Jupiter 6 synthesizer. A live recorded acoustic piano and saxophone were used for the opening and ending themes.
  • A second season was planned. The season would have introduced new characters and have mostly taken place up river. With the bankruptcy of Television South, the season was scrapped.
  • On 9th September 2018, some concept art for the show was revealed in a documentary on the Star Tugs Trust. Two pages of the original script for Sunshine was also featured.

Model Tibits

  • Ten Cents' model is 20 inches long, and his hull was the basis for Zip and Zug.
  • Hercules' model is 36 inches long.
  • Izzy Gomez was 4 feet long.
  • Top Hat was the only character to have a wheelhouse which could move up and down.
  • Four tug models were used for multiple characters. Sea Rogue's model was temporarily turned into Bluenose and was nearly completely reverted back. Sea Rogue's Uncle had his model turned into Boomer and was partially turned back when found. Finally, the pirate tugs became Burke and Blair, who temporarily became two tugs in the White Fleet. The models are currently Burke and Blair.
  • Old Rusty was made using the hull from Nantucket and the superstructure and funnel of Johnny Cuba.
  • Only one ocean liner model was made, frequently modified with different liveries and stacks depending on which shipping line she was portraying. It measures out be 12 feet long. The other ocean liner with two red stacks which could sometimes be seen in the background was a 2D wooden fake.
  • Each central character had between one or two dozen interchangeable face masks.
  • Several character face masks were auctioned off on eBay in mid-2012.
  • The models were built at a scale of one third of an inch to the foot (1:36), however some of the larger boats had to be "adjusted" in scale.
  • The Dock Railway engines, rolling stock and barges track gauge are 45mm (Gauge 1/G gauge), same as standard gauge characters appearing in Thomas the Tank Engine & Friends.
  • Each tug cost between £6,000 - £8,000 to build ($10,000 - $13,000 in US dollars).
  • It took two men to control the trolleys, smoke, steam, eyes, etc. for each tug.
  • The series was filmed in a renovated boiler house at Shepperton Studios.

Filming the Series

  • The boats used specially-constructed wheeled trolley chassis clamped to the hulls for added weight and realism. The chassis were planned to be remote controlled, but the added weight from the mechanisms in the tugs' wheelhouses proved to be too heavy.
  • Transparent string was used to pulled the characters along by hand through the water.
  • The entire series was filmed on the Clearwater Periscope Lens System with a variable speed 35mm Mitchel motion picture camera, running at 36 FPS, 48 FPS, or 98 FPS depending on the scene.
  • The studio crew members wore fishing waders whilst being in an aquatic set.
  • The superstructures were made of perspex and plastic, and the funnels were made of brass so they didn't melt when smoke was flowing through them.
  • Smoke was generated by a fog generator and pumped by an air compressor through a tube which was connected to the models with a down-weighted garden hose.
  • Most of the eye movements were controlled by David Mitton and Chris Tulloch.
  • The tank was designed to function like a swimming pool with a filter to keep the water clean, but with vegetable dye to give it more of a harbour like appearance and to hide the underwater mechanics.
  • The tank measured out 45 feet by 25 feet with a depth of 14 inches.
  • David Mitton reportedly tried to keep fish in the tank, which quickly died from the toxic waters.
  • Several models of the tugboat characters were confirmed to still exist in December 2012. As of January 2013, nineteen of the models (twenty-five characters) are being preserved by The Star Tugs Company and are being funded to be refurbished and is currently touring with some selected models in the UK.
  • A variety of spare face-masks, prop moulds and parts are still owned by crew members, and kept in safe storage.

The Star Tugs Trust

  • The Star Tugs Company are a group of caretakers of the original Tugs models.
  • The Trust currently own 18 individual models (24 different characters) from the television series.
  • The Trust also commissioned one of the original model makers to produce a replica of Sally Seaplane using the original plans.


Production Art

Set at Shepperton Studios

Promotional Images

Various Behind the Scenes Images

Facemasks (From Ebay Auction 2012)

Models Prior to being sold to the Star Tugs Trust (2012)

Star Tugs Trust Exibition


Websites by Production Crew
Fan Sites
Sodor Island Fansite (SiF) 's Interviews
Community content is available under CC-BY-SA unless otherwise noted.