|This article is about the organisation. You may be looking for the tug fleet.|
TUGS - The Exhibition (previously known as The Star Tugs Company Ltd.) is a non-for-profit trust founded in early 2013, who exhibit, preserve and maintain the original models, props and other related assets used during production of the 1980s TV series, TUGS.
They are based at the Midland Railway - Butterley in Derbyshire, England and have previously toured at various model exhibitions and heritage railways across the UK.
Prior to the discovery of the models, TUGS was a forgotten piece of 1980s children's media. During the 2000s, through the internet, people who had grown up watching the show during their childhoods reminisced about their love for the series and noting that some TUGS model characters had been converted into neutral guises for production on Thomas the Tank Engine & Friends shortly after TUGS had finished broadcasting. Apart from those used in Thomas, the whereabouts of the main character fleets had remained uncertain for years. Previous attempts to track their location from TUGS fans had proven unsuccessful, with many crew members unable to recall what happened to them after TVS lost the franchise bid & the subsequent result of Clearwater Features's liquidisation in 1990. As the number of TUGS fans grew and more of them conversed about their memories watching the episodes, speculation grew about where the models were currently residing. Many hoped they still survived in some form but, with TUGS not being renewed for a second series, others felt they had been scrapped after production ended.
In mid-2012, a group of TUGS fans came across some cases and containers being sold on the online auction site, eBay UK. Upon further exploration, the group discovered that the containers stored face-masks and ocean buoys of various characters from the 'TUGS' TV series. In December of that year, the owner released pictures of more notable TUGS characters and props and put the items up for sale - this time being the models of the Star Tugs & Z-Stacks as well as other non-fleet characters. The euphoria surrounding the models resurfacing after remaining in the shadows for years was huge amongst fans alike. With the dismaying possibility of them being sold to different collectors across the world (and the likelihood they would never see the light of day yet again), associates of the Sodor Island Fansite acted fast to purchase and acquire what models they could before it was too late...
The official handover of the models took place at a hotel in January 2013. Four months later, on 7th May, "The Star Tugs Trust" was officially launched. Plans and intentions for the models' well-being, as well as the trust's aims, were thoroughly discussed. Later that year, the original name "The Star Tugs Trust" was changed to "The Star Tugs Company Ltd." for copyright reasons.
Although O.J. was the first model to be on public display on the 22nd May 2013, the first official outing for the company was on the 8th-9th March 2014 at the Battlefield Railway.
From January 17, 2014 to February 16, 2014, The Star Tugs Company had held a "KickStarter" campaign. They were in the need to raise money, in order to refurbish the eighteen Tugs models that they had held and place it in a well decorated British Railways MK1 coach. The coach serves its main purpose being a museum for the Tugs models and hauling it from place to place in it's outings. The Star Tugs Company has succeeded by funding £11,350 with seventy-nine people who had helped along the way.
In 2014, the Midland Railway Centre let them have use of a railway coach to set up a permanent exhibition. It was originally painted green, but only on one side, and was renovated with isolated electrical power for display functions. In 2016, the interior received specially-built cabinets where the models/props are kept behind perspex glass for display and safety purposes. In 2019, the entire coach received a new red "Midland" livery and has undergone a full overhaul in time for the TUGS' 30th anniversary celebrations.
On the 15th March 2020, the Trust confirmed the exhibition had undergone a complete rebrand, officially changing the name to TUGS - The Exhibition to bring more prominence and exposure to the TV series that the models were from.
- Lillie Lightship
- Billy Shoepack
- Bluenose/Sea Rogue
- Boomer/Sea Rogue's Uncle
- Burke & Blair/The White Fleet/The Pirates
- Fire Tug
- Sally Seaplane (Replica of the original model)
- Duchess/Princess Alice/S.S. Vienna (Currently in the guise of S.S. Roxstar from the Thomas & Friends TV Series - on loan from HiT Entertainment/Mattel Television)
- Big Mickey (On loan from HiT Entertainment/Mattel Television)
- LT Building (on loan from HiT Entertainment/Mattel Television)
- Facemasks for Big Mac, O.J., Top Hat, Grampus and Sea Rogue
- Upriver Tugboat Hull Mold
- Prototype Lillie Lightship Facemasks
- Wooden Hats from Vacuum-forming
- Grey Resin Zorran Facemask
- The hull mould for the Naval Ship
In total, twenty models are currently owned.
- Top Hat
- Izzy Gomez
- Sally Seaplane (Original model)
- Johnny Cuba
- Coast Guard
- Coast Guard's Messenger
- Lord Stinker
- Frank and Eddie
- Little Ditcher
- Scuttlebutt Pete
In addition, they are missing models of many barges and cranes used in dockside scenes.
(as The Star Tugs Company Ltd):
- 22nd May - The Battlefield Railway, Leicestershire, England, UK. Only O.J., in his current 'Lakesider III' guise. He was showcased along with a large collection of TUGS and Thomas The Tank Engine & Friends merchandise.
- 21st November - Gloucester Docks Museum, Leicestershire, England, UK. Zug had an unplanned day out raising awareness of the trust and the TV show.
- 8th - 9th March - The Battlefield Railway, Leicestershire, UK. Launched the 25th Anniversary tour events, the trust took on its first official outing. A fundraising campaign (which ended successfully at a sum of £11,350) was organised to support the exhibition and future intentions for the models.
- 17th - 18th May - Moira Canal, Leicestershire, UK. A different selection of the 18 models available would've been on display, and preview clips from the fan run "TUGS CGI" project, all part of the Moira Canal 14th annual festival.
- 22nd June - Midland Railway Centre - Butterley Station, Nottinghamshire, England, UK. A different selection of the 18 models would be on display, with Tugs being on TV and included some merchandise to sell.
- 11th July - The TUGS make it into the Model Boats Magazine once more in the August 2014 issue.
- 12th July - Leadhills and Wanlockhead Railway - Leadhills, England, UK. This marked the first time that the Tugs models were on display in Scotland
- 13th July - Midland Railway Centre - Butterley Station, Nottinghamshire, England, UK. The Star Tugs Exhibition will be open in this location.
- 13th -14th September - Summerlee Museum of Scottish Industrial Life, Heritage Way, England, UK. This event featured the models Ten Cents, Sea Rogue and Zip. This will mark the last event held in Scotland for their tour before heading back home to the Midway Railway Exhibition.
- 27th - 28th September - Midland Railway Centre - Butterley Station, Nottinghamshire, England, UK. This event celebrated the 25th anniversary since TUGS premiered. All 18 models were all on display, including "Phoenix", Sally Seaplane's spare model prop.
- 20th - 22nd February - Brighton Model World - Brighton Centre, Brighton, England, UK.
- 6th - 7th June - The Didcot Railway Centre, Oxfordshire, England, UK. All of the current models were on display over that weekend and a new variety of merchandising items were available for sale. Top Hat, Grampus and Sea Rogue's face masks were also on display, as was an unpainted copy of one of Zorran's face masks. Fire Tug was on display without a face.
- 2nd August - Steam Tug Brent of 1945 - Maldon, England, UK. Four of the current TUGS models were on display alongside the model of Steam Tug Brent during the day.
- 26th - 27th September - Midland Railway Centre - Butterley Station, Nottinghamshire, England, UK. This is the second big event like last year with the return of Boomer and the Top Props Co. as guest stars.
- 19th - 21st February - Brighton Model World - Brighton Centre, Brighton, UK. This is the Star Tug Company's second joint event with the Top Props Co.
- 26th - 28th March - Midland Railway Centre - Butterley Station, Nottinghamshire, UK. All of the current models were on display at the refurbished exhibition coach, along with props and face masks to celebrate the trust's second year at the railway since the exhibition coach's opening in March 2014.
- 9th - 10th April - Tanfield Railway, Newcastle Upon Tyne, UK.
- 23rd - 24th April - Nene Valley Railway, Peterborough, UK.
- 25th - 26th June - The Didcot Railway Centre, Oxfordshire, UK
- 24th July - The TUGS Exhibition Coach was re-opened at Midland Railway Centre - Butterley Station, Nottinghamshire, UK.
- 27th - 29th August - Midland Railway Centre - Butterley Station, Nottinghamshire, UK.
- 15th - 17th April - Midland Railway Centre - Butterley Station, Nottinghamshire, UK.
- 24th - 25th June - The Didcot Railway Centre, Oxfordshire, UK.
- 24th - 25th June - North Weald Airfield, Essex, UK.
- 26th - 28th August - The Bigg Weekend: Boats, Trains & a Sea Plane! (Sally Seaplane Reveal) - Midland Railway Centre - Butterley Station, Nottinghamshire, UK.
- 21st - 22nd April - Star Tugs Spring Spectacular - Midland Railway Centre - Butterley Station, Nottinghamshire, England, UK. (Previously named 'The Tornado & Tugs Weekend' - see Cancelled Events for more information.)
- 14th - 15th July - Star Tugs At Didcot Railway Centre, Oxfordshire, England, UK.
- 25th - 27th August - The Bigg Weekend - Midland Railway Centre, Butterley Station, Nottinghamshire, England, UK. This event celebrated the Trust's 5th anniversary as well as the beginning of the upcoming 30th anniversary of TUGS. All nineteen models from the exhibition were on display.
- 10th November - VIP Exclusive Event: TUGS' 30th Anniversary - Midland Railway Centre, Butterley Station, Nottinghamshire, England, UK. This private event was exclusively held to a limited number of visitors to celebrate the unofficial anniversary date of TUGS (first episode was released on VHS in November 1988 prior to broadcasting on TV a year later). It was the first event see the LT Garage building set piece and the "Ocean Liner" from the show. As it was planned a surprise reveal for the guests, the latter model was carefully omitted from the details of event. Both props were used on-screen at Dockside scenes of the Thomas & Friends TV Series, between 1991 - 2008. Help and support was provided from Mattel Creations (now Mattel Television) & HiT Entertainment to allow the exhibitors to showcase these significant items. The first public-display of both props commenced from March 2019 at the Midland Railway - Butterley.
- 9th - 10th March - Teddies & TUGS - Midland Railway Centre - Swanwick Junction, Nottinghamshire, England, UK. First celebratory event for the official 30th anniversary of TUGS (first network broadcast date). Event took place inside the railwayman's church as the coach was under restoration. It marked the first of three things:
- First public-display of the ocean liner model and the LT garage prop.
- First public demonstration of tugs' operational wheelhouses and eye servos being fixed.
- The restoration of Lillie Lightship's rotating lamp.
- 13th - 14th April - Fire & Water - Avon Valley Railway - Bitton Station, Bitton, Bristol, England, UK.
- 20th - 21st July - Great Western Stars! - The Didcot Railway Centre, Oxfordshire, England, UK.
- 24th - 26th August - The Bigg Weekend! - Midland Railway Centre - Butterley Station, Nottinghamshire, England, UK. This event marks the penultimate TUGS 30th anniversary celebrations, with the exhibition coach given a brand-new livery and refurbished interior display. In addition to an evening event, a silent-bid style auction of two exclusive limited-edition "30th anniversary" t-shirts signed by Chris Tulloch was held, with the money raised from bids donated towards further updates and improvements of the Exhibition.
(as TUGS - The Exhibition):
- 15th March - Tugs & Teddies - Midland Railway Centre - Butterley Station, Nottinghamshire, England, UK. This event marked a change in the company's name, officially switching to 'TUGS - The Exhibition' to associate and bring more prominence to the name of the 1980s TV series that the models were filmed in.
- 29th - 30th August - Victorian Tugs - Midland Railway Centre - Butterley Station, Nottinghamshire, England, UK. The exhibition's annual Bigg Weekend for 2020.
- It was formerly known as 'The Star Tugs Exhibition' from 2013-2019.
- The exhibition space that houses the models and props is British Railways Mk1 Brake Gangwayed coach, No. 80590. Historically well-known for their versatility (the Midland Railway previously using 80590 as a stores vehicle), the company renovated the coach as a suitable place to display the models to the public.
- The group intends to invest in a "Bigg City" Diorama in the future, which will be an interactive display for events.
- There are possibilities for the TUGS Exhibition to make replicas of the original models for multiple purposes.
- The TUGS Exhibition is currently attempting to locate the models for Top Hat and Grampus.
- These models were lost after Clearwater Features's bankruptcy in 1990. Their whereabouts are currently unknown and any remaining sources to locate them have been unsuccessful. Their face masks (minus Top Hat's scared face and Grampus' thrilled face) are the only part that is left of them.
- There has only been one time the TUGS Exhibition have cancelled/changed an event's itinerary since operating:
- On 14th April 2018, during another railtour, the locomotive, No. 60163 "Tornado", that was to star alongside the Star Tugs Exhibition at the Midland Railway experienced mechanical problems. Whilst the engine was under repair, "The A1 Steam Locomotive Trust" postponed Tornado's visit to the railway, effectively cancelling the proposed "Tornado & Tugs" event. Despite this setback, The Star Tugs Trust carried on to host the planned exhibition on the set date of 21st-22nd April, altering the title to "Star Tugs Spring Spectacular" instead.
- In 2018, the Trust acquired the original LT garage prop and the ocean liner that resembled the Duchess/Princess Alice/S.S. Vienna ships. Both were created and used in TUGS and, since 2019, are on public display. The props are currently on loan from HiT Entertainment/Mattel Television who granted permission to display them at the Star Tugs Exhibition.
- Boomer's face mask was moulded onto his model. They only found one piece of his actual original face. It is unknown which face it belongs to. Nobody knows if any of his original faces still exist.
- A company called the 'Star Tug & Marine Company Ltd.' (a reference to the official name of the protagonist fleet in the show) was the official name for the Star Tugs Co from 2013. Whilst the Star Tugs Company have reestablished themselves by their known name, 'Star Tug & Marine Company Ltd.' was still in existence but lay dormant. It was eventually struck off the Register of Companies and dissolved on 18th February 2020.
The following are links to various TUGS Exhibition websites:
Images courtesy of Terrier55Stepney, Dan5589, Jenkins92 and the TUGS Exhibition.
Concept Art & Scripts