|This article is about the organisation. You may be looking for the tug fleet.|
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 memorabilia used during production of the 1980s TV series, TUGS.
They are based at the Midland Railway - Butterley in Derbyshire and have previously toured at various model exhibitions and heritage railways across the UK.
In mid-2012, a group of TUGS fans came across some cases & containers from their owner being sold via an online auction on eBay UK. Upon further exploration, the fans realised 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 props from TUGS 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. Before this discovery, the whereabouts of the models and props used during the production of TUGS had remained uncertain for years. Previous attempts to track their location from fans had proved unsuccessful, with many crew members unable to recall what happened to them after Clearwater Features's bankruptcy in 1990. Many fans of TUGS, generated by the internet, speculated about where the models resided but, with TUGS not being renewed for a second series, most felt they had been scrapped. The euphoria surrounding the models resurfacing was huge amongst fans of the show. 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), fans associated with the Sodor Island Fansite took the initiative 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.
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.
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.
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.
- 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 Creations)
- Big Mickey (On loan from HiT Entertainment/Mattel Creations)
- LT Building (on loan from HiT Entertainment/Mattel Creations)
- 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.
- 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 succesfully 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 has premiered. All 18 models were all be 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')
- 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 of TUGS (first episode was released on VHS in November 1988) and to see the LT Garage building set piece and the "Ocean Liner" from the show. To be kept a surprise reveal for the visitors, the latter model was omitted from the sequence of events. 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 & HiT Entertainment to allow the exhibition to showcase the items. The first public-display of both props will commence 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. 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, as well as the restoration of Lillie Lightship's 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, there is to be a silent-bid style auction of two exclusive limited-edition "30th anniversary" t-shirts signed by Chris Tulloch, with the money raised from bids going towards continued updates and improvements of the Exhibition.
- 15th March - Tugs & Teddies - Midland Railway Centre - Swanwick Junction, Nottinghamshire, England, UK.
- 29th - 30th August - Victorian Tugs - Midland Railway Centre - Swanwick Junction, Nottinghamshire, England, UK.
- 21st - 22nd April 2018 - The Tornado & Tugs Weekend - Midland Railway Centre - Butterley Station, Nottinghamshire, England, UK.
- On 14th April, 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 existing planned exhibition, altering the title to "Star Tugs Spring Spectacular" instead.
- The exhibition space that houses the models and props is a BR Mk1 BG No. 80590 coach. Historically well-known for their versatility (and as the railway used 80590 as a stores vehicle), the company renovated it as a 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 Star Tugs Company to make replicas of the original models for multiple purposes.
- The Star Tugs Company 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.
- 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 Creations 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.
The following are links to various Star Tugs Company Ltd websites:
Images courtesy of Terrier55Stepney, Dan5589, Jenkins92 and The Star Tugs Company Ltd.
Concept Art & Scripts