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Tugs is a television series produced by David Mitton and Robert D. Cardona of Clearwater Features. The series had a short run of one season with thirteen episodes and lasted for three months in 1989, from 4 April to 27 June. Its short run would be due to Clearwater Features filing for bankruptcy in 1990, which was thanks to the show's costly production.

From the third to twelfth series, some of the models from Tugs were used in Thomas & Friends after the series was cancelled, such as the S.S. Roxstar, Lakesider III, the cranes, the boats and the Fultan Ferry. Some buildings from the show also appeared on Thomas & Friends, including the Steel Company building, the Railhead building, the Fire Station building, the three berth garage building, the LT warehouse, the brown building, the Sawmill building and the Fuel Depot Manager's office and some props including some of the cranes, a coal hopper from the coal yard, a water tower, a storage tank, two towers from Ballantine's and the steel rig from "High Tide" were also used on Thomas & Friends. Some of the Tugs models had made it past the CGI switchover and were generated in the CGI series. It was filmed at Shepperton Studios.

Big Mickey is the only character to have his name carried over to Thomas & Friends. S.S. Vienna also appeared as S.S. Roxstar. Big Mickey and the S.S. Roxstar are the only vehicles from Tugs to appear in CGI.

Modified Models

  • S.S. Vienna
    • Had red funnels (late third series).
    • Had black and white-striped funnels, a black superstructure and renamed to S.S. Roxstar (fourth series onwards).
  • Big Mickey
    • The megaphone was removed.
    • Had a thinner top rail and walkway more detailed (third to fifth series).
    • Had riveted steel sides, covered hoist ends, square wheelhouse walkway and a new base (sixth series onwards).
    • Gains a face (twenty-first series onwards).
  • Coast Guard
    • Face and hat removed from the wheelhouse.
    • Repainted light grey all over (fourth series).
  • A Shrimper
    • Megaphones removed, had a white superstructure and renamed to Katherine.
  • Mail Boat
    • Had a grey and red-striped funnel.
  • Izzy Gomez
    • Face and hat removed from wheelhouse and had a black and green-striped funnel.
  • O.J.
    • Face and hat removed from the wheelhouse, had a white superstructure, a black and white-striped funnel and renamed to Lakesider III.
  • The Fultan Ferry
    • Painted green.


  • The Lynton and Barnstaple Railway short trucks that first appeared in the second series of Thomas & Friends were later used as goods trucks pulled by Puffa and Little Owl (previously called The Goods Engine by fans and in "High Tide") in Tugs.
  • In December 2012/January 2013, members of SiF purchased many of the original Tugs models and formed Tugs: The Exhibition which aimed to restore the models. Despite this goal, they've come into controversy during the past few years thanks to the various models and props getting damaged while under their care.
  • David Mitton, Robert D. Cardona, Mike O'Donnell, Junior Campbell, Chris Lloyd, Terence Permane, and Robert Gauld-Galliers all worked on this show.
  • Unlike Thomas & FriendsTugs was never completely exported to North America, despite the showing being set in the United States. However, an Canadian-American series titled Salty's Lighthouse used the series as a segment, except Salty's Lighthouse used edited footage of Tugs, as well as some Tugs characters having their names and genders edited. In addition, an American test dub of Sunshine was produced in 1990 for potential investors in the US market to fund and is under the ownership of Tugs: The Exhibition, who have yet to officially release it themselves.
  • Episodes of Tugs were originally intended to be 20 minutes long. Despite all 13 episodes being filmed to this length, only four of the episodes would have their 20-minute versions officially released, with the remaining episodes only having their 15-minute versions available. Various materials from these deleted scenes have been preserved over the years, from either official merchandise and pictures, to behind the scenes pictures and a handful of preserved footage.
  • After Tugs ended, Cardona moved to Canada to work on another kids show called "Theodore Tugboat" that became a big success in North America. Mitton, on the other hand, continued to work on Thomas and Friends until 2003.
  • Big Mickey and S.S. Vienna are the only two vehicles from Tugs to make it into the CGI series.
  • A few crane models which were used as background items in Tugs were later seen throughout the series and were even generated in CGI.
  • A few of the Japanese cast members would later work for Thomas & Friends after the eighth series, namely Masashi Ebara (who previously voiced as Mr. Conductor in the 2000 movie, Thomas and the Magic Railroad), Rokurō Naya and Hideyuki Umezu.
  • According to David Axford, early scripts of Thomas and the Magic Railroad proposed that the Tugs models were to be featured in a scene entitled "Thomas' Seaside Run-by." but due to unknown legal circumstances (possibly due to legal issues with Sunbow Entertainment who owned the distribution rights to Tugs and Salty's Lighthouse at the time) and a feud between David Mitton and Britt Allcroft, the intended scene was axed at the last minute. Several models, including Fultan Ferry, Izzy Gomez and the Coast Guard's models were indeed shipped over for filming but had all been destroyed during shipping due to the poor handling of the airport staff, including Big Mickey's model which had to be rebuilt from scratch.
  • The three berth garage building and the Fire Station building had not been seen since Series 5, likely due to damage sustained while being shipped to Canada for filming of Thomas and the Magic Railroad. The Steel Company building, the Railhead building, the LT warehouse, the brown building and the Sawmill building continued to be used on Thomas & Friends until production on the model series ended.
  • Britt Allcroft filed a lawsuit against Tugs, due to the similar grey faces Thomas characters had, being flat and fit for round eyeballs. To quote Rick Siggelkow, "she was so angry I could hear her screaming from the other side of the world."
    • In a 2015 Facebook exchange, Britt seemed to have a change of heart as she now claimed she enjoyed watching it.[1]
  • In some third series episodes, the fanfare cue from TUGS can be heard.
  • The Railhead building from Tugs appeared at Drayton Manor for a brief time in 2009.
  • The siren from the episode Munitions can be heard in the sixth series episode, Jack Frost, the seventh series episode, Bill, Ben and Fergus, and the twenty-fourth series episode, Emily to the Rescue.
  • A brief recreation of the "Dangerous Rescue Theme" can be heard at start of Down by the Docks.
  • ERTL die-cast models of Ten Cents and Sunshine made cameo appearances in the Thomas Creator Collective.


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