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MAX DAVIES' STAR DOCK BUILD

Community Member Max Davies takes us through his excellent build of the Star Tugs Pier to ERTL scale!

Some time ago my friend Harry North (‘Terrier672Fenchurch’) bought a secondhand ERTL Ten Cents in immaculate condition and contacted me with the intention to recreate a few scenes from TUGS along with my ERTL Sunshine; after all, its more than common to see fan recreations of Thomas and Friends but less likely to come across that of TUGS.

 

So we set about with some boxes and food colouring, trying to figure the best way to make two diecast metal toys float… Once we’d found the ideal solution we sailed upon the second problem:  Where would the locations and background come from?

So I began working on the Star Dock, the Star Fleet equivalent to Thomas and Friends’ ‘Tidmouth Sheds’, by sticking to a very tight budget and gathering the strangest of materials together!

 

This included four outdoor giant ‘Jenga’ bricks, an old chopping-board and a pile of Lego Duplo bricks!

 

Once these very bizarre materials were glued together they formed the main structure of the dock surprisingly well!

They are an appropriate size but an insane mixture at first sight all the same.

CHEERS MAX! WE LOOK FORWARD TO YOUR FUTURE PROJECTS!

Unfortunately due to the unexpected end of production of TUGS products, ERTL never managed to release any of the key locations or characters for that matter. We are aware there is a small range in the Japanese merchandise of the show, but these are increasingly rare to come across, and are too insufficiently detailed for our liking! So… we split the task. Harry would make a matchstick recreation of ‘Billy Shoepack’ and a couple of barges, a few locations from Up River, and ‘The Municipal Garbage Dock/Bigg Boulder Co. Dock’, while I would make The Star Dock and additional barges/scenery from in and around Bigg City Port, including cranes, buildings etc.

The dock is designed to be watertight in a small 9x8.5 inch area lined with masking tape and hundreds of individual matchsticks. Did it manage to hold the water successfully? I really should have tested at this stage, but you can see the result of this later on…

 

After the main dock and the upper jetty walls had been coated with an array of matchsticks, and a stairway leading from the two was made using the same method, air-drying clay was used on them both to provide the effect of concrete or tarmac. (The original idea was to coat the building itself in the same way but was turned down in the end

Now the set was nearing completion, additional scenery and decals were glued at various places on the dock, mainly made up from bits and pieces saved frommy model railway layout. Other items included shipping bollards made from 00 track nails and a pile of ‘coal’, stashed under the stairs.

 

Believe it or not, this is purely blu-tak painted black and layered with model railway grass scatter. A huge missing feature now was The ‘Star Tug and Marine’ logo itself! For this I turned to Lindsey Thomas for help, who kindly let me use her stunning, high quality recreation of the company logo. It really did help bring the set alive a lot more!

Then came the time for the water to be tested in the dock… I filmed the event with high hopes and, quite clearly, a dry mind! Everything went perfectly, apart from the smallest of gaps in the bottom left corner of the board. (Ironically where it would lead out to sea in the show!) Fortunately the water only dripped slowly into a tray I had prepared before, in the unlikely chance that the impossible happened.

 

After that failed attempt I ripped up the masking tape here, and in complete desperation and stupidity sprayed the entire area with industrial wall-crack filling foam, which led to interesting results to say the least, but nevertheless not successful ones… It was during one of these tests that I quickly dropped Sunshine in the set and took a few quick pictures as the water gradually tipped away from him!

 

The dock had been made within a total of five weekdays, but it had taken at least another five days to get the water to stay in its place and make the dock waterproof! This was done by using coats of varnish around the perimeter of the water area. The decision had been made to use real water instead of jelly-based modelling water because it was easily replaceable and the best option to take for re-creating realistic looking seawater!

Once Captain Star himself, in all his mega(phone) glory was made using nothing but a lid to an old pen, at long last, at a hefty weight of over four kilograms, the ERTL Scale Star Dock was complete! It has seen much use for filming with Ten Cents, Sunshine, Billy Shoepack, Grampus and Captain Star in the future, combining with Harry North’s scratch-built models, as well as both our fan-run Youtube Channels.

 

After I see no more use in it, I was considering a possible donation to The Star Tugs Company or private sale elsewhere? But in the meantime, here’s a look into some of Harry’s creations!

After that failed attempt I ripped up the masking tape here, and in complete desperation and stupidity sprayed the entire area with industrial wall-crack filling foam, which led to interesting results to say the least, but nevertheless not successful ones… It was during one of these tests that I quickly dropped Sunshine in the set and took a few quick pictures as the water gradually tipped away from him!

 

The dock had been made within a total of five days, but it had taken at least another five days to get the water to stay in its place and make the dock waterproof! This was done by using coats of varnish around the perimeter of the water area. The decision had been made to use real water instead of jelly-based modelling water because it was easily replaceable and the best option to take for re-creating realistic looking seawater

Here is Harry's scratch-built Billy Shoepack! After seeing the real model and two of his original facemasks up close at The Star Tugs Trust’ 25th Anniversary it was only fitting that he re-created a character we’ve grown a lot more respect for now. Above we can see him in his early stages and in scale comparison to ERTL Ten Cents and a coal barge.

Note the attention to detail in terms of smoke-stack and curved paddlewheel cover! 

 

And to the right we see the more or less finished product! 

As stated previously, Harry was responsible for creating Billy Shoepack, ‘Up River’ scenes and two interchangeable docks. Above you can see his first floating test with newly arrived ERTL Ten Cents, and a 00 engine to take the place of ‘Puffa’ in the background.

 

My dock is made similarly from matchstick lining, clay and an assortment of model railway materials, and is designed to be altered between a multitude of port and river locations.

Harry has also created ‘Grampus’ and ‘Little Ditcher’ as a last minute build. I am extremely pleased with the outcome of these models and hope that fans appreciate the work put into these creations purely for recreational sake. Video footage covering our completion of both the models and the recreation of well known scenes featuring these characters is due to be posted on both our Youtube channels (Terrier672Fenchurch and Terrier55Stepney) in time, but for now, following are some behind the scenes images from the recording of the scenes.

We were lucky enough to get hold of a fog-generator for the few days that the recreations were filmed, and this made all the difference when it came to recreating fog, steam or even fire! Despite this, there was one scene that was recreated that did indeed require real-life fire, and that of course was personal favorite ‘Munitions’.

 

This was filmed in a different setting from the rest, and included the burning of the ‘Star line’ oil barge, in which Ten Cents courageously diverts out of the city, until the fuel catches alight and sets him in a perilous situation. This was by far my favourite scene to film, but I strongly encourage that you do not re-create this scene at home.

We managed to recreate every scene possible that featured Ten Cents and Sunshine, without any of the other characters from the show.

 

However, we couldn’t resist having a shot at re-creating ‘High Tide’, in which a railway bridge over the canal breaks and nearly sends a goods train plunging into the waters.

 

Although ERTL Ten Cents isn’t the Top Hat everyone will be expecting, he serves until either his TV series model or an ERTL prototype appear!

Another scene we did not expect to be filming was that of TUGS’ final episode, ‘Bigg Freeze’. This was decided to be added to the list when I dusted off an old RMS Titanic card kit from my shelf and gave it a quick repaint. Before long, the SS Vienna, the famous cruise liner, was shining in the spotlight once again, and was ironically the more or less perfect scale for the ERTL products.

 

You can see this because little Sunshine can just about hit the stern of the vessel where the rudder is, as happened in the pilot episode, ‘Sunshine’.

In terms of the future, these models were made purely for the sake of re-creating TUGS and as of yet there is no further plans to remake anything further. We hesitated to build a full ERTL scale ‘Bigg City Port’ because there is little need with such few characters, such as the absence of the Z-Stack fleet to recreate the Zero dock for.

 

However, we’d both be interested in recreating more TUGS locations, characters and more given the right planning, need and dedication!

For now, if there are any questions feel free to ask either myself or Harry North and we’ll be sure to get back to you. We’d also be happy to take in ideas, sensible ones only please!

 

Thanks for listening!

Max Davies (Terrier55Stepney)

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