Genre Children's
Running time 15 mins (9 episodes)
20 mins (4 episodes)

Robert D. Cardona

Peter Lord

David Mitton

Nick Park

D.B. Sweeney

Starring Patrick Allen
Simon Nash
Shaun Prendergast
Sean Barrett
Chris Tulloch
Timothy Bateson
John Baddeley
Country of origin United Kingdom
Original network/channel ITV (UK) (1988-90)
ABC (Australia) (1990)
Origional run September 1988-
January 1989
No. of episodes 13
IMDb page

TUGS was a British children's television series first broadcast in 1988. It was created by the producers of Thomas the Tank Engine & Friends, Robert D. Cardona, Peter Lord, David Mitton, Nick Park and D.B. Sweeney.

Tugs is about two anthromorphized tug fleets, the Star Fleet and the Z Stacks, who compete against each other in the fictional Bigg City Port during the 1920s. The Star Fleet are honourable and hard-working, the Z-Stacks are underhanded and devious.

The series is noted for the high quality of its animation, which used detailed live-action models and Stop-Motion (much like the sister series Thomas the Tank Engine & Friends).


After two successful seasons of Thomas the Tank Engine & Friends, Robert D. Cardona and David Mitton decided to create a new television series - TUGS. The series is filmed at Shepperton Studios in 1988 using a similar animation process to its railway-based sister series. The only notable difference was that the boat models were pulled by transparent strings. Remote control devices were used to power mechanisms within the models, such as the moving eyes.

Tugs first aired on Children's ITV in Britain, and then on Australia's ABC network. The rights to the series were sold and it's currently not known who owns them, It is possible that the rights were given to Robert Cardona as he allowed the series to become Salty's Lighthouse.

The models and sets were sold to Britt Allcroft, whose new company used the models, (albeit heavily modified) for Thomas the Tank Engine & Friends from 1991 onwards. They are still used in current seasons.

David Mitton continued to work on Thomas until he retired after the seventh series in 2003, whilst Robert D. Cardona emigrated to Canada and devised a similar program about tugboats called Theodore Tugboat.


Thirteen episodes of TUGS were made. The series was "darker" in tone than many other television programs aimed at children. The plots often featured crime, violence and destruction, with punishment given to the characters carrying out these actions. The dialogue, too, was quite mature for a children's series. It featured slang and terminology that might these days be considered "over the heads" of young children. Characters would often insult each other, as well as using historical and maritime terms.

See:List of TUGS episodes

  • "Sunshine"
  • "Pirate"
  • "Trapped"
  • "Ghosts" (Also reffered to as Ghost Fleet)
  • "High Winds"
  • "Jinxed" (Also reffered to as The Unlucky Tug)
  • "Quarantine" (Also reffered to as OJ's Bad Day)
  • "Up River"
  • "Warrior"(Also reffered to as ''Warrior's Longest Day)
  • "High Tide"
  • "Munitions"
  • "4th of July" (Also referrred to as Regatta)
  • "Bigg City Freeze"

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