List of Tugs characters

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The Star Tugs Fleet (L-r): Warrior, Big Mac, Sunshine, Top Hat, Ten Cents, O.J. and Hercules

Tugs, a British children's television series created by the producers of Thomas the Tank Engine & Friends, Robert D. Cardona and David Mitton,[1] features two groups of anthropomorphized tugboat fleets: the Star Fleet and the Z-Stacks. They compete against each other in the fictional town of Bigg City Port.

In the North American adaptation, Salty's Lighthouse, the stories were re-purposed for a younger audience. The two groups were no longer rival tug fleets, and the characters underwent various changes. Sunshine, Captain Star, and Little Ditcher were considered female. Sunshine became the sister of fellow switcher Ten Cents. British accents were changed to American accents. Some names were changed, for instance, Big Mac became Big Stack, O.J. became Otis, and Zebedee became Zeebee.

Star Fleet[edit]

The Star Fleet is a group who aims to work together on getting and fulfilling port contracts. It is led by Captain Star. Its symbol is a red funnel with blue and white stripes around the top. Fleet members also carry a red flag with a white star. Reporting to Captain Star are seven tugs, each of which has a numbered smoke stack. In "Regatta", Grampus the submarine becomes a member of Star Fleet. The Star Fleet tugs are modeled after the San Francisco tugs of the 1920s.[2]

Ten Cents[edit]

Ten Cents (#1) works as a harbour switcher on a wide variety of tasks around Bigg City Port. He typically tows barges, and has teamed up with the entire fleet on docking operations for ocean liners. As one of the younger tugs, he is strong-willed and it takes a lot to break him. He is quick-witted and takes action swiftly without hesitation. He never lets other tugs bully him, but is willing to stand up for the others, even if he puts himself at risk.

Ten Cents is almost always seen with Sunshine, the Star Fleet's second switcher. Hercules often relies on Ten Cents to look after others such as Lillie or Duchess. In Salty's Lighthouse, Ten Cents and Sunshine are brother and sister.

Although the design of Ten Cents resembles a San Francisco 1920s tug, Ten Cents speaks with a strong East End cockney accent. He wears a blue flat cap; his whistle is strident but middle pitched, and he sounds it with quick double or triple bursts. He is the featured tug in the Tugs logo. Chris Tulloch notes that Ten Cents was the first model he built for the series: "Ten Cents was 20 [inches] long, and his hull (fibreglass) was the basis for Zip and Zug."[2]

Ten Cents is voiced by Simon Nash. In Salty's Lighthouse, he is voiced by Ian James Corlett.

Big Mac[edit]

Big Mac (#2) is a harbour tug with a broad Glaswegian accent. He usually tugs heavy loads and is one of the strongest in the fleet. He works mainly with his brother, Warrior, another very strong tug who shares a similar large face and blue flat cap. They are not as close as Ten Cents and Sunshine- Warrior sometimes doesn't understand Big Mac's ideas, and Warrior's clumsiness sometimes infuriates Big Mac- but they have a mutual respect for each other. Big Mac's design is based on the San Francisco tugs of the 1920s.

Big Mac sometimes comes across as rude, macho, and abrasive, but he has a heart of gold, as he is willing to help those in trouble, and uses his great strength for this wherever he can. He tries to remain level-headed when working out a plan.

Big Mac is voiced by Nigel Anthony. In Salty's Lighthouse, he is named Big Stack, and is voiced by Paul Dobson.


O.J. (#3) is the sole remaining paddle-driven harbour tug in Bigg City Port. As the Star Fleet's "wise elder", he possesses extensive knowledge and experience of harbour life and maneuvers. He supervises some of the more complicated operations such as coordinating the docking of an ocean liner. Occasionally, he swiftly devises strategies to help the Star Fleet out of predicaments. Although he can perform a variety of tasks, he is sometimes restricted by his age and mechanical condition. In "Quarantine", Captain Star says that "he had given many years of good service, but time was catching up on him." He does not tolerate nonsense, and is quick to correct the younger tugs on mistakes, but shows care like a grandfather to his grandchildren.

Ironically, Chris Tulloch noted that the O.J. model used in the series was one of the most reliable. Other models, which had internal machinery, would often threaten to "turn turtle" and would have to be fixed firmly to a chassis.[2] However, O.J. had paddle wheels that helped his stability. Regardless, Tulloch applied the fixture in order to keep him from bobbing up and down too much like a toy boat.

O.J.'s elderly condition has been a recurring gag in the series, as a target of jokes and insults from both the Star Fleet and Z-Stacks tugs. In one episode that involved a heat wave, O.J. accidentally causes the sinking of the Fulton Ferry. The scrap dealers Burke and Blair try to persuade Captain Star to sell O.J., but Ten Cents is able to convince Captain Star to overhaul him instead.

He has a Welsh accent and is voiced by Timothy Bateson. In Salty's Lighthouse, he is named Otis and is voiced by Ian James Corlett.

O.J. made a background appearance in the Thomas the Tank Engine and Friends episode Peter Sam and the Refreshment Lady, where he is rebuilt as a prop for its harbour scenes.

We are never told what O.J. stands for in the series, but his full name is believed to have been "Old Jones".[citation needed]

Top Hat[edit]

Top Hat (#4) is an uppity, snobbish railway tug noted by his large black hat and monocle. He speaks in an upper class Posh English accent, and believes he is the best tug in the Star Fleet. His arrogance often annoys other members of the fleet, and Captain Star occasionally berates him. His tasks include distributing railway rolling stock with his barges Frank and Eddie.

His design resembles the San Francisco tugs from the 1920s and the John A. Dialogue & Sons-built New York Central Tugboat 13. As a railway tug, he has an elevated wheelhouse which allows pilots and crews to see over the top of their high loads. However, he differs from the real world railway tugs in that he can bob his wheelhouse up and down, which allows him to move more dramatically or comically.

Top Hat loathes any activities that can make his paint dirty, and goes to lengths to avoid it. In "High Tide", Big Mac remarks that he always wriggles out of nasty jobs – ironically, he is given the task of hauling Lord Stinker, a garbage barge, to the city dump. He is seen with Lord Stinker twice in the series.

Despite his uppity demeanour and dislike of nasty jobs, Top Hat has some nowse, and can cope in a crisis.

He is voiced by John Baddeley. In Salty's Lighthouse, he is voiced by Long John Baldry.


Warrior (#5) has a large face and blue flat cap; he is the younger brother of Big Mac. He performs a variety of tasks around Bigg City Port, and often partners with Big Mac on operations such as towing barges. He tries not to mess up, even though he is sometimes clumsy. His design resembles the San Francisco tugs in the 1920s. When he is surprised he says "Sufferin' Stacks!". He is not the brightest tug in the fleet, but he is strong, and always ready to help, which means that in spite of his clumsiness, the rest of the fleet, and other characters, respect him. His clumsiness also makes him the butt of many of the Z-Stacks' jokes.

He is voiced by Sean Barrett. In Salty's Lighthouse, he is voiced by Michael Donovan.


Hercules (#6) is an ocean-going tug who is tasked with escorting large vessels to port, or answering distress calls at sea. He is in charge of large operations and important contracts. He makes occasional appearances in the series.

His hull and superstructure resemble Hercules, a 1907 ocean-going tug built in New Jersey and operating in San Francisco. Chris Tulloch notes that the Hercules model was about 36 inches long.[2] His face has sideburns.

Hercules is a cool-headed fighter who speaks in a clear, soft English accent. He is not bothered by the antics of the Z-Stacks or Bluenose- he simply brushes off their jibes and orders. He is highly regarded by the harbour tugs; even Zorran knows that he cannot win a confrontation with him. But there is a softer side to his character- he has a sense of humour, as demonstrated in the episode "Ghosts", and refers to his comrades as "ma' dears", "darling", and "sweetheart". He is in love with Lillie Lightship.

He is voiced by Nigel Anthony. In Salty's Lighthouse, he is voiced by Long John Baldry.


Sunshine (#7) is a small harbour switcher who performs various tasks around Bigg City Port. He is occasionally cheeky, but strong-willed. He is quick-witted and takes action swiftly without hesitation. He can figure out things quickly, for instance, in "Jinxed", he connects Boomer '​s mishaps to Ten Cents '​s sounding of his steam hooter. He has a rather soft Newcastle (Geordie) accent, and often whistles when he speaks, because he is missing some of his front teeth. His whistle is middle-to-high pitched, and he has a whooping sound that is upbeat and consistent with his name. He lived up river for a long time, and knows his way around it very well, as demonstrated in the final episode "Bigg Freeze".

Sunshine is voiced by Shaun Prendergast.[2] In Salty's Lighthouse, Sunshine is the sister of Ten Cents, and was voiced first by Lenore Zann, then Andrea Libman.

Sunshine has a small cameo in Robert Cardona's other tugboat series, Theodore Tugboat. When the Harbour Master receives cookies from his mother, the cookies look like him.


Grampus is a small submarine, that formerly worked for the Navy. He is a friend of the Star Fleet tugs, and has helped them out in various situations. In "Pirate", he helps prove the innocence of Ten Cents, who was accused of stealing barges. In "Regatta", he is nearly blown up by Bluenose, an obnoxious naval tug, after having been branded as 'too old' for further service. However, he is rescued on 4 July, when Captain Star buys him and makes him the first submarine in the Star Fleet. Grampus thus likes to blow water in the tug's faces, notably Bluenose.

According to model maker Jeremy King, Grampus was modeled after Grampus-class submarines. Spike Knight fashioned Grampus in fiberglass by looking at old Grampus photos. He used a "parallel lifting version of the tugs' pull along trolleys so he could surface."[3]

Grampus speaks with a Central English accent, with a noticeable lisp. He is voiced by Lee Cornes. In Salty's Lighthouse, he is voiced by Brad Swaile.

Captain Star[edit]

Captain Star is the owner of Star Fleet. He narrates the series in the past tense, implying that he is no longer at the helm of the fleet, and that he is retired. He does not appear on screen, as he prefers to communicate out of a megaphone from the window of the Star Fleet dock building. He takes great pride in his fleet, and is strict in order to make them successful.

Captain Star is voiced by Patrick Allen.[2] In Salty's Lighthouse, Captain Star is a female character and is voiced by Lenore Zann.


The Z-Stacks are devious, tricky and scheming boats. Their leader is Captain Zero, although the first tug Zorran runs the day-to-day operations. They regularly find ways to hinder and infuriate their rival Star Fleet tugs. Their physical appearance is modeled after the 1920s Moran tugs that were active in New York City.[2]

The Z-Stacks (l-r): Zak, Zebedee, Zug, Zorran and Zip




Zorran is Captain Zero '​s first tug, and the fleet leader of the Z-Stacks. He is a harbour tug who hatches various devious schemes against the Star Fleet. He seems to regard the other members of his fleet with as much disdain as he regards the rival Star Tugs. However, his plans usually backfire in execution, either because of incompetence of the other Z-Stacks, or because of his own overconfidence. He is not afraid of anyone, including his boss, except for Hercules.

Zorran speaks with a mild Cockney accent. Although he is a steam-driven tug, his deep, aggressive whistle sounds more like the air-horns fitted to modern diesel locomotives, trucks and ships.

When he is not scheming, he is a sensible leader of the fleet. In "Munitions", he oversees a large delivery of explosives by directing the other fleet members to follow correct safety precautions. At the Naval Pool, he takes O.J. '​s side when arguing with Bluenose over balancing common sense with orders. When a fire breaks out, he urges rival tug Ten Cents to get out of the danger zone, although he later delights opportunely when the tramp steamer Krakatoa explodes.

Jeremy King built the model for Zorran. When the model was being built, it was found that Zorran's eye mechanism caused the front of his hat to tip up. King left it in because he thought it added to the expressiveness of the character.

Zorran is voiced by the series art director, Chris Tulloch,[2][3] although his credit is not listed. In Salty's Lighthouse, he has been voiced by Kirby Morrow.


Zebedee is Captain Zero '​s second tug; he performs a variety of tasks around Bigg City Port. He speaks with a Scouse (Liverpool) accent. He can be mean and vindictive on the outside, however, he is the only Z-Stack who is shown to have a good streak. In "High Winds", he has a guilty conscience and ends up helping Star Fleet tow Princess Alice.

He is voiced by Nigel Anthony. In Salty's Lighthouse, his name is pronounced "Zee-Bee". He is voiced by Ian James Corlett.

Zebedee's model is shown in the Thomas and Friends episode "Something in the Air", as a tug who helped Henry the Green Engine after a water accident.


Zak is the third member of the Z-Stacks. He is usually paired with Zebedee. He is aggressive and threatening, and acts like a thug. He views himself as a potential leader of the Z-Stacks.[citation needed]

His design is based on the Baltimore and Luna tugs.[citation needed]

The only episode in which Zak had a major role was "High Tide", where he and Zebedee compete against Big Mac and Warrior for a big steel contract. After ignoring a call for maintenance on his engine, Zak tries to take a shortcut through a Bigg City canal, but it backfires when Zebedee's tall load strikes and collapses a railway bridge.

He is voiced by Shaun Prendergast, who characterizes him with a gruff Cockney accent. In Salty's Lighthouse, he has a Brooklyn accent and is voiced by Terry Klassen.


As the fourth tug in the Z-Stacks, Zug is a harbour switcher that tows barges and works on liner docking operations. He is a vindictive tug who works mainly with Zip; they hatch various schemes against their rivals Ten Cents and Sunshine. Zug is the brains of the operation, at least in comparison to Zip. Zug is also occasionally seen trailing Zorran. He played a major role in the episode "Trapped", where he accidentally jammed a tramper across the river, trapping the Star Tugs.

He is voiced by Mike Mulloy with an Eastern European accent. In Salty's Lighthouse, he is voiced by Kirby Morrow.


Zip is the second harbour switcher in the Z-Stacks fleet. He works alongside Zug on minor contracts such as the freighting of quarried boulders. He speaks with a neutral English accent. He is described as being naive and "slow in the head", and takes some time to understand terms such as "devious". He avoids confrontations and is easily dominated by his partner Zug. Perhaps because of this, he never has a major role in any episode, and is never seen by himself.

He is voiced by John Baddeley with a neutral English accent. In Salty's Lighthouse, he is voiced by Ian James Corlett.

Captain Zero[edit]

Captain Zero is the owner of the Z-Stacks. Like Captain Star, he participates remotely by using a megaphone from the window of the Zero dock building. He speaks with an Orcadian dialect. It is hinted in "High Winds" that he may have a criminal gangster background. He is always looking for ways to get ahead of Capain Star and often resorts to devious methods. His tugs fear him greatly and follow orders obediently. Zero only has dialogue in two episodes, though his megaphone is seen in the episode "Jinxed".

He is voiced by Mike Mulloy. His Salty's Lighthouse actor is unknown.


Izzy Gomez[edit]

Izzy is a large tramp steamer who regularly visits Bigg City Port with items such as bananas from Puerto Grande. He wears a large sombrero, has a thin moustache, and speaks with a Mexican accent. He is tight with money, but not a villain like the Z-Stacks.

Although trampers are required to be towed into port, Izzy does not like having to pay for one, and makes futile attempts to persuade both Star Tugs and Z-Stacks to tow him in for free, or for a cheap price. In "Ghosts", he gets a free tow from Zorran, as the latter is afraid of some recent haunting events. In "Warrior", he attempts to come in without a tow, but runs aground. He shows some kindness in the first episode by testifying on Sunshine's behalf when the latter was accused of causing an accident while docking a liner.

He is voiced by Mike Mulloy. His Salty's Lighthouse actor is unknown.

Izzy's model makes some appearances in Thomas & Friends but without the large sombrero and moustache face.

Lillie Lightship[edit]

Lillie is a lightship that is situated at Demder Rocks to warn shipping of potential hazard. She has a contract with the Star Fleet where they provide her with the necessary fuel and supplies to keep her light shining. She is good friends with the Star Fleets, and tries to be nice to the Z-Stacks, although the latter tugs rarely reciprocate. In "Bigg Freeze", she uses her light to guide Vienna, a beautiful ocean liner. She is in love with Hercules.

She is voiced by Sue Glover. In Salty's Lighthouse, she is voiced by Venus Terzo.

See also[edit]


  1. ^ Mitton, David (director) (1988). "Sunshine"/"Pirate" (Videotape). Surrey, England: Tugs Ltd. UPC 5016500102026. Retrieved 2010-06-16. 
  2. ^ a b c d e f g h "Bigg City Port – Behind the Scenes". Retrieved March 18, 2013.  – contains question/answer information from Chris Tulloch concerning the production of TUGS.
  3. ^ a b Gratton, James (March–May 2011). "Crewmember Spotlight on Jeremy King". Retrieved March 17, 2013.