CREW MEMBER SPOTLIGHT ON
MODEL CREW & SFX SERIES 5 to 12 & TUGS
Fans will be familiar with Chris Lloyd's name seen in the credits of TUGS and Thomas & Friends from Series 5 to 12. Here, Chris shares his memories and technical insight from his many years of working on these iconic shows.
~ Interview with James Gratton from 2011-JUNE-22 to 2012-FEB-13
01) Chris, can you tell us about the years leading up to your involvement with TUGS & Thomas?
began modelmaking in 1982 after college - I started out as a silversmith enameling gold and silver medals, I think everyone in Bruni must wear a silver medal made by me! After 8 months I joined a small company in Weybridge, Surrey called Bee's Models making and building all sorts of models and displays, aircraft for collectors, and the first Optimus Prime for the toy fair at Earls Court, London.
From there I went to work for Nauticalia, a company selling brass ornaments and plaques for boats etc., engraving was the main job. I then went to and ran a workshop for an exhibition company making stands for exhibitions out of a wide variety of products, after which I went to AGM Models in Hounslow. In 1985 joined DBP models at Shepperton Studios, where I now have a workshop. Here we made models and props for film and TV i.e. Batman 1, A Kiss Before Dying and many adverts, and TUGS where I built Zip, Zug, Big Mac, Warrior, Diesel, and many other props and character faces.
For the next six years, I moved from DBP to Albatross models and Kevin Andrews , to working for Norman Foster Architect - working for all three firms at different times. In 1992 I worked for an antique and upholstery company – Richardsons, doing fabric walls and ceilings leading to ‘92 where I joined Keir Lusbys at Shepperton Studios making props for film and TV including Evita, Frankenstein, Judge Dredd, The Borrowers as well as most BBC shows, Noel Edmonds, Generation Game, Ab Fab, Only Fools and Horses… the list goes on.
In 1996 I joined Magic Models for Lost in Space, building the Jupiter-2 in 2ft, 6ft and 12ft scales with a team of guys. It was here with Martin Gaskell as my supervisor that I got offered to work on ‘Thomas’ for the first time, where I built numerous sets and characters including Cranky, TFC’s new car all the new vehicles - Butch, Horrid Lorries , fire engines, Caroline the taxi etc. (for Series 5).
02) Your mention of building a “Diesel” for TUGS sounds intriguing. We’ve never heard mention of it before, was it a character?
When I referred to "Diesel", I meant Diesel Tugboat. He is seen being built on the dock side and the model build only got as far as being an oxide-red tug boat hull on the quayside. Diesel Tug was never a character as such. He was in the yard being built and the other steam tugs feared the thought of a new diesel tug.
From Regatta - 'Diesel Tug' hull in background spotted with thanks to Christopher Signore
03) Can you tell us how the TUGS models were built, the detail, and how they functioned? The tugs were built with fiberglass molds and Perspex upper decks. The designs were done by Chris Tulloch and faces by Paul Knight, both model makers for DBP Models for whom we all worked for at the time. All models were all scratch built in the workshop with all props too.
All had the same type of eye-mechs as the Thomas trains, and all were built as radio-control boats with working propellers and rudders, with an external pipe which supplied the smoke.
They originally had a full electric remote carriage which they sat on below the water line that could be controlled remotely to steer the boats around the set, but these failed after a few days due to the tank silting up and the smoke pipe being dragged with it. They ended up pulling the tugs through shot on a cart below the water which is what we always said they should use.
04) Can you tell us about the tug model detailing and of your other contributions to TUGS that fans can recognize?
The whistles were made over size as they too were a character of sorts. I think Ten Cents’ whistle was meant to be off an ocean liner, so when you saw him (whistle) up close he had a hat and face, but no working eyes though. I also built set pontoons and buildings.
Ten Cent's whistle
05) Were you privy to the origin of the TUGS character names? E.g. why were ‘Ten Cents’ (odd name), Warrior etc. named so?
No. All names were drawn up by Dave Mitton and Bob Cardona.
06) How big were the TUGS models and how much did they weigh?
The tugs were about 20-30 inches in length. Izzy Gomez was the largest character about 4 feet long. The models weighed probably 10/40 pounds.
07) Did all the TUGS characters have their own RC controllers, each set to a different frequency band?
Yes, they all would have had separate RC units, some having two for extra FX.
08) What did they do with the tugs at the end of a day’s filming?
As far as I am aware all tugs would have been removed from the tank after shooting and put in an area where they would be prepared for the following days shoot.
09) Of the characters you built for TUGS, are you fond of any particular one?
Zip was the first character that I built, so he holds the most memories particularly as I pulled him onto the floor and smashed him to pieces when I was almost finished building him!
10) That must’ve been quite a shock for you. How long did it take you to fix/repair the model?
Zip took two weeks to repair - basically to rebuild from that point.
Chris Lloyd's "Zip" from TUGS
11) You mentioned sculpting a few TUG character faces - How were they sculpted and how many facial expressions were sculpted for each of the characters?
The faces were all sculpted in one expression for each character, then a mold taken from this we would then cast however many faces were required for each character. Some had more than 20 faces. From this, we would then remodel each face as per the drawing of facial expression. Paul Knight had drawn about thirty plus expressions for us to follow.
12) How were the faces kept in place?
The faces were simply clipped on with a registration clip.
13) Can you tell us what real-life prototype "Big Mickey" was based on and what the model was made from?
I don't know if Big Mickey was based on any crane he was made of plastic and brass frame all working as the real one.
14) Was "Big Mickey" badly damaged after filming Munitions? A slightly modified "Big Mickey" appeared in TTTE Series 3, and altered even further in later series.
We did refurb him when he came back from Canada (for Series 6) but that's all I can tell you about him I'm afraid.
15) Would you know if any of the tug character models survived intact or what became of them when Clearwater Films folded?
The models were on site at Shepperton Studios up until a few years ago, I think shortly after David Mitton's passing. Then a liquidation company came in and removed them. We were asked if we wanted anything from them at the time, but they had been in a container for years, so were pretty damaged. I don't know what the company did with them after that.
16) Back to Thomas Series 5, can you tell us how Cranky was constructed?
Cranky is built out of plastic mouldings and styrene card to standard 10mm to the foot. He has one motor and gearbox to control the round movement and another to control the winch - all controlled via one radio. Everything worked on him. I don’t know if he is based on any particular crane as all drawings we worked on came from Bob GG. All weights and frame were plastic dressing.
17) How were the characters’ eyes were set up in their shells?
All the characters with working eyes are powered by two servos mounted back to back. One servo is mounted to the body of the character to give “up and down” movement, and the other servo is mounted on top of this servo to give “left and right”, on which the eyes are then connected through a sliding bar.
18) In Series 5, most if not all of the non-rail vehicles you mentioned building were motive-powered. How were they built and to also provide access to insert their “human” driver figures?
All the vehicles were radio controlled - all hand built. The earlier vehicles had a motor and worm drive, but in 1995 we started to use RS gearbox 12mm diameter motors. We used to use RC receivers for boats in the cars as these were smaller and powered by 4.8 volt batteries. All passenger compartments were accessed from underneath the vehicles once the running gear was removed.
19) Can you tell us a bit more about the following vehicles you built for Series 5?:
a) Re: Fire Engines
We did refurb him when he came back from Canada (for Series 6) but that's all I can tell you about him I'm afraid.
Left: Fire engine from Series 5s Old Slow Coach, right: Dennis F8 Fire Engine
b) Re: Horrid Lorries – were two sets made with one set wrecked?
Only one set of the Lorries were made. As with most things we build, they were destroyed first, then the cabs had to be rebuilt. I used to make a hard pattern of the vehicles like a jelly mould, then vacuum-form, cut and add detail to them later. The wrecked Lorries were burnt to make them look crashed, but this did not affect their eye mechs.
c) How was Butch constructed and why the character was initially faceless in Series 5 in "Horrid Lorries"?
Butch was built the same way - hard patterns which are then vac formed. All the vehicles had a brass chassis, either K & S or brass plate. Butch had a K & S chassis. I don't know why he initially had no face and I don’t know what Bob GG based Butch on, but he always used to be fairly true to vehicles.
d) Re: Origins of Thumper the Quarry Machine and Tigermoth the Bi-Plane
Thumper and the Bi-Plane were not built by me, but I am pretty sure David wanted to put the plane in for Rob as homage. He loves planes and flying and has built several planes now which he takes all over Europe flying in air shows.
20) A few of the Shepperton Crew later went to Toronto to work on Thomas and the Magic Railroad. Were you asked to go as well?
Everything (set props & models) went out there for the film. I was not on this production although Dave Eves had called me to go out there, but I had other commitments. They needed more experienced quality model makers that you get in the UK, but not for the technical guys, though. It sounds a little harsh but Dave was told to go with a certain company that came with their own staff, so his hands were tied. That’s why he called on the people he knew to meet the deadlines. There's also the issue of foreign employees entering Canada as this was a Canadian production.
21) After the TATMR movie hiatus you rejoined the show’s production. What did you work on when it resumed with Series 6?
My post-movie work with the show kicked off around 2000-2001 with Thomas Series 6 and Jack and the Pack.
22) Given how the show’s models travelled from Shepperton to Toronto and back, did production ever keep a running inventory of the set props and models?
A lot of the earlier models were still in cardboard and balsa wood, so we ended up rebuilding everything with modern materials i.e. MDF carcass with fast cast brick and roof tiles. When I came on board in 2001 there was no proper inventory. My first job was to start cataloguing everything so that I knew what it was Steve and Dave wanted. They were the only ones who knew what things were but nothing was written down. After this everything was photographed and logged into a catalogue which head office owns. Dave Eves might still have this portfolio I guess.
23) The crew also began making more use of the larger sized engines in Series 6 for the Pack episodes?
For the film made in Canada (Magic Railroad) they used the normal Gauge-1 as it would have cost too much to rebuild everything at a larger scale. They did build Thomas and Percy at twice up from the original scale to test with, but it was only for these two. They eventually got used with Jack and the Pack as this was made to a scale of 20mm to the foot. The Thomas series moved to Digital film media around 2002-2003 and it happened that we first used it on Jack and the Pack.
24) Jack and the Pack were built at a much larger model scale. What was your involvement with the beginnings of this novel spin-off?
Jack and the pack were built at 20 mm to the foot - twice up from Thomas (Gauge-1), and we had a Thomas and Percy built at this new scale. I ran the workshop for Dave Eves for Thomas and Jack and built Alfie, Byron, and Oliver to name a few.
Large-scale Thomas on the Jack & the Pack set
25) Would you know why no more than 15 Pack related episodes were filmed?
When we first did Jack and the Pack it was meant to stand on its own away from Thomas. Originally there were 26 episodes written, but by the time we came back ready to shoot for another season, Gullane had been sold to HiT and the new company scrapped the whole lot because they owned Bob the Builder and didn't want the conflict of the two shows competing i.e. both being construction shows.
Phil Fehrle at the time pleaded and showed them the investment already made with a full line-up of characters ready to go, plus he managed to get 15 episodes in, but it was to be under the Thomas banner. So we used the twice-up scaled Thomas and Percy made for the film. We shot the series and it went straight into the cupboard until Hit Entertainment got interested.
26) Was a rear excavator bucket actually built for the Jack model and later taken off?
Yes. Jack was built with a rear arm at great cost but it proved too much on the vehicle. There was just not enough room with more radio gear required. It was built but proved too problematic at this scale. It also could not really move a lot. The biggest hurdle was where to hide all the batteries and to be accessible. We could not fit all this in Jack. He required two operators, so did all cars and lorries. The diggers all required three operators.
27) Re: Building Alfie, Byron and Oliver - how and what materials and parts were these built and made from?
All vehicles had brass chassis, and plastic or moulded tops to keep the weight down. We used RS motors and gear boxes as these proved most reliable. We built duffs for all vehicles and made wheels and tyres to suit.
They were all fully independent and could do anything that the real vehicles could do. With the tracked vehicles, we originally used Tamiya tank kits but only used the brain and gear boxes plus their metal tracks that they made, but we soon had to make our own gear boxes as the Tamiya ones were no match for the weight and punishment we were putting them through.
Quick note: All the Pack vehicles had small flat fans built underneath them to cause the dirt to be kicked up.
28) Given their size, were they fun to operate while testing/filming?
They were great fun to test, and it was great to see what they could actually do. We used to fight them together like Robot Wars in the early stages before they were finished. The tracked vehicles proved to be the strongest. The fun part was trying to get the digger arms to operate correctly. Because of the lift limitations on the motors built into the arms, all materials that you saw them dig or move were lightened or made of cork. The set had a brown cork base 50mm thick that could be dug out where needed, then in-filled with broken cork or peat so that the diggers could dig easily through it. This proved to be very effective.
The Pack's Byron model on Chris Lloyd's workbench
29) Did any of the Pack characters pose a challenge to build?
The most difficult character to build was probably Jack as he was the smallest.
30) Being larger scaled, were they more durable, reliable and robust than the Thomas Gauge-1 models?
The vehicles were very robust I can't actually remember having any of them fail mechanically if anything happened it was normally cosmetic damage bits breaking off.
31) How much would you estimate the Pack models weigh?
The vehicles weighed anything from 5kg to at least 15kg.
32) What was the storage environment for the Pack models after filming?
All had aluminium flight cases made to house them.
33) The Pack's storage cases must've been huge - would these have needed 2 crewmembers to lug them around (or be placed on a cart)?
Yes definitely. Nelson was over four feet with his trailer and Ned was also heavy. The others were handle able just. The stages had several carts for ferrying the models about. We had 7 storage containers of models and equipment sized from 40 feet downwards.
34) How many different facial expressions were sculpted for the Pack characters?
All characters had between 15-20 faces. In the first series up to series seven, Martin Gaskell sculpted most faces. But once we went to two shows and several scales everything had to be redone, plus a lot of models went missing once they returned from Canada from the film. Sean Hedges Quinn was to lead the sculpting team from this point as all the faces and people were now to be redone along with animals.
35) You mention that some of the models went missing after the Magic Railroad movie (lost in transit?) That's most curious. Do you recall which models exactly?
I can’t remember exactly but most buildings were damaged and a few characters disappeared, but everything was in a terrible state when it came back. Splatter Dodge never came back with the Thomas stuff. I have never seen or heard of them to be honest. All I know is that the company who was in charge of all the models in Canada did not do a decent job of looking after or taking account of the models - shame, but on the upside it gave us here at home a lot of work to sort out everything ready for filming.
Ed note: We think that most of the damage to the models may have taken place during the voyage from Toronto to Shepperton by sea.
36) How were the 'faces' for the Pack characters stored ? Were they also stored in a set of drawers like the Gauge-1 faces?
All of the Pack’s faces were kept in cabinet draws plus the main eight characters had doubles of their faces made. All the figures were also housed in draws for safety.
37) Did the filming of the Pack episodes take place before or at the same time of the Thomas Series-6 filming in the studio?
This ran alongside filming Thomas 6 so we had two stages with two film crews and about 40 model makers.
38) A few Pack episodes feature Thomas shunting Jack and other characters by rail on a low-loader. Was this filmed with the 2X scale Thomas and the Pack models? If so, it would've taken quite an amount of set space to film the track run-by!
With the Pack everything was filmed at the same scale, and yes all large-scale track had to be made. The sets weren't a lot bigger than the Thomas sets - about ten feet more, but we did have a new camera rig made for the Pack by Richard Rodgers. Everything you see in the Pack episodes was new and at the twice up scale 20mm to the foot.
39) Did you have a favorite Pack Character from the bunch that you had worked on?
My favorite was Oliver, mainly because he could do most things that the real vehicle could do and was especially good at climbing.
Preparing Oliver's scene in 'A Visit From Thomas'
Note the bristle brush (top right) used to wipe away the crew's footprints from the set
40) Can you describe what went into the building of "Buster"? It's too bad he and the George models were of different scales - they would've made a great comedic pair to match up in a 'race' episode.
Buster was built by Dave Poole as was Jack. Buster started as a few solid billets of aluminium and brass - he was heavy! A version of George was also built in this scale but was made mainly from a kit that Dave Eves had got hold of, but I do recall him being slightly bigger to the scale.
41) Your website has a behind the scenes photo of a Pack episode: Thomas' Trusty Friend where Ned knocks a chimney down onto a shed. Can you tell us how the scene was prepared and filmed?
I was very pleased with the chimney shot as it worked on the first take. Despite the special effects boys wanting to blow everything up, it was all achieved with string and fullers earth.
The building was made in panels out of plaster and laced with string on the inside, when the building was put together it all locked into a frame on the base. Then string was attached to each opposite wall at various heights that had been put in at the moulding stage. The whole building was rigged in this way and the end walls had string attached to ropes, so we could pull them at the end. The roof was vac formed styrene panels that we made, then laid on top of string.
Once the building was together it was dusted with rubble, pre-made bricks and dust and fullers earth. The chimney was hollow and made of plaster. It sat on a rig that could be tilted, knocking the chimney over. The idea was to let the chimney fall, crashing through the roof and falling onto the preloaded strings which would snap the walls in with its own weight. The reason for the rope was that the chimney would not reach to the end of the building when it fell.
Four cameras were set up, and the rest is history! We did have a second building that would have taken four hours to dress in, fast for a re-shoot due to the way I had designed the building.
We had one near miss when action was called and the chimney was about to be dropped, when one of the camera boys shouted out “Stop - camera failure!” Phew! Fortunately on the second go it all went off perfectly. What was nice is the way the above-camera caught the pressure wave given off by the falling chimney and you see the roof almost exploding off ahead of the falling chimney.
Photo courtesy Chris Lloyd to SiF
Before and after action sequence choreographed by Chris Lloyd from the climatic scene in "Thomas' Trusty Friend"
42) Back to Series 6, were there any model rebuilds on the series after the Magic Railroad movie?
From 2001 on, we started to rebuild all trains from scratch - getting rid of the Marklin chassis as they were too unreliable. All trains were remodelled with aluminium chassis, CNC wheels and RS motors. We also started to replace all bodies with brass bodies, and the main eight characters had doubles made.
43) Can you tell us more about the larger scale models and sets that you had worked on for the show?
All the human figures had a large scale 50mm to the foot made, including the FCs car and lounge and office. The lounge was around 4 x 3 feet in scale. I can't remember who made the pictures, but I made the room and furniture i.e. cupboards and sofas and chair table etc. Most large scale rooms were about this size.
Work-in-progress of The Fat Controller's car built by Chris Lloyd at Gauge-1 and Large scales
44) What can you tell us about the larger scaled engines and how they were built?
Large scale was used whenever there was a close up required. Most trains had a large scale, but only down to the wheels. Thomas and Gordon were the only ones with wheels at this scale, all were static and the interiors were interchangeable.
The smoke units for the larger scale engines ie jack scale were built the same as the ones used for the new narrow gauge engines, they just had slightly larger gas bottles and pumps, the only difference was that because of the room we were able to power these by batteries housed inside the trains instead of powering the track. These were a lot more reliable but also did not use anywhere as near as much fluid as the smaller gauge trains.
The other scale we got into was the narrow gauge engines which were totally rebuilt to 15 mm to the foot when we went to digital. This was mainly because at the original Thomas scale they didn't smoke because they were too small to fit everything (smoke units) in. So the size was increased but we only had Thomas and James at this scale to match the narrow gauge.
45) The Series 4 (1995) NG engines have always fascinated me, were they originally crafted to use ‘O-Scale’ track in proportion to their Gauge-1 Standard Gauge Engines (Thomas)?
The Narrow Gauge track was bought in O-Scale so it could be used alongside the Gauge-1 track. All trains were built from scratch, but the Narrow Gauge engines were small. They didn't have smoke and had very limited eye movement. The drivers were cut in half and stuck on the black door space as there was no room inside the train for anything. I think all the earlier models used Marklin parts (wheels, side-rods, motors etc.).
46) Do you recall anything about Duke's model being recycled to create "Bertram" in Series 5? Bertram looks constructed from Duke’s body, but using Smudger’s faces.
I remember one of the narrow gauge trains being repainted for something else but I can't remember who, or if this was Bertram, sorry.
Duke's shell and Smudger's faces were combined to create "Bertram"
47) Can you tell us about other SFX rigs you worked on for the show and specials?
A lot of effects were produced by pulling a bit of string i.e. collapsing bridges, notably the suspension bridge. Again, filmed in one take, but able to be reset very quickly. I should also mention the endless exploding trucks! Before, they were built from balsa wood and lasted for one take only. I managed to build them to be triggered like the bait in a mouse trap, so that when they hit something the chassis would canter lever, sending the separate pieces of the truck flying. They could then be reset ready for re-takes. These, we used for years and were not difficult to make, as they had obvious panels that could be made separately. The biggest problem was holding them together as they went down the track, but the end result was very effective at this scale.
48) Can you tell us about the characters you had a hand in building from Series 6 to 12?
For Series 6, I built Elizabeth as Gauge-1 and larger scale. She was brass chassis and plastic body for speed in the build.
Chris built Elizabeth the Vintage Lorry in Gauge-1 and Large scales (pictured)
Harvey the Crane Engine was built by a veteran model maker – actually, he was an FX man – a lovely old bloke by the name of Kenny Gittens who was very witty and liked building clocks. I also built the large scale Salty 50mm to the foot and the model was made in plastics.
For Series 7, I built Fergus. He was quite difficult to build as he had no room inside, but they wanted working face, smoke and moving flywheel. A nice model in the end, but after they crashed him he became quite temperamental!
Series 9 saw me mainly supervising the model unit, letting others build under my guidance.
For Series 10, I painted Fearless Freddy and all the main characters at this time were refurbished with a new coat of paint. Nick Richardson built Jeremy the Jet plane, Ray Lovell built Rocky.
I painted Billy and Whiff for Series 11. Madge was built by John Payne and it was a tricky build as she also had no room for all the parts that had to go inside her.
49) Re: Fergus’ “crash”, do you mean buried in quarry stone in Series 7’s Bill, Ben & Fergus episode?
Fergus was buried for real as a stunt. They actually poured the rocks over him. Whether you see that bit, I don't know, but this is what caused him to play up after that. Because he had no room for all the bits inside to make him work, it meant that there was very little room for error, so when he got buried it damaged him. He was still drivable, but his flywheel became temperamental…one of these things I'm afraid!
Chris Lloyd's Gauge-1 Fergus on the workbench
50) What state were the Lady and Diesel-10 models in for filming Calling All Engines?
Lady and Diesel 10 were in very bad shape, and they were only made for a dream sequence (Lady) and cameos in Calling All Engines. Both were not meant to be seen again in the series (as Lady was not real). The company wanted to exploit the toys I would imagine.
51) Was there a big void felt when some of the veteran crew left when HiT took over production of the Series with Series 8 in 2004?
The Permanes were with us to the end. Although Terry had left, his son Nigel carried on as Director of Photography (DOP). It was sad to see Dave Mitton go as he was the driving force for the scripts as was Bob GG for the art department. His vision along with Dave Mitton’s always meant that you had great visuals and character artwork to build from, along with Dave’s great stories.
52) Can you tell us more about the later series NG Engine rebuilds and scaling up the sizes for Thomas?
As soon as HD Digital film was to come in, the move was made to change the Narrow Gauge engines to a larger scale. Thomas was at 10 mm to the foot, so we moved to 15mm to the foot for Narrow Gauge, which meant that everything to do with Narrow Gauge had to be rebuilt – trains, buildings, characters, props, everything, and Thomas and James were made in this new scale.
The move to the new narrow gauge scale meant that the trains had more space for drivers, plus they were fitted with smoke units. Also at this time the detail in all the human figures changed being made from lead to sculpted movable figures to match the large scale. Plus all the cars and vehicles got a face lift with more detail. This was because the digital film picked up a lot more detail, so we needed to up the game with how everything looked, hence allowing for more detail in everything. That's why the new Narrow Gauge characters and sets look a lot sharper than Thomas’ normal scale, and Jack looks even better again.
53) Were all of the old narrow-gauge engines rebuilt to 15mm/foot?
Yes, everything got rebuilt in the new scale for narrow gauge. All new narrow gauge engines were made from scratch i.e. CNC wheels, brass bodies, aluminium chassis, etc.
54) Were all smoke units custom-made for each engine?
The smoke units were made using another small motor to drive an air pump which blew air through a glass bottle which had a chemical (Titanium Tetrachloride) in it that reacted with air producing smoke, not the nicest stuff in the world but effective.
55) Would you know why Sir Handel wasn’t seen after Series 4 until the rebuilds or Series-10 (2006)? Was the old model damaged?
I would have thought that the reason Sir Handel was not seen back then was purely due to the script writers and not anything else. All the narrow gauge trains were in the same state, but due to going to digital film was the reason why we upscaled the narrow gauge and to make them smoke. Plus the smaller scale would not stand up to the detail that the new camera was able to capture.
56) Were you also involved with the 2008 "Thomas & the Great Discovery" special?
Having worked on everything since 2000, at this time my main role was overseeing the crew and painting the trains, and making sure all the effects shots worked i.e. the falling tower and other crashes.
57) Is there a reason why The Pack were dug out of retirement for a cameo in " Great Discovery"?
The pack was seen due to Steve Asquith wanting to see them again. He and the producers wanted to redirect them but the powers that be weren't in favour.
58) Did you work on the final hybrid model-CGI Series (12)? Was it strange filming the engines without faces?
It wasn't too bad. The final series, if anything, was the perfect marriage of CGI and models in my opinion. The faces were always one of the biggest headaches because we used shop bought RC servos to operate the eyes, and these always proved temperamental. They were the Achilles heel on most of the trains, so to see them go to CGI faces was a big help and I think it worked very well.
59) What was the general mood on the set crew when it was learned that Series 12 would be the final one produced with models?
We were never told at the beginning of the series what was happening. It was at the end when we finally finished that they announced there would be no more shows, the gravy train really did finally come to an end - shame. It was a model maker’s ideal job. It was nice to be able to take a trainee and give them a job from start to finish rather than them just doing menial bits and pieces. At the end, they would have a portfolio job to add to their CV.
60) In all of your years working with the Thomas and TUGS series, do you have any special memories or favorite moments that stand out for you?
I think I actually preferred the Jack series as it was more involved and something a bit more to get your teeth into. I did enjoy Tugs as this was my first real taste of working in television.
61) Do you still have occasion to work with or bump into any of your former crewmates with your Company's projects?
Our industry is a very small world and we frequently end up working with the same people on other projects. Just the other day Jeremy King came in to use my lathe and vac former for a job for Mercedes. I was going to be helping him out but other commitments have got in the way.
62) Can you tell us about any interesting recent and upcoming projects that you and your Company are/will be working on?
I currently have been working on a lot of TV props ranging from Harry Hill, The Royal Body guard, Royal Performance, plus adverts for Virgin and other BBC shows. Next week (Dec.19+) will be reshoots for Ridley Scotts Alien prequel which I worked on at the start of the year.
63) Is there anything special message that you'd like to pass on to your old crewmates who may be reading this as well as to the fans?
I’d just like to say thanks to all those who made Thomas so special to work on, and I hope the fans all enjoy Thomas as much as we did making it for them. It was a privilege, and most of those who worked on it would have the same opinion I'm quite sure. Also, a big shout out to Dave Eves who trusted my judgement and opinion on the model-making side of things. Cheers Dave and thanks to everyone once again.
We at SiF would like to once again express our deepest thanks to Chris for sharing his insight about working on Thomas, Jack & teh Pack and TUGS. Fans can see more of Chris and his company's work and portfolio on his website.