Bigg City Port (also known as just Bigg City) is the fictional Connecticut harbour the setting of the 1988 children's television series TUGS. The port is home to two tugboat fleets around which the series centres, the Star Tugs and the Z Stacks. It is unknown whether or not the port is named after a larger area surrounding it named Bigg City, or if Bigg City is the name of the port itself.
In TUGS' fictional universe, Bigg City Port is "the biggest harbour in the world" in the 1920s, the era in which the series is set. Bigg City's main import and export of goods comes from the ocean liner vessels in the series, who use the port as a dock. The area includes various facilities necessary to the port itself (such as coal and oil depots, repair yards and the municipal dump), and a number of factories and warehouses are also located there. Tramp steamers, car floats, fishing vessels and barges of all kinds frequently are seen passing through. The port also contains several old and abandoned areas, one of which were used during the series by criminals as a hideout. A number of locations just outside the port briefly appear in the series as well, such as Upriver and Dem Der Rocks (see below).
Locations in the Port
There are a number of locations in Bigg City Port which frequently appeared in the series:
- Star Tug and Marine and Zero Marine docks: Homes of the main characters of the series, The Star Fleet and The Z Stacks. Most episodes begin with the tugs being briefed by each of their respective captains, Captain Star and Captain Zero. Over both docks spans a large suspension bridge, similar to that of New York's Brooklyn Bridge.
- Lucky's Yard: Used to carry out repairs and maintenance on ships and other vessels which pass through Bigg City. The Star Fleet used Lucky's Yard for supplies of timber, as well as repairs to Lillie Lightship and OJ. The seaplane hangar, where Sally Seaplane lives, is located next door.
- Municipal Garbage Corporation: Where waste products of the ocean liner vessels are taken, before being later disposed of elsewhere. Warrior, and less frequently Top Hat, are usually seen completing this job. The Corporation is home to Lord Stinker, a garbage barge used to dispose of rubbish, and Jack the Grappler, a crane used for transporting rubbish to barges.
- Liner dock: The tugs are often seen docking ocean liners in Bigg City's main dock. Both tug fleets are frequently competing for contracts from liners to bring them into port. The Princess Alice is frequently seen in the background of most scenes at the dock, although plenty of other liners pass through as well. In "Bigg Freeze", the main liner dock freezes up due to bad weather, and the dock is replaced with a temporary one further out at sea.
- Big Boulder Rock Co.: In "Warrior", the rock company are contracted out to the Star Fleet and the Z Stacks to supply stone for the construction of the new port.
- Fire station: The home of the Fire Tug. The fire station is used to supply fire barges which project water in case of fire. The fire barges were first used in "Munitions", during the dockside fire. A barge was also stolen by Zip and Zug, who were later forced to return it.
- Ferry dock: Seen in the episode 'Quarantine', as well as in the background of other episodes, the Ferry dock is the home to the Fultan Ferry. It was here in "Quarantine" that the ferry itself once sunk due to a collision with OJ, who was experiencing engine difficulties. The ferry was later refloated.
- The canal: A shortcut through Bigg City sometimes used by the tugs. It has numerous bridges passing over it. The Star Fleet have been ill-advised by Captain Star to not use the canal during Naval inspections. In "High Tide", a bridge spanning the canal collapsed after colliding with a large rig pulled by Zebedee. It was contracted to the Steel Company to be repaired, and completed by the following episode.
- Coal yard: A dirty place full of coal barges. According to Captain Star, coal was the main import and export of Bigg City Port, and without it, industry would grind to a halt. It is visible from the Star and Zero docks.
- Steel yard: Home to the Steel Company and shore crane, Big Mickey. In "High Tide", it is seen transporting its base across the harbour with the help of Big Mac, Warrior, Zebedee and Zak. This quay was also used by the Navy for loading explosives on to tramper Kraka Toa in "Munitions".
- Old dock: There are several abandoned docks seen and mentioned in the series. In "Warrior", some of the older docks are being rebuilt, while in "High Winds" and "Pirate", criminals used the abandoned docks as a hideout.
- Melon Produce Co.: A warehouse with a quayside, seen flooded in the episode "High Tide".
- Munitions factory: Seen in the "Munitions", the Munitions factory is prone to frequent accidents involving exploding barges, shown in "Jinxed" and, more notably, "Munitions". Both tug fleets are willing to contract with the Munitions factory, as the financial rewards for carrying the dangerous explosives could be worth the risk.
- Crane inlet: Appearing briefly in the "Ghosts" as a shortcut for OJ, a number of old cranes are kept here, including Scuttlebutt Pete.
- Bridge Café: A bar with a famous jazz band, which is often called upon to play at special occasions. They appear as a float in "4th of July", and the celebratory entertainment for a successful docking of the Princess Alice.
Locations outside the port
There are a number of locations outside of Bigg City Port itself which still appear in the series:
The area between the open seas and Bigg City, The estuary is the point which ships come in and out of the port. Lillie Lightship is moored here, guarding vessels against running aground on Dem Der Rocks, as well as acting as a beacon for ocean liners. Old Rusty, an elderly tramp steamer, is also anchored there. In "Quarantine", all ships waiting for medical inspection are quarantined in the estuary. Also, in "Jinxed", Ten Cents and Sunshine first come across the jinxed tug Boomer in the estuary.
In "Bigg Freeze", both Tug Fleets set up a temporary replacement port in the estuary, due to bad weather conditions in Bigg City. Captain Star sets up base in a small port, and the tugs perform a successful turnaround of the S.S.Vienna.
Up river is home to a number of characters in the TUGS series. Sunshine, brought in by Captain Star to help Ten Cents, originally came from up river. Sea Rogue and Sea Rogue's Uncle reveal in "Pirate" that they come from up river. Billy Shoepack, the "alligator tug" and fan of explosives, comes from up river also and knows Sunshine from there.
There are major timber and logging industries up river, both of which are contracted out to the tugs on different occasions. There is also a ship's graveyard, which is mentioned but never seen. When Boomer was refurbished into a houseboat, he is moored up river.
It Was never made explicitly clear where Bigg City Port actually was, and even the most devoted fans of the series disagree. Some of the confusion arises from the fact that, with a few exceptions, the characters have British accents, yet the port itself appears very American. Further confusion arises from the beginning of the episode 'High Tide', in which Captain Star refers to "inland cities and towns", which some viewers misheard as "England cities and towns".
Nonetheless, the architecture, the volume of traffic and the types of vehicles (both seagoing and land-based) all point to an American location. The ultimate clue lies in the fact that the port holds an annual regatta for the July 4th celebrations.
Beyond this, it was difficult where in the USA Bigg City is supposed to be. The port is presumably quite far north, as it sometimes freezes up in the winter and it is not unknown (though not common either) for icebergs to drift into its waters. Like San Francisco, the port suffers from fog. The surrounding countryside is heavily forested.
In terms of geographic orientation Bigg City is likely to be on America's East Coast - this is based on two sequences - the oft-seen end-credits where Boomer sails out to sea into the rising sun, and the climax of "High Winds" when Zebedee heads inland towards the Zero Pier, heading into the sunset. Given that the sun rises in the east and sets in the west, we can determine that Bigg City faces the Atlantic. More accurate geographic placement is hard to arrive at, but due to Bigg City's extremes of climate and proximity to mountainous, wooded areas, it could well be in Connecticut
The producers were primarily inspired by San Francisco and New York, and in many ways Bigg City resembles those locations. The architecture, with its mix of modern (for the 1920s) skyscrapers and more 18th and 19th century buildings is very reminiscent of both cities, as the large suspension bridge that crosses the harbour (as observed above, this is probably based on the Brooklyn Bridge).
The series drew on the noir and crime genres for its stories and atmosphere, and Tugs crew member Chris Tulloch cited the 1954 film On the Waterfront as another inspiration in terms of the atmosphere the producers were trying to create. Therefore, it may be assumed that Bigg City was in part based on Hoboken, New Jersey (where that movie was filmed) and New York (whose crime-infested docks formed the basis of the film's story).