TV Century 21

Sat, Oct 25, 2014

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Snappy Gallery presents: Thunderbirds "Trapped in the sky".

The Snappy Gallery

Thunderbirds: Trapped In The Sky

1965's Thunderbirds was the greatest Supermarionation program of them all. This program, the Anderson's 4th Supermarionation series, involved the exploits of International Rescue, a secret organization operated by millionaire ex-astronaut Jeff Tracy, his five sons, and a group of agents situated around the world. International Rescue exists to save people's lives in situations where conventional rescue efforts would be useless. Rescues are carried out using an array of advanced machines, called the Thunderbirds.

Here is everyone's favorite nuclear powered Mach 6 airliner, the Fireflash, at Air Terranean's London International Airport terminal. Note the Lesney Matchbox double trailer trucks in the foreground and background.

Autobomb Unit
If the guys at London Tower had only known that the Hood's Auto-Bomb Unit was only a harmless aerosol shaving cream can!

Airport Rescue
Here comes the fire brigade! Looks like the two white ambulances were modified 1/24th scale plastic car kits (probably from AMT) and the two fire tenders were scratch built from balsa wood.

Target Tug
This large SAF target tug aircraft was scratch built from balsa wood with various kit components added for detail. I see some rubber wheels of the type used on gas powered model airplanes, several engines from a plastic B-58 "Hustler" kit, and decals from a USAF Thunderbirds flight demonstration team F-105 Thunderchief or F-100 Super Sabre model kit.

Here is the automated target aircraft carried by the target tug pictured above. This thing was a hollow shell that was filled with Fuller's Earth so that it made a big black cloud when blown up in front of the camera.

UN 10 Jet
The UN10 jet utilized a plastic B-58 "Hustler" kit's fuselage, vertical stabilizer, and engines. The wings, cockpit canopy, and horizontal stabilizer came from unknown kit sources or were fabricated from balsa wood. What a nice looking model!

Here is Thunderbird 5. Rumor has it that only one model of Thunderbird 5 was constructed and it was the crudest of the bunch. TB5 was essentially made from cardboard festooned with various bits and pieces ranging from Airfix bridge parts, to fishing bobbers, to some kind of copper heating coil. The model was redetailed several times over the course of filming the Thunderbirds television series and feature films.

Here is an early version of Thunderbird 1 at London International Airport. Note the wheeled undercarriage. The later models had skids instead of wheels. The gray airliner parked on the left side of the picture showed up on a Marineville monitor screen in "Star of the East". On the right side of the picture, you can just barely see one of the WASP jet bombers from Stingray.

Airport Police
Here are two police cars positioned under a large scale section of Thunderbird 1. It looks like these were modified 1/24th scale AMT plastic car kits.

Here is Thunderbird 2 lowering Pod #3. Note the small light colored squares near the corners of the pod door. These are Airfix model railway bridge components. Note also the gray aircraft from the Stingray episode "Star of the East" in the background.

Master Elevator Car
Here comes a large scale master elevator car made from balsa wood with kit part details and wheels meant for a gas powered model airplane. See the cloud of dust billowing up behind the model? That's Fuller's Earth, a very fine powder, that was dusted liberally on the roadway. This miniature has been fitted with a downward pointing Jetex Motor, a pyrotechnic device used to propel model airplanes during the 1950s and 1960s. The Jetex Motor disturbed the Fuller's Earth as the model was pulled over the roadway with a wire, simulating road dust or exhaust.

Radio Controlled Elevator Car
Here comes a large scale cab-less radio controlled elevator car. There were two different sizes of elevator car models made. A large size which was used for close up filming like this picture and a smaller size which was used on the rolling roadway (or runway) with the Fireflash airliner model.

First Landing Attempt
Here is what happened when one of the fine control wires broke off a small scale radio controlled elevator car on the rolling road during filming. The elevator car on the right is heading off the table on to the floor, propelled by the force of the rolling road!

The effects crew liked the effect of the little car skidding off the table so they put together a little crash scene to incorporate the accident into the story. This still shows a very hastily constructed large scale 727 airliner model that is about to be destroyed by the errant radio controlled elevator car. It looks as if the wings and empennage of this large scale airliner were made of silkspan paper stretched over a balsawood framework.

It's Down
Here is the roller road in action. Both the large scale elevator car and large scale section of the Fireflash are completely stationary. It is the road that is doing the moving. What you see here is a green rolling foreground section, a rolling runway, a rolling background section, and a rolling sky backdrop. Four rolling scenery sections in all, each moving at a slightly different speed to simulate the effects of varying distance.

That white residue on the wheels and front end of this elevator car model is Titanium Tetra Chloride, a noxious, corrosive chemical which smoked spontaneously in contact with the air.

Here is one of the smaller FAB1 models on a different sort of rolling roadway, actually a rolling roadway configured as a true roadway and not a runway. That white picket fence between the rolling roadway and the rolling backdrop was mounted on a roller too! This small scale FAB1 model's axles are separated from the underbody by small pads of sponge rubber which created the illusion of a suspension system. The rolling roadway proved so successful that Derek Meddings took it with him when he went to work on the Bond films during the early 1970s.