Tracy villa's launch facilities dissected

J. Lester Novros II

ever since I first saw Thunderbirds, I have been fascinated by the ingenious ways the Tracy boys are able to reach their respective craft: the descending settee that delivers it's passengers in Thunderbird 3's cockpit, the chute that ends in Thunderbird 2's cockpit and the rotating wall panel that gives access to Thunderbird 1's storage bay. Specifically, I wondered about the way this last installation would fit in with the building itself.

Let's tackle the most glaring problem first: the descending settee that brings pilot and passengers to Thunderbird 3. As can be clearly seen in the Thunderbird 3 launch sequence, the settee coming down from the lounge area is, on its way down, passed by an identical one going up. So how does the replacement end up in the same spot as the original? Either they are in the same position and cannot pass each other or the replacement bumps into the lounge floor and cannot ascend any further, thus leaving a gaping hole in the floor until Thunderbird 3 has returned to its silo and the original is back in place. Clearly an undesirable situation.

Tracy Island lounge upper half Tracy Island lounge settee shaft Tracy Island lounge settee Tracy Island lounge floor panel left/right arrow down arrow Tracy Island lounge settee up arrow Tracy Island lounge lower half Tracy Island lounge shaft wall mask
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The only possible solution would be that the floor itself adapts to the ascending settee's position. As can clearly be seen in many an episode involving a Thunderbird 3 launch, the settee rests in the exact centre of one of the panels covering the lounge floor. Adjacent to this panel is another identical one. So, supposedly, this panel slides backward to cover the hole left by the descending settee while at the same time making room for the ascending one. This is never seen in any of the episodes nor any of the feature films but offers a plausible solution to the problem. (A partial solution to be honest, because in some episodes the arrangement of the lounge furniture – and the moving settee in particular – changes. Since this would also preclude safe transport of IR personnel to Thunderbird 3's hangar, one assumes that the furniture would be rearranged prior to a Thunderbird 3 launch.) Using my trusted image manipulation software and the lounge inset from the Tracy Island cutaway drawing, I attempted to illustrate the situation in the drawing at left.

Tracy villa lounge 3d model
Tracy villa lounge 3d model

As a starting point I decided to use the lounge floorplan from the Japanese Thunderbirds Final book shown in the previous page as that would give me more or less correct horizontal dimensional relationships. To determine the scale of the launch installation itself (comprised of the storage bay, the launch bay and the slanted shaft connecting the two) I started from the fact that the railing on the villa's balcony reaches to a person's middle (as can be seen in a scene from Thunderbird 6 where Gordon is standing on said balcony and stares pensively into the distance when everybody else is out on a rescue).

I combined this with the height of Thunderbird 1's entry hatch to get the craft's scale. There is also a wellknown picture that appeared in the 1966 Thunderbird Extra album that shows Thunderbird 1 in its storage bay against the background of the connecting shaft's opening. From this picture I isolated the bay's front wall and lined that up with the lounge's back wall, making sure that the position of the rotating wall panel on both planes corresponded. Then it was a matter of building and mapping images to the other walls and combining the lounge and villa with the storage bay, the shaft and the launch bay.

That's where the next problem cropped up. As can be seen on TV and film and in countless pictures, Thunderbird 1 and its trolley rest on a pedestal to bring Thunderbird 1's access hatch to the same height as the retractable access ramp. This is necessitated by the fact that Thunderbird 1 needs to slide under the lounge's floor to reach the launch bay. This could be done in one of three ways: move the craft and it's trolley backwards and extend the shaft rails, provide some kind of elevator mechanism for the pilot to descend to the appropriate level or lower craft and trolley after the pilot has boarded the craft. Since the length of the access ramp is limited by the space available under the lounge floor (its position when retracted), the first alternative is clearly out of the question. The second is certainly possible but one may assume that the creators of the series chose for the extensible ramp since it is much more photogenic.

That leaves the third possibility.

And all this work to finally conclude that the whole setup is impossible [or at least invisible] since the storage bay is way taller than the villa roof. Not to mentiion the settee that has to cross the shaft bringing Thunderbird 1 to its launch bay.