O.J. (an abbreviation for Old Jones) is Captain Star's third and oldest tug. He is indeed capable of a variety of tasks, but is sometimes restricted by his age and mechanical condition. He speaks with a South Welsh accent.
O.J. is the only paddle-driven tug left in Bigg City Port. He can be described as slow, but versatile. As Captain Star once said in "Quarantine," "He'd given many years of good service, but time was catching up on him."
Prior to an overhaul during the year of the heat wave, O.J.'s aged engine was the cause for a number of mishaps, including an accident that resulted in the sinking of the Fultan Ferry. O.J.'s weakness and age has often placed him on the receiving end of jokes and insults from the Star Fleet and Z-Stacks alike. (mostly the Z-Stacks and Top Hat.) For a period, he was the primary target of Burke and Blair, the evil-minded scrap dealers who attempted on a number of occasions to persuade Captain Star into selling O.J. and his engine for a cheap price. But after O.J.'s quick thinking prevented Ten Cents from having to enter quarantine, Captain Star sent O.J. to Lucky's Yard and the scavengers on their way.O.J.'s whistle is particularly deep, and has a distinct warble in it, sounding very much like a distress klaxon, usually sounded in short bursts.
As the Star Fleet's wise elder, O.J. possesses unbeatable wisdom. He has extensive knowledge and experience of harbour life and manoeuvres, and because of this, Captain Star often places him in charge of large operations, such as ocean liner docking manoeuvres. On various occasions, O.J. has demonstrated his ability to devise swift and clever strategies to help himself and his fellow Stars out of predicaments. He does not stand for nonsense, and is quick to correct the younger tugs if they make mistakes. Despite his occasionally harsh approach, O.J. cares for his brothers as a grandparent would for their grandchildren.
O.J. is always seen with glasses on in the TV series. In Mistaken Identity, it is revealed that his vision is limited without them. In the annual story, he loses them and bumps into a solid object. The fact that it's dark out and foggy doesn't help matters. He decides to stay put as he can't seem to get around the obstacle and falls asleep only to be towed to Burke and Blair's scrapyard by Zip and Zug by mistake. Fortunately, everything turned out fine thanks to Zorran, albeit unknowingly.
O.J. is painted in the Star Fleet's corporate livery. This consists of a black hull, a yellow superstructure, brown mast, white paddle-wheel housings and an American flag-styled red, white and blue funnel. His name is painted on the sides of his bow in white and he has the number "3" on his funnel. He wears a light brown boater hat with a red band on it.
Behind the Scenes
In Salty's Lighthouse, he was renamed to the more commonplace sounding Otis, this may have been done because his initials were the same as O.J. Simpson, who was a rather controversial subject at the time.
The model was later modified and repainted to be used in the series Thomas the Tank Engine and Friends as a prop for harbour scenes, making O.J. the first Star Tug to appear in the programme. However, it only made random cameos on the Narrow Gauge Railway such as Peter Sam and the Refreshment Lady and disappeared after the fifth season. This was the fate of many other TUGS models (with the exception of Big Mickey and S.S. Vienna because they were the only characters to make it through all the seasons starting with Season 3).
Chris Tulloch noted that O.J.'s model was one of the most reliable. This may have been for many reasons. But, according to Tulloch, the vast majority of main characters (those with machinery inside them) would often threaten to turn turtle and would have to be fixed firmly to a chassis to keep them upright. However, due to O.J.'s paddle-wheels, he rarely had this balance problem. The chassis was still used on O.J. to keep him from bobbing up and down like a toy boat.
A possible basis for O.J. is the Eppleton Hall, built by Hepple & Co of South Shields in 1914. Eppleton Hall originally worked in 1914 for the Lambton and Hetton Collieries Ltd. She later worked for France Fenwick, Wear and Tyne Ltd until 1964, and after fifteen years was donated to the USA National Park Service. She is still afloat at Hyde Street Pier, San Francisco, to this day.
- His model, along with original hat, smokestack, wheelhouse, and face, was sold to The Star Tugs Company (formerly The Star Tugs Trust).
- Though at the moment, he is painted in the Lakesider III livery, as seen in Thomas & Friends.
- O.J. is the only Star Fleet member to appear on Thomas & Friends.
- O.J.'s model has two funnels, one for each guise.
- O.J.'s model appeared on display as Lakesider III at the Battlefield Line; courtesy of The Star Tugs Trust, on May 25th-27th 2013 for its Vintage Toy Train Weekend.