Thursday 16 April 2020

Big Star Trek starships in real life

After more than half a century of inspiring trekkies world-wide, Star Trek has left a mark on the world. Sometimes more literally than you might imagine; all over the world you can find Star Trek starships, on displays, in parades, as corporate headquarters, and even in dentist offices. I thought it would be fun to try and track down the big Star Trek starships there are out there; I was surprised how many I came up with! Continue below to check them out.

The REALLY big ones

First I thought we should look at the seriously huge ones; I'm talking several times the size of human, or even full-sized recreations. These are rare, and their fidelity to the original designs vary, but some are very impressive.

Perhaps the most screen accurate of the big Star Trek ships in real life was the Borg Sphere that formed the thematic heart of the old Borg Assimilator roller coaster at the Carowinds Amusement Park in North Carolina. Alas Paramount sold the park in 2006, and soon after the Star Trek theming for the ride was striped off. And so, as seemed to be the habit of Borg Spheres crashed on Earth, this ship is lost to time.

This image was captured by Flickr user Julie, and you can see lots more images of the ride in it's Star Trek days on Theme Park Review.

The next example isn't quite screen-accurate, but is even bigger! A few years ago NetDragon Websoft parked an Enterprise-E inspired building in the midst of their corporate campus in Fuzhou, China.

Apparently this is an officially licensed Star Trek tie-in, and that's just scratching the surface of what you'll find on site, which also houses a full size X-Wing Fighter from Star Wars, and a T-Rex sculpture! You can see and find out lots more about this building in my previous report.

Definitely less official but super cute is the Starship Pegasus, once found in Italy, Texas. Opened in 2005, the domed saucer section once held a small restaurant. Alas it only stayed open for a couple of years and was left unused until 2018, when McDonalds came along and knocked it down! You can see more of this lost ship on Atlas Obscura.

Finally in this category, what would have been a true cathedral of Star Trek. In 1992 there were proposals to build a full sized recreation of the movie-era USS Enterprise in Las Vegas!

The monument to Trek would have been at the heart of a redevelopment scheme in the city, and had plenty of interest from local backers, but alas Paramount pulled the plug, deciding it would be too big a PR risk if it became a flop! Imagine what could have been! You can read more about the project in one of my previous reports.

Big Display Models

Our next category is big starship models found at exhibitions and displays.

Of course Las Vegas did end up becoming the home of Trek anyway, as Star Trek: The Experience stood there for many years - Alas another Trek attraction lost to time, open for a decade from 1998 to 2008. That indoor attraction included several large starships models, of the USS Enterprise, USS Enterprise-D, USS Voyager, and a Klingon Bird of Prey.

Images above from Flickr users D.Spence Photography, teocf, and Noelle And Mike, and you can see loads more photos from The Experience in the dedicated Flickr group!

After The Experience closed, these models were sold at auction, although have resurfaced at at least one subsequent temporary Star Trek exhibition, so are still boldly going somewhere sometimes!

Speaking of tours, a much rarer seen ship, the USS Titan, has also been apart of several temporary exhibitions. Originally displayed in the Star Trek: The Tour in a video experience with new footage of Wil Wheaton and Tim Russ as Wesley Crusher and Tuvok on the Titan crew!

The above image via BOG~MOL on Flickr, who saw it when the Titan visited the Kennedy Space Center as part of Star Trek: The Exhibition. Titan designer Sean Tourangeau has a great Titan website where you can find out more about this model, and everything else Titan.

The Titan model has not been seen in action for some years unfortunately. But various ships, specially made, and original miniatures, often show up at Star Trek exhibits all over the world. We'll look at some more of those later.

From a more unusual site, another lost ship is a large model of the USS Enterprise-A, which once stood proudly on a stand at the Kings Dominion amusement park in Virginia. Alas after being taken off show it was stored in less than ideal circumstances, so was a bit battered when it came up for sale last year.

UPDATE: You can get an idea how this might have looked when it was mounted thanks to one of my readers, Paul, who sent me these photos of a similar model on display at the Carowinds Amusement Park circa 2001 (a few years before the Borg Assimilator arrived). This particular Enterprise-A was found in the middle of a water feature!

UPDATE: And here's another similar setup at the Canada's Wonderland Amusement Park in Toronto. Like Carowinds, this was once owned by Paramount, who installed the Enterprise in around 1993. These photo by Facebook follower Matt were taken in 1994.

Another similar USS Enterprise-A model was also seen at the Star Trek: The Adventure exhibit in London in 2003 (photo via the Fink blog)

A different USS Enterprise can still be found in the town of Vulcan, Alberta. This model has been boldly sitting atop a plinth in the town since 1995, and is particular big; check out the bench behind for a sense of scale!

UPDATE: And here's one more refit Enterprise in a particularly sweet display found at Minnesota's Largest Candy Store, in Jordan. This impressive installation has the Enterprise in spacedock (cue The Motion Picture soundtrack)

Thanks to Facebook follower Rick Morrissette for the heads-up and pictures! The Candy Store is full of other pop culture displays, including a Millenium Falcon and TARDIS. Check out image galleries on Yelp for a look at their other pieces.

While refit Enterprise seem to be incredibly abundant, but the classic look is much less common. One very big (21 feet long!) recreation could be found at The Starfleet Academy Experience at the Intrepid Sea Air Space Museum in 2016. Photographed by the New York Times:

Some of the most recent display models can be found at the Movie Park Germany amusement park, as part of the Operation Enterprise ride. They have large models of a Borg Cube, and the USS Enterprise-D to keep you interested as you make your way to the roller-coaster.

At a stretch you might say the roller-coaster cars are another life-sized ship, being sort of shuttlecraft styled...

Images above from Movie Park (see my previous coverage for more), and Flickr user Neil Tonge.

Cinema Models

Models found at cinemas are deserving of an entire chapter of their own here, mostly thanks to the valiant efforts of the cinema chain Cineplex, who it seems have gone to great lengths to bring starships to locations all over Canada! A great opportunity for starship spotters.

This first came to my attention last year when a large model of the USS Enterprise-A was found for sale in someone's yard in Toronto.

The person that got hold of it, Bill Doern, later set up a Facebook page to keep track of work to restore the model, with plans to make it a touring attraction!

But these ships are still flying in other cinema locations! Here you can see an identical USS Enterprise-A in the Ottawa branch of Cineplex as recently as 2018. Images via Steve Brandon and Waymarking.

And it gets better; there are also multiple USS Enterprise-E models around! Here is one at the Langley branch, photographed magnificently by B.C. HOME GALLERY.

But the displays at the Vaughan branch are surely the most impressive, featuring the Enterprise-E, and Klingon Bird of Prey, and a small Star Trek museum with several costumed aliens on display too! You can find lots of images from there on Yelp!

Most of these Cineplex models seem to have been on display for a decade or more. Alas not all last that long. When Star Trek Beyond was released in China, several models of the Kelvin timeline Enterprise could be found at cinemas to promote the film. These included a really big model, and smaller ones used several locations - See my previous report to have a look at a few more on display.

Temporary models

Some other temporary large starships of note include another Beyond promo effort. A huge USS Enterprise drone/blimp! This was supplied to YouTuber Zach King, who used it to make a quite surreal little film.

Another Kelvin timeline Enterprise (the earlier less skinny version) appeared as part of a Paramount float at the Pasadena Rose Parade in 2012. Alas the Enterprise itself wasn't made of flowers. Flickr user Anika Malone captured this moment:

Exactly 20 years earlier the USS Enterprise-D also appeared in the Rose Parade, as part of a Nestle float - As reported by TrekMovie.

Surely one of the strangest temporary starships was one made of butter, made by butter sculptor Sarah Pratt to celebrate Star Trek's 50th anniversary as part of the Iowa State Fair in 2016. Amazingly the butter used was already over a decade old, after being reused for big butter sculptures like this for years! Check out Des Moines Register for lots more on this most curious display.

Screen used models

Veering back to some resembling reality, the final category is surely the most prized, the actual screen-used models. Many miniatures exist from decades of Star Trek production, and a lot were sold off to private collectors some years ago. But that doesn't necessarily stop them being on public display, and some of the most prominent miniatures are very well loved.

Surely the most impressive of the screen-used ships is the full sized shuttlecraft Galileo, which is currently found at the Space Center Houston. It was a long journey to get there, with the original prop left to decay for many years, by the time it was recovered it was in a very poor state, the subsequent restoration project almost completely rebuilt it, and in doing so returned it to its full original glory. Image here of the lovely display at the Space Center, by Raymond Cunningham:

In 2016 the Galileo was loaned to the Intrepid Sea, Air and Space Museum in New York to be part of their aforementioned exhibition. It was displayed alongside the Space Shuttle Enterprise!

Back home in Houston, as of 2018 it seems to have ended up in the museum's restaurant... As captured by IMABLOG:

Full sized ships sure make an impact. Perhaps the most impressive of the Star Trek ships I've had chance to see myself was the Scorpion fighter, which was displayed at the previously mentioned Star Trek: The Adventure exhibition (image from Dave's Stuff)

Another full sized prop, an escape pod from Star Trek Beyond, could be seen promoting the film at a HPE corporate event in 2016 (see previous reports for more images):

Many miniatures have featured in various other temporary and travelling Star Trek exhibitions. I think one of the best designed displays was at the 2016 Star Trek: Exploring New Worlds exhibit at the Experience Music Project (EMP) Museum in Seattle, Washington. This pop-up Star Trek museum included a lot of original miniatures, including the gigantic USS Enterprise-D and Deep Space 9 miniatures, which were displayed along with other ships above the main display floor. Pictured here by exhibition designer Matthew Cole and Flickr user Eric 10D, both of whom have excellent galleries of the whole exhibition.

As nice as that display is, it just can't beat the sheer strangeness that is Toronto's Aurora Borealis Orthodontics. This dentist office is home to a huge collection of screen-used Star Trek goodies, including floating menacingly above the reception desk, the Klingon Negh'Var. Check out their gallery for a look at what else you can see while getting your teeth checked!

However, simply nothing can top the most important great big beautiful ship of them all, the original  USS Enterprise miniature. After being housed in various corners of the Smithsonian for years, the model was carefully and lovingly restored ready to be put back on display in 2016 for the 50th anniversary, looking her very best.

The Enterprise and several other exhibits from the Boeing Milestones of Flight Hall are currently not on display while renovation work is underway at the museum, but she will be back in her pride of place spot among real-world relics of air and space flight in a couple of years.

Have you encountered any starships in your travels? If you're interested in Star Trek things you can visit, check my attractions tag for a look at the various rides and exhibitions of Trek past (and future). Honourable mention here to the amazing Star Trek Original Series Set Tour in Ticonderoga New York, who impressively recreate the inside of the USS Enterprise.


Unknown said...

Aside from the Borg sphere at the Carrowinds theme park in North Carolina, I recall a large Ent-Refit or Ent-A displayed in the park around the early 2000's but can't find any information about it. Maybe someone else recalls it too?

A. Enriquez said...

Man this is awesome

Dwight Williams said...

I've seen the one in Ottawa in two different locations across the decades. Originally at what used to be Famous Players Gloucester, two name changes ago. Just after the building went up and they started showing movies there. Then the model got moved to the Coliseum multiplex on Carling Avenue at the other end of the city. I cannot tell you at the moment exactly when the move happened.

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