TrekCore Interview with Alan Sinclair

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Article: Alan Sinclair Interview
Interviewer:
Joe Melvin
Published:
Dec 24, 2005

Hello, TOS fans, and welcome. As some of you may know, Alan Sinclair has been working on perfecting his Enterprise blueprints for years. Well, I happened to have a chance to speak with Alan and ask him about his on-going project. He describes how he has come to get these prints together and make them some of the most accurate prints of the Grey Lady available on the net. Additionally, I've also been able to obtain the most recent revisions, and they're available for download with this interview.

Alan, can you give me some of the back story involved in making these prints?
A challenge was issued on the Hobby-Talk forums by Richard Compton for someone to develop an accurate set of reference drawings for the [Original Series] Enterprise. It was born out of frustration, from the tidbits that would get posted from time to time by the so-called "experts" and rumors of super accurate blueprints reportedly drawn from the actual model in the Smithsonian. This whole thing came up just as I was finishing work on the NESA Protector drawings for the Galaxy Quest Fan web page and figured that the Enterprise would be a good project to take on.

When I read his request I was a little puzzled, though, because I had a number of blueprints of the Enterprise, and surely they couldn't be that far off? Really when you look at it, it's a pretty basic design, right? But to be honest, I had never really studied the existing blueprints against pictures of the actual model. So I started looking through the reference material in my collection and did a thorough review of the blueprints that I had. It was [at] about this point that I began to realize what I was getting myself in to.

Once the initial layouts were done I posted my progress on the Hobby Talk Forum and the ball started rolling. The project came to be known as the Public Resource Enterprise and some of the initial drawings were posted on a site that went by that name. Once folks realized that this was going to be a serious effort, reference pictures started showing up in my e-mail. I received help from over 40 people in 12 different countries scattered all over the world, truly the internet at it's best. One thing that helped was that throughout their creation the drawings were posted for public critique, which I don't believe had ever really been done before with a project like this. Everyone could participate and everyone would benefit from the effort. It was great to have so many eyes reviewing the drawings for errors and omission. The drawings would not have reached the level of accuracy they have without this kind of effort and I have to thank everyone involved for their help. Overall this project has been a great experience.
What was your motivation for taking on such a task?
I saw it as a challenge. The design is a classic and it was always a favorite, and after spending so much time reviewing and studying her I have to say she has become my all time favorite Enterprise. [Yet] in nearly 35 years (at the time) there were no publicly available accurate drawings of the Enterprise model. I figured it was about time. Also it let me become a small part of the legend of Star Trek.
Would you call yourself a big TOS fan?
It was my favorite show as a kid. The late sixties were a strange time for a kid to grow up in and Star Trek helped get me through. Now do I have a uniform? The answer would be no, I haven't immersed myself that far into the Trek culture.
Is there anything in your background that helped you with this project?
I currently work for the Federal Aviation Administration as a Safety Engineer for large transport aircraft, but I started my training as a draftsman at the age of 5. One of my oldest memories is sitting at my table with pencils and paper drawings out a project that I wanted to make, the curse of having an engineer for a father. I have been formally trained in the old school of drafting as well as with a number of CAD and 3D modeling programs. Drafting is just a hobby now; some people do crossword puzzles I draft.
How long has the project taken you?
I started the drawings over 5 years ago, but I have been collecting reference material for years. I have no idea how many hours I have spent on them all told, really don't want to know either, let's just say a lot.
Can you name some of the people that helped you on this?
After the initial release in 2002, Gary Kerr, the legendary creator of the "secret TOS E blueprints", contacted me. His drawings were reportedly done from dimensions he took directly from the actual model during the 92 restoration. I should explain that [..] his drawings haven't been released to the public is because of the business agreement he made when he allowed access to create them [..] but for whatever reason the deal has been held in limbo. Also, I would like to make it clear that I do not have copies of Gary's TOS E drawings, I say this because I have been harassed by a few of the more over zealous fans on this issue and I want to make it very clear.

Gary [was] very complementary and offered me some very helpful guidance that made the drawings even better. The one thing that he did warned me about was that since I have started down this path I had better be prepare because the TOS Enterprise is a life long project and the drawings will never be finished, even today he finds areas on his drawings that need updating.
Since that time Gary has helped me considerable in refining my drawings and has guided me through the more difficult areas of the ship's contours and his help has been invaluable for which I will be forever grateful.

One interesting item is that early this year Andrew Probert contacted me about the drawings and he was also quite complementary. It seems that he was working on a project and was collecting reference materials when happened across my drawings and want to use them to help with his project, who could say no to that?

The complete list is quite long, but these folks have been the major contributors: First I have to credit Richard Compton for starting it all and his support through out the process. [Other] major contributors are; Mike Trice, Scott Gammans, Mark Gagen, James Ingram, John Heilman, Nick Porcino, [and] Patrick Cumby. There are many more, but it's been a while so I'll apologize to those unsung contributors and say thank you to everyone that has been involved.
Where did you start with looking for reference material?
Everywhere and anywhere, I had a good deal of reference material already -- I love collecting blueprints and technical drawings -- but with the advent of the internet it has become considerably easier. Only problem is if you see it you had better download it. I have been asked in the past to provide a list of web site that I use for reference, unfortunately nearly all of those sites are now dead links. A lot of the images that I currently have I received from other TOS E fans, who either e-mailed them to me or sent me CD's with their archives.
What do you think of the Franz Joseph prints and Tech Manual?
Franz Joseph work is simply fantastic! And one of my main sources of inspiration. It is even more amazing when one considers what he had to work with as far as reference material. His work on Tech Manuals set the standard that everyone since has tried to emulate. I did manage to locate a set of his TOS blueprints many years ago and they are simply incredible.
Do you have any plans to do any of the other craft in the Trek universe?
The top of the list is [still] to complete the TOS E drawings by documenting the various pilot versions. Though I am stopping short of the tackling the 3 footer. I also have started layouts for the TOS Klingon battle cruiser to complement the TOS E drawings and I may tackle the Romulan Bird of Prey, but they have a long way to go before they will be ready for posting. I have a number of Trek projects in the works; I just need to find the time to get back to them. Currently I have drawings in progress of the Enterprise D that are based on the Ertl plastic model. While not completely faithful to the production models, I decided to base the drawings from the Ertl model so that they could be used for the planning of "kitbashed" models, mainly the Nebula class starship. These drawings are about 75% complete. Basically I got burned out on drawing windows and lifeboats, but I'll get back to them some day. I actually started the Enterprise-D drawings in the late 90's can't really remember when. I only recently started work on the Klingon ship.
What would you say is the degree of accuracy of your prints?
In my opinion, the current release of the TOS E (rev D) is at least 95% to 98% and somewhere around +/- 1/16" to 1/8", but I should point out that these drawings are what would be considered to be the idealist Enterprise, which means that the drawings represent the enterprise as it was envisioned. I did not draw the asymmetrical "flaws" in the saucer, the sagging nacelles, the delaminating fabric on the impulse engine, the cracking and peeling finish or the various others "nitpicks" of the model as it sits today in the Smithsonian. Some folks have taken exception to this approach, but I saw no point documenting flaws or the ravages of age.
What programs have you used in putting these together?
The main program that I use is and old copy of AutoCAD 14. It has the advantage of being able to link photos directly into the drawing, allowing me to reverses engineer the various components. Photos can be a bit tricky to work with since one can not just trace directly from a photo. Photos are not true orthographic projections -- they are distorted perspective images since the curvature of the lens distorts the image at the edges.
Can you tell me some of the problems you've run into?
Any time you take on a project like the Enterprise you have to expect some repercussions. I never represented myself as an TOS Enterprise expert and I always try to make it clear that the drawings are open to constructive criticism, and that works out quite well. Unfortunately some folks took exception to this open approach and felt that I was giving away secret information. Needless to say they were not pleased with me.

The negative feedback varied from outright "hatred" to simple insults. Most of these folks limited their attacks to e-mails, but a few felt it necessary to carry it into the public forums. I rarely responded to these attacks and only when there was a technical issues that could be clarify. I read through them all, because you never know when or where you would find another piece of the puzzle, and even though they were slamming me they sometimes included reference photos.

There will always be people that will try to nitpick and slam any attempt to document the TOS Enterprise, it has become an icon of Sci-Fi and popular culture and as such everyone has their own vision of what it should looks like and nothing I can say will convince them otherwise. All I can offer is that if these drawings don't meet your expectation please feel free to give it a try for themselves and after they have spent a couple hundred hours working through the reference materials lets sit down and talk about it. I want to leave it open to everyone if you find an error and you can send me the reference material please let me know so that I can continue to improve them.
Do you feel these plans will allow a technically correct Enterprise to be made from these plans?
I feel confident that these drawings will allow you to build an extremely accurate model. I know of only one or possibly two other sets of drawings that exceed these for accuracy, and only one limited edition model kit that even comes close to the original.
Will there be any more updates in the future, or do you think your finally to a point where you can say they are done?
Done? Well they are as complete as I can make them with the information currently available to me. So in that respect they are done. Now that doesn't mean that they won't be updated tomorrow. I am learning new techniques with every project and you never know when someone might send me the "Holly Grail" of reference pictures that could send me in a new direction that causes a complete revision to the drawings. One never knows where or when a new piece of information will show up and even a minor change can effect the whole fabric of the drawing. So I can safely state that yes there will be future updates, but when and what are yet to be defined.



Finally, the prints themselves, available for download courtesy of TrekCore, in three ZIP archives.

http://tos.trekcore.com/tos/TOSNCC1701GIFRevD.zip
http://tos.trekcore.com/tos/TOSNCC1701dwgRevD.zip
http://tos.trekcore.com/tos/TOSNCC1701dxfRevD.zip