The Bridge Control panels were made to look visually interesting to television audiences but also they were designed to look somehow functional in the futuristic world of Star Trek. Even though the lighted buttons and the arrangements of them really didn’t make any sense to viewers; the layout of the control panels themselves made them believable. Each of the full station consoles around the perimeter of the bridge were made up of 4 separate control panels which when combined created at semi-circle radius that would put the buttons and switches within arm’s reach of the operator. Of the 4 control panels there were two larger control panels on the outer sides and two smaller control panels towards the center. Both the larger and smaller control panels were mirror images of each other at each station with the exception of the Science station (more on that later). The mirror image makes total sense from a production standpoint because the same patterns could be used to cut the Plexiglas and one panel could simply be flipped over to create a different looking panel.
The control panels themselves were made of 1/8” black Plexiglas. The larger control panels were approximately 23” inches at the top, 9 and three quarters inches at the bottom. The smaller control panels were approximately 13 and one quarter inches at the top, 9 and one half inches at the bottom. There were holes cut into the black Plexiglas where the resin buttons were installed that allowed them to be backlit from under the console. There were also smaller mounting holes around the perimeter which were added during the second season during the renovations that included adding the “ice-tray” style buttons which were not present during the first season. There was a second clear piece of Plexiglas under the top black piece that allowed the flat bottom of the round buttons to be glued onto the bottom clear piece of Plexiglas. This method for the most part prevented glue from showing on the top of the black Plexiglas for the round lights most of which would remain the same for the entire run of the series except for those replaced by the oblong resin lights (which always replaced a round resin light). The rectangular resin buttons were attached to the surface of the black Plexiglas over an oval shaped hole cut through the black Plexiglas. These oval holes were originally cut for the pilot episode aircraft indicator light style buttons and were used for both the later resin “prismatic” style and the “ice-tray” style resin lights; both of which were glued over the oval cut-out. Additional information on the resin lights and buttons can be found here: http://tosgraphics.yuku.com/topic/447/Buttons-Star-Trek-Comprehensive-Look-TOS-Switches-Li
There were four different configurations of the larger control panels and only two different configurations of the smaller control panels. All of the perimeter station consoles on the RH side of the bridge (from standing at the turbolift and facing the screen) had different sets of the large control panels at each of those consoles. Perhaps this was done because typically these station consoles were closer to the camera. Here are the designation of the different control panels:
The Science station was unique among the bridge stations. It is the only one that has the “Type B” control panel which at first glance is much different from the other control panels on the bridge. Upon close inspection however, we can see that it is actually the same shape except it has a cut-out on the right hand side to allow for the library computer. Another unique feature of the Science station console is the control panel in position 3 which is the only place on the bridge that we have a “Type F LH” on the right-hand side of the console.
There were two other unique control panels on the perimeter bridge stations that don’t fit into the category of those that we have studied so far. The Engineering-Sub Station on the left side of the viewscreen had two unique control panels; they were rectangular and not cut in a radius like all of the others. The reason most likely was because this is only a half console and there was no need for the radius because the entire surface could be easily reached from the chair since this console was much smaller than the other stations. The other half console on the right side of the viewscreen had no control panels at all. There will be additional information on individual control panels in the forth-coming revised threads on each station.