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"Just a... Just a little scratch on your paintwork".
"Oh, a scratch. A scratch?! That isn't nothing! I can't pick up the mayor looking like this!
— The Workman and James

All in Vain is the thirteenth (sixteenth in Australia) episode of the twentieth season.


One autumn morning, the Fat Controller comes to Tidmouth Sheds and has very exciting news. The news is that he and the Mayor of Sodor are going to a ball at Callan Castle and he needs an engine to take both of them to the castle. James asks if he could do it. The Fat Controller agrees and James is delighted to be picking them both up and to take them to the castle and promises to do all his jobs without complaining.

At the docks, James boasts to Cranky about collecting the Mayor and the Fat Controller. Cranky, suddenly, slips some of the sugar sacks with sea water splashing all over James. James is worried that his paintwork will be ruined, but he just keeps smiling. Later, James passes Farmer McColl's farm when Thomas passes and accidentally splashes mud all over James' face. James is fed up, but still stays smiling. James goes under the coal hopper but the trucks are being shunted backwards by Stafford. Suddenly, coal dusts flows down all over James. Along the way, James meets Edward at the Sodor Bakery. He tells him that he needs a washdown before he can meet the Mayor. Edward asks if James needs help to do all of his jobs, but James declines. At the washdown, a workman notices that James has a scratch in his paintwork. James is horrified and hurriedly rushes to the Steamworks. Victor is worried that his paint would not be dry on time. James knows that the wind to Callan Castle will be stronger and able to dry him on time.

After he gets repainted, James makes his way to collect the Fat Controller and the Mayor, however, his paint is not dry. The wind blows dusts, twigs and leaves onto James' paintwork. James later notices this and feels rather silly. James asks Edward to pick up the Fat Controller and the Mayor for him.

Despite all of the hard work, the Fat Controller comes to the sheds and says that James should have ignored his scratch to finish his special job. Edward vouches for James that he was working very hard all day. With the rest of the engines giggling except Edward, the Fat Controller orders James to go back to the Steamworks to be repainted again.

Once James is back at the Steamworks, he is once again repainted and is waiting for his paint to dry. A surprise awaits James: the Mayor of Sodor. The Mayor tells James that Edward was happy to help in collecting him and the Fat Controller. James tells him that Edward was very kind. The Mayor decides that he will invite James to a dinner at Vicarstown. James is honoured to take him. The Fat Controller wants to go, but the Mayor says he will only be needing James tonight. By the end of the day, James is very proud to be taking the Mayor. Edward knows that James is more splendid than ever. James happily agrees.





  • In the close-up of James leaving the sheds, his tender wheels do not move. When the scene changes to the overhead shot, James jumps from the centre berth track to the one Thomas is on.
  • When James is at Brendam Docks the sugar on his face does not have much opacity but in the next shot the sugar on James' face is a lot brighter.
  • When Edward comes into Knapford as James leaves, he does not have a brake van, but when James passes him, he gains one.
  • Throughout most of the episode, James' rear tender axle box is clipping through his rear bufferbeam.

In Other Languages

Language Name Meaning
Japanese はりきりすぎたジェームス James is Too Overwhelming
Polish Wszystko na Próżno All in Vain
Romanian În zadar In Vain
Hebrew ג'יימס היהיר Conceited James

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