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- "I am a splendid engine, ready for anything. You never see my paint dirty."
- ―James, Dirty Objects, first season
Bio in the Railway Series
James was designed by George Hughes and built at Horwich Works in 1912/13. He was an experimental development of the Class 28 as he was fitted with a leading pony truck in an attempt to cure "nose diving" when at speed. Additionally he was fitted with 5'6" driving wheels over the Class 28's 5'1" standard with wooden brakes and possibly, unlike the rest of the class had his sand boxes tucked below the extended running plate out of sight. The experiments however, were not a success. After the Grouping in 1924/5 James was sold by the LMS to Sir Topham Hatt for mixed traffic duties, at which time he was still painted in Pre-grouping black. After his first accident, he was rebuilt with proper brakes and a Fowler tender (due to his original one being badly wrecked from the crash) and repainted in red with gold stripes and black lining. These and subsequent modifications at Crovan's Gate Works have solved many of the flaws in James' design.
James was now a troublesome and vain engine when he returned, ruining Sir Topham Hatt's new top-hat with his steam. One of James' most embarrassing stories was when he pulled his coaches too hard he made a hole in the coaches and had to patch it by using newspaper and a leather bootlace, he was reminded about it for several episodes later, and was always seen angry after being reminded about it. He was threatened with being painted blue (which James detests) for causing trouble, but later promised to be useful again and made the worst trucks on the line behave after being given a second chance. He also pulled the express for Gordon when the latter was switched off the main line and went on strike along with Gordon and Henry. He later made rude remarks about Henry when he was having trouble making steam, called Toby and Henrietta 'dirty objects' and subsequently got into an accident with some tar wagons.
James was of the opinion that he would pull the Royal Train, much to the scepticism of the others due to the time he became stuck on Gordon's Hill. Later, James became a runaway when two naughty boys fiddled with his controls and was rescued by Edward. He and Gordon played a joke on Percy by convincing him of the existence of backing signals. Upon Duck's arrival, Percy and the newcomer blocked James and the other big engines out of the shed as revenge for teasing them.
When Diesel arrived on trial, James earned the nickname "Rusty Red Scrap-Iron". James, like Henry and Gordon, were turned against Duck because of Diesel, but were sorry after receiving proof of his innocence. When Duncan was grumbling with Rusty, James boasted to the former that he sent Diesel packing (which of course was done by the Fat Controller).
When work began to increase steadily on the railway, James and the others started to complain about it, leading the Fat Controller to buy a goods engine from Scotland, only to receive two. After Donald crashed into a signal box and was in need of repair, James had to handle the goods work for him, much to his annoyance, leading him to bump the trucks around and being tricked by The Spiteful Brake Van, needing to be helped up the hill by Douglas. James stood beside the Scottish twins when they were worried about being sent away and cheered with the rest when they were to stay. Later, James told Duck not to listen to BoCo about bees, claiming that they were only insects after all and he could whoosh them away easily, only to be stung by one the very next morning. James was one of the first engines to know about Oliver and praised the Great Western Railway engine so much he got puffed in the smoke box.
Years later, James was still sceptical to diesel engines, with BoCo and Bear as the exception. He got crossed line with his well wagons on a foggy day and his injector froze in the winter, so he had to be rescued by a diesel from the works, who was so friendly that James gave up his prejudice with diesels. James once reluctantly doubled the express with Henry when the green engine needed an overhaul at the works, saying two engines on one train is definitely an "over haul". James was the engine chosen to collect the Thin Clergyman's bust, reported the collapse of Henry's Tunnel and attended the Thin Clergyman's 100th anniversary.
Bio in the Television Series
According to The Adventure Begins, James arrived on Sodor some time after Gordon, at which time he was painted black. His wooden brakes were prone to catching fire and he had trouble stopping quickly; if anyone noticed a burning smell from his brakes, he would deny smelling anything out of the ordinary. James originally owned Annie and Clarabel and believed the Fat Controller would soon give him his own branch line. James was actually the first engine Thomas meets when arriving on Sodor as he was asking James for directions. He acted as a bully towards Thomas when the tank engine first arrived, but soon after gained some respect for him. They became close friends following James' accident. Some Troublesome Trucks made his wooden brakes catch fire, prompting Thomas to chase after him. James' guard attempted to couple Thomas to the back of the train to slow James down, but as this failed, James could not stop and came off the rails at a bend, scratching his paintwork and destroying most of his trucks. Thomas fetched Jerome and Judy, who lifted James back onto the rails. Thomas then took James to the Steamworks for repairs. When James returned as a splendid red engine, Thomas and Edward did not recognise him. Upon declaring he was ready for his coaches, James realised that his coaches were now Thomas' and the little tank engine now had his own branch line.
Like in the original story, after Thomas left the yard to work on his new branch line, Gordon, James and Henry went on strike because they refused to shunt like "common tank engines". So the Fat Controller shut them up in the shed and bought a new engine named Percy to ease the workload. Once the tender engines realised how silly they had acted and were allowed to work again, Percy stayed on as station pilot, which has led to him developing somewhat of a rivalry with James, who often considers the work Percy does to be menial and of lower stature and is often not fond of what Percy does or how he does it. In the third season, James complained about Percy leaving for the harbour because now he has to "do Percy's job." Gordon advised James to pretend to be ill, which he did. Thomas happily took James' trucks for him, but they played tricks on Thomas. James and Gordon sincerely apologised for getting Thomas into trouble, and Thomas forgave them.
In Percy, James and the Fruitful Day, James called out Percy for being late, dismissing his "excuse" of the trucks being troublesome and saying that nothing should stop the engines from meeting the Fat Controller's expectations of being punctual. Later, when he pulled a train of fruit, he ended up breaking down, leading to Percy excessively teasing him about it before ending up in a crash of his own. James also teased Percy for finding a scarf (trousers wrapped around his funnel) and left to tell Henry, who actually felt sorry for Percy. Along with Henry and Duck, he also teased Percy for thinking that he had seen a dragon.
James’ work mostly entails something he considers important, and his arrogance comes from his belief of himself as splendid and pride in the jobs he does; if he does not get an important job, he sulks or gets jealous of those who do. This has caused Gordon and sometimes Henry to look down on him. In Time for Trouble, the extra trains being scheduled caused Gordon to become tired so James did his work. This prospect absolutely delighted James; the narration states that "he liked to show off his smart red paint and was determined to be as fast as Gordon". James boasted to "little Toby" that he is an important engine, "Regular as clockwork, never late, always on time". Later, James complained about being late when he heard the news about a dehydrated Toby stranded on the main line and was not happy that he had to push Toby along. He arrived at "the Works station" later than the express was scheduled to arrive. In The Trouble with Mud, as James got ready to take the express in Gordon's stead again, he ignored Gordon’s advice about needing help on the slippery hills. Despite knowing that the hill was difficult to climb, James made a run at it. He ended up slipping and sliding back down in front of Gordon. The big engine offered to push behind, and James accepted the help.
In his next appearance, James was stated to supposedly brighten up everyone's day. He bragged to Thomas and Percy that he is the most useful engine on the line. Thomas called this rubbish, and Percy called out James on getting all puffed up. Later, he boasted to Gordon that he is the pride of the line, but because Gordon saw James pulling trucks earlier that day, Gordon said that James is a mere goods engine and does not pull coaches very much. As a trick, James told Thomas that he was supposed to take Gordon's express, leaving Thomas to give Gordon the trucks. James thought his plan clever, but the Fat Controller sent him to the sheds until he was wanted. Gordon and Henry teased James by asking who will take the express, but when James went back to work, Thomas was glad to see him out and about, and James apologised for tricking him. Thomas kindly gave James his trucks, and James took them to the harbour, working very hard until it was time to go home. In the fourth season, when the three tender engines were feeling overworked, James complained about getting no rest in response to Henry saying that Percy should be fetching their coaches but was not there. James and Henry spared with each other, including James telling Henry to "stop worrying and do some work instead", until Percy revealed that he had been too busy helping with the circus' arrival and that they should help too. The big engines forget to be cross while helping, but when it was time for the circus to leave, James got to pull their departing train away and left Gordon and Henry to sulk.
Despite being called a little engine by Gordon in both James and the Express and Tender Engines (though not to his face in the latter), James, like Gordon, often looks down on engines smaller than he is. Both he and Gordon had no sympathy for Thomas and Percy when the latter two were being hassled by Cranky. James said that they should look at Cranky's point of view: "high up in the air coping with wind, rain, and baking sun". Seeing "little engines" being "annoying" is "no wonder" that they were called bugs. While James generally agrees with Gordon when it comes to smaller engines, such as in this example, he became cross at Gordon's constant complaining (this was while he was bantering with Percy and Gordon, who said that he was "just a small red engine with ideas above your station"), considered Gordon breaking down to serve him right for being full of himself, and had no sympathy for Gordon's fire being unable to light.
Throughout season five, Thomas often tried to reason with James to show more kindness. James being given a new coat of paint boosts his ego, and he bemoans jobs he considers beneath him (pulling trucks) and dirty. He scathingly remarks more than once that the job should be done by Percy (because Percy's "dirty" and James is "too important"; the first time, he also includes Thomas because he "likes working with trucks", and the second time, he also includes Oliver because he was "not as important as [James is]"). All the while scoffing at the job that Percy actually is doing – clearing the line of branches and trees that are too close. James was forced to eat his words when he came across an unstable tree "standing" on the line that was about to fall over. Before the tree could fall on him, he was saved by Thomas. James once again complained about his work in front of Thomas when he said that the Fat Controller works the engines harder than ever and during holiday time. Thomas told James to think about others for a change, which James did when he took a sad Mrs. Kyndley on a mystery tour to the fairground, which cheered her up. James told Thomas that he was right about thinking of others.
James' great and sometimes overblown pride from his work also applies to not extending it to non-rail vehicles. He fully supports engines who need Sodor as a safe haven for steam engines and have had to face the possibility of being scrapped. This was previously seen in the second and third seasons when he stood beside the Scottish twins when they were worried about being sent away and when he gave Oliver high praise for his daring escape from scrap. This becomes pertinent again in the fifth season when James learned that Harold was showing a special visitor around the Island instead of any of the engines; he said, "Engines are meant to take visitors around our Island, not that whirlybird thing". He had an extreme distaste toward the Horrid Lorries, and considered Cranky's suggestion that a lorry should do Percy's work to be "stuff and nonsense"; his previous sympathetic view of Cranky seemingly gone, implied by his initially negative opinion of Harvey as being "just Cranky on wheels" When Thomas delivered The Hot Air Balloon, James was worried that the balloon will take all their passengers and for what would become of the engines if that happened. When James "saved" the balloon after it fell on him by billowing smoke and causing it to rise, it was not intentional. The Fat Controller explained that while the balloon carries holidaymakers, they would still need an engine to take them home. This put James in a much better mood, and he started dreaming he can fly like the balloon.
As stated above, when Harvey first arrived on the Island, James was among the engines who were skeptical of Harvey's usefulness, but when Harvey rescued Percy and various trucks after an accident at Bulgy's Bridge, they changed their minds; James said, "Very useful". When Percy found himself in the middle with trucks in front and behind, James laughed at him. Percy telling the Fat Controller about 'Arry and Bert making him a middle engine prompted James to remark that he "could handle those diesels with bent buffers and a busted boiler" so the Fat Controller had James do Percy’s run to the smelters while Percy shunted trucks in the yards. Nonetheless, 'Arry shunted trucks in front of James (ironically calling him little) to make him a middle engine, and Bert jeered, "Just like Percy". James vehemently took offence to this and said, "I am NOT like Percy. I am NOT a middle engine and I'm NOT moving." and of course, he refused to move. The Fat Controller sent Percy to fetch James, and Percy brought all the trucks plus James to the docks. Percy said that James was learning to be a middle engine, and James tried to conceal himself with steam, but it was no use since James is the only big red engine on the island. Right before a big freeze, an eager James and Percy were given a job that James would later consider top priority: delivering coal to the stations. Thomas teased them about running into Jack Frost, but James was dismissive and considered Percy to be silly for being steamed up over Jack Frost. But James got a fright when he saw an ice-bound Percy with spiky icicles on his face, believing it to be Jack Frost. The next morning, James bragged to the other engines about it, but Percy pointed out that James ran away. The engines whistled, including James.
When Gordon returned from the works after a horrific accident feeling very unhappy with himself, James informed him that Salty was sorry for their earlier argument, and Gordon apologised for being too full of himself. Later, when Percy said that getting dirty much more frequently makes washdowns more of a necessity for him than Gordon, who only does it to feel important, and Gordon insists that he is important, James said that Percy was being a pouty puffer, and later on when Percy was covered in Chocolate, he and the other engines thought it was funny (calling him Pudding Percy). Also, when Alicia Botti was coming to the Island, James was certain he would collect her due to being the brightest and the shiniest. Gordon said, "Nonsense, I'm the most important.". Both engines appeared cross when Thomas was chosen instead. When Gordon broke another record, a smug and unimpressed James said that speed is not everything, but Gordon retorted that he will never understand. Later, when Thomas and Henry were teasing Gordon for being overrun by Thomas and the Jet Engine, James brushed off Percy’s remark that Gordon should not be expected to go as fast as a jet engine by saying, "But he’s still full of hot air". Later, when Gordon called Edward a useless old steampot that should be retired, James agreed with him. He was among the engines who were pleased when they heard Duck would help them while Edward is busy teaching Stepney how to run the new loop line. James was also seen smiling at Knapford as he behold a strange sight: An exhausted Duck pulling trucks with Gordon and the express in the middle and Edward as the banker.
James’ pride in his important work and his pride in his paintwork sometimes clash. When James was to collect the mayor, he told a dust-covered Percy to keep his dirt away from him. Later, Gordon presented the chance for "important work", and James immediately jumped on the opportunity, but was dismayed when he found out that it was taking a leaky old barge to the works. Throughout the journey, James was primarily concerned about staying shiny and clean, especially when oil spilled everywhere, as opposed to the accident that just happened. James took the barge to the Sodor Ironworks without getting dirty, but Percy blew dust on him anyway. In the eighth season, James got a new coat of paintwork, and he considered himself very special due to being splendid and being really useful, but Thomas reminded him that those things are not the same. James' excessive showing off of his new coat to people and reflections made him very late for work. As a result, he had to take a very long line of coal trucks to the docks. Though initially happy that he was going to a place full of people to show off to, the coal flew everywhere ruining his look. James ended up seeing the funny side. Since then, James has balanced his pride of his paint and pride of his job.
An inspector was to give a prize to the best engine during his inspection, and James thought he would give it to a red engine. He, along with Emily and Gordon, occupied the washdown area, preventing Thomas and Percy from using it. When the big engines were then all cleaned, they tried to find the sunniest spot in the yard, but James accidentally triggered the coal hopper, causing it to pour out coal and ruining their looks. The prize went to Thomas and Percy, whose hard work had made them dirty, and they had just returned from the washdown. James felt insecure from the fact that Percy had cleared a signal before him due to the mail being more important than James' slow goods despite James being there first. Also, Thomas was given priority at the water tower over James because the little blue engine was a guaranteed connection. James had complained about everyone having a more important job than him, but Thomas had tried to cheer him up by telling him that everyone knows he is really useful. James still wanted to be important, so when he gained a job he considered top priority (delivering coal to all the stations), he became a bit overzealous. He brushed off Gordon's scoffing remark that "it's only a load of coal", and he did not wait for water (Thomas said, "Wait your turn, bossy boiler.") or helping Edward, which eventually lead to James running out of water and Edward being too restrained on time to help. Salty came to help James and told him that no job is more important than helping another engine, which he later remembered when he saw a broken down Diesel and helped him to the fitter’s yard before proceeding with his coal deliveries, which he completed on time. The Fat Controller praised James for that and for learning his lesson.
In the ninth season, when James saw the chance for a job he really wanted (pulling the presents train), he aimed to finish his current job as fast as he could so that he could take it. Unfortunately, he was saddled with Edward, whom James was sure he would be slowed down by. He ignored Edward's advice to slow down and apply his brakes on the icy rails, and he ended up derailing. Once again, Salty came by, and Sir Topham Hatt chastised the two for not taking care, but James owned up that it was his fault for ignoring Edward's advice. James offered to be Edward's back engine, and Sir Topham Hatt agreed as long as James went slowly and took care, which James did.
In the tenth season, James thought that he would be the poster engine, but Sir Topham Hatt choose Edward. His friends told him that Edward was chosen because he is gentle with his trucks, does not mind doing dirty work, and is always on time. James decided to show that he is good enough to be the poster engine by doing all those things. James did become gentle with the coal trucks, but he found out that Edward already delivered all his coal so James worked as hard as he can to deliver his dirty coal trucks, bragging to Henry that he can get just as dirty as Edward -- before getting a long washdown that made him late. To make up for lost time and get to his passengers before Edward, James raced along the main line. He ended up cutting in front of Edward, and the two ended up crashing. Edward apologised for the crash, but James admitted that it was his fault. The accident caused Edward to be damaged and so once again, he offered to be Edward's back engine so that the children could still go to the seaside with the poster engine.
In the eleventh season, James was among the many engines who wanted to collect the famous storyteller, and he appeared happy for Thomas when the tank engine got the job. His happy disposition is short-lived as his siderod ended up snapping. James was concerned as he was a guaranteed connection and needed to get his passengers to Maithwaite on time. Thomas forwent taking the famous storyteller to Pirate's Cove to help his friend, and James was very grateful. Gordon, James and Henry made fun of Emily and Whiff for being smelly, and later, James and Gordon both refused to help Emily move garbage wagons out of Spencer's way, whose ways of showing off they dislike. After returning from the works, James hoped he would get an important job so he immediately volunteered to take the mayor to the Festival of Light at the Scottish Castle. James was excited to be the star of the show. Emily asked James if he could help her, Thomas and Percy with their jobs so that they could see the festival, but James said he could not as he considered it more important that he looked smart for his job. James refused to help Percy with his quarry work while getting a washdown, Thomas with his coal trucks while getting polished, and Emily with her heavy fish train while getting his funnel swept. James had special flags fitted and passed by the Scottish Castle, where he found no engines. Realising that they were going to miss the festival, James set off to help so that they could see him being the star of the show, but he ended up helping them despite being covered in coal dust, quarry dust, and fish. His decorations end up being damaged as well. When he arrived at the castle with the mayor, the Fat Controller called James a very hard working and really useful engine for helping his friends and safely delivering his important passenger.
James does not seem to mind pulling trucks as much as he used to, especially coal trucks. When he saw Bill and Ben being given a hard time by Hector, James acknowledged that Hector looked troublesome, but Thomas was unconcerned. When James and Edward came back to collect their coal trains that Thomas shunted for them, they both seemed shocked to notice Hector at the back. James snorted a congratulation to Thomas. The two tender engines were surprised to hear Thomas whistling them good luck (though it was really for Hector). When all the engines were stuck due to broken points, James urged Gordon to hurry up and get the mechanic as only Gordon was puffing grandly. James was also held up by the snow and ended up being late, and the next day, his pipes blocked Henry's line, meaning they had to wait for Rocky to reload them. James snorted at Henry that the latter should be at the airport. Nonetheless, James does lighten up from time to time; Thomas is said to enjoy joking with him, and James is seen spinning on the turntable near him -- before his enjoyment turned to shock.
It appears that there has been a great number of times where James wanted a job that was given to Thomas; when Thomas was to take a sailboat to very important launch party, James was jealous and said that he should be taking it because the boat was red. He does not seem to take notice of Gordon saying that he should take it because it was heavy. Thomas also bragged that all the engines wanted his job of delivering Sir Topham Hatt's brand new car to the Sodor Show, whereas James was seen pulling oil tankers. When James saw Thomas broken down at the works, he made fun of Thomas for breaking down (despite Thomas stating the contrary) and said that Thomas is not a smart and useful engine like him. Later, Thomas was hesitant to ask James for help after really breaking down but did so anyway. James teased him some more before seeing that Thomas really was in trouble and was happy to help his friend. James promised to get the children to the concert on time. James also expressed his disgust at Thomas' delivery of stinky cheese, but an embarrassed Thomas was able to ignore it.
James sometimes works near the Skarloey Railway. Oddly James appeared cross, displeased, and rather snappy when he had to take Mr. Percival to a meeting with Sir Topham Hatt; he was smiling when he brought Mr. Percival back. Very much out the norm for James, he was late when he delivered Mr. Percival's new bike to the wharf, and when Freddie pointed this out, James wheeshed crossly that he came as fast as he could. James made Freddie feel silly by explaining the importance of a bicycle bell, which was an obvious thing that Freddie was not aware of. Not wanting to appear silly in front of James, Freddie pretended to know where he could find one. Eventually, James agrees that Freddie's idea to reuse the old bell was a good one.
In the twelfth season, James was shunting a train to take to Great Waterton and decided to show Stanley how easy he can shunt Hector. James did not like it when Hector was giving him advice since it was coming from a truck and it was in front of his friends Stanley, Thomas, Edward, and Harold. So James started making facetious declarations and decisions like "I'll decide what we do. The weather doesn't bother me.", "We'll take... the quickest way.", and "I can manage on my own.". When James eventually got his train stuck in the snow, he realised that Hector was only trying to help. He shut up a laughing truck before humbly asking Hector how to free the train from the snow. Once they arrived at Great Waterton, James proudly declares to Thomas and Stanley how happy he is to have a reliable friend like Hector.
In Hero of the Rails, horror dawned on James as he realised that the snooty showoff Spencer was to be on Sodor for the whole summer. Spencer raced about carelessly, and James told him to watch his paintwork, which he claims is shinier than Spencer's ever will be. Edward and James were transporting a flatbed, and Spencer made fun of how it took "two old engines to pull one truck". James was cross, as he could not puff at all. When Spencer was saying that Thomas could not pull heavy loads, James asserted that Thomas is very strong, but this did not faze smug Spencer. A couple nights later, Thomas told James and the other engines about his discovery of Hiro. James' part in the engines' collaborative effort to restore Hiro is shown a couple times. Hiro was excited that James was coming, but Percy said that James is not wise at all and is a bossy boiler, which made Hiro laugh loud, long and happy for the first time in front of Thomas and Percy. James was in the quarry the next day with a flatbed of engine parts for Hiro. Mavis distracted Spencer, allowing James to slink through unnoticed. When the engines noticed that Thomas was worried, James assured him that they will each take it in turns to guard Hiro. The next day, James and Toby are guarding Hiro. They heard Spencer's whistle, and as soon as this happened, James puffed on, and Toby followed suit. They took Spencer by surprise as they puffed out and chased him away from Hiro and to a junction where the line was blocked by Thomas. Hiro also admired James' shiny red coat.
In the thirteenth season, Thomas greeted James at the docks. James was pulling wood to make a stage for the children's show and barrels of lemonade to drink at the party. At the washdown, Thomas offered to deliver James' heavy load for him so James could stay at the washdown to be as polished as he liked for the party. James, unaware that Thomas really wanted to take the load to best Cranky, liked the idea and thanked Thomas. He looked a little unsure as Thomas coupled up and had to puff hard to set off. Later, James, along with Gordon laughed at Thomas for making a mess of the Lion of Sodor.
James was to be given a new coat of paint and thought he was going to be the smartest engine on the whole Island. James was given a pink undercoat to keep the water out. Sir Topham Hatt came to James with the news that Emily had broken down, which worried James. He had to collect Sir Topham Hatt's granddaughter and her friends in Emily's stead. He did not want to go out in his pink undercoat as he thought the other engines would think he looked silly and laugh, which Emily did. James' attempts to hide from Toby, then Diesel, then Gordon all failed, and they all laughed, as did Thomas and Percy. All the while reminding himself that he must not be late for the children. He decided to take a shortcut through Henry's Tunnel to be on time. He knew his constant hiding was making him later still, so he raced against the clock and ignored teasing remarks from Spencer and Henry, even though he felt silly. James considered himself lucky that none of the children thought he looked silly, and he was just in time for the party. Sometime later, James greeted Thomas at the docks before noticing the tank engine's funny replacement funnel and laughing at it. This upsets Thomas and makes him puff away quickly.
Thomas greeted James at the sheds and asked if he had seen Percy, to which James responded that he had too much to do to see Percy. When Sir Topham Hatt delivered the news that Percy was at the Steamworks, James looked worried, but he smiled when Thomas was given the job of pulling the mail train. Thomas and James later greeted each other at an orchard. Thomas told James about the piglets, and James wished he could see them, but he was preoccupied with delivering apples to the village. James let Thomas have some of the apples for the piglets. Eventually, Thomas found himself with not much time left to collect straw, so he could not listen to James, who had been thinking about the piglets and what else they might like. While James was being washed, Percy and his parcel showed up covered in slate dust, and James could not help but comment on the situation. James thought that Percy should go straight to the party at Knapford, but Percy did not want to listen as he wanted to show Mavis his parcel. James brought the Fat Controller to the Steamworks. He greeted Toby and informed him that the tram's new whistle is a three-chimed steam whistle, the loudest and best whistle in the whole of Sodor, so booming that everyone will hear Toby coming, while also revealing that he used to have one of those. Sometime later, James and Emily casually greeted each other while puffing down the line.
James has had several mishaps, most of them caused by his pride of his paintwork. While using Toad as a brake van on a mainline goods train, he refused to slow down. When a coupling snapped, his train rolled down Gordon's Hill uncontrollably. Toad was able to stop the train before colliding with Thomas, who was pulling a special train with Sir Topham Hatt and his mother. Another incident occurred during a flood in the winter, when James and Rocky inadvertently knocked down a signal. When they stopped to rescue Duck from a flooded track, Oliver was unaware that the track was occupied. He saw them at the last minute, but it was too late to avoid a collision. Immediately afterwards, Percy came around the bend and ran into Oliver. James owned up to Sir Topham Hatt, admitting he should have waited for Rocky to be secured properly before leaving.
In Tale of the Brave, James teased Percy for being afraid of monsters. One night, he got asked to pull The Flying Kipper since Henry was on the mainland. While pulling the train, he heard a voice saying hello to him. It was Gator, but James could not see his face in the dark. James got scared by his unusual shape and raced away. As he raced out, he end up derailing at The Fenland Track. The other engines teased him about his accident, so James decided to play a trick on Percy so he would be teased instead. That night, when Percy was taking the mail, James used the Scrap Monster to scare Percy. The next day, he tried to apologise to Percy, but Percy thought James did not listen to him as he thought James was just coming to tease him again. The two engines later met at the Clay Pits and James decided to show Percy how brave he could be. He puffed into the pits looking for the monster, not noticing his whistle was shaking the cliffs. He saw a dinosaur skeleton sticking out of the cliff wall and raced backwards as fast as he could. But his whistling had started a landslide, so Percy pushed him forward and they raced to safety. Once Percy had been repaired, James apologised for teasing him.
In the nineteenth season, he and Gordon had heard about "Geoffrey". Later, James and Thomas were to work together to take football fans to and from Dryaw. However, the two ended up causing trouble because they were trying to see whether reds or blues were the best. James later came off the rails near a stone bridge and Philip rescued him by positioning himself underneath James.
In Sodor's Legend of the Lost Treasure, James teased Thomas for not waking up after having raced against Bertie and Henry for thinking he saw a ghostly sailboat before Salty told him, along with Edward and Henry, about a "lost pirate".
In the twentieth season, he became so conceited that his coaches were taken away. This put him in such a bad mood that he was left in the sheds until he was given a second chance. But his job of carrying waste trucks returned him into his grumpy mood. After being reprimanded, he changed his attitude, but it was not too long until he returned back to his old self again. Later, James was very excited to take the Fat Controller and the Mayor to Callan Castle for a special night. He was first doing his jobs all day long which turned out to be dusty, sticky and dirty. He then went to the Washdown and noticed a tiny scratch on his paintwork, so James went to the Steamworks to be repainted. However, James quickly left without letting his paint dry in time and when he made his way to pick up the Fat Controller and the Mayor, leaves stuck all over him. Embarrassed, James told Edward to take the Fat Controller and the Mayor to Callan Castle. The Fat Controller explained that James should have ignored the scratch to finish his special job whilst Edward vouched for James that he was working hard all day. James returned to the Steamworks to be repainted again and to let it dry. The Mayor told James he could take him to Vicarstown that night, to which James was very proud to do.
In The Great Race, James was one of the engines who laughed at Thomas for thinking the latter would be taken to The Great Railway Show. James would later be part of the show, competing in the Best Decorated Engine Parade alongside Emily, Carlos, Yong Bao and Rajiv. He and Emily lost to Rajiv, though he vainly assumed he was the winner at first.
In Journey Beyond Sodor, James was asked to take a goods train to the mainland in place of Henry, who had had an accident. However, Thomas sneaked off with the trucks instead, leaving James to run his branch line. When Thomas failed to return, James became fed up with running the branch line and went looking for him. However, he was tricked into going to the Steelworks with Hurricane and Frankie. James had decided to do one job there before leaving, but Thomas managed to find him and explained to him that Hurricane and Frankie will not let him leave, encouraging him to leave now. After making amends with Hurricane and Frankie and arranging for the experimental engines to work at the Steelworks, Thomas and James returned to Sodor.
In the twenty-first season, James was amongst many of the other engines who were confused about what jobs Dowager Hatt wanted them to do. He shows a new coach named Hannah that going too fast for a small coach like herself isn't wise. He also challenges Rosie to a race after she is repainted into her red livery.
James is very proud of his splendid red paintwork. He hates pulling trucks and believes that he should only pull coaches. He thinks himself superior to the others and can be shallow, boastful, naughty and vain, particularly to those who appear old-fashioned, weak, slow, or dirty. This has caused him to have somewhat of a rivalry with Percy, Toby and Duck. However, on a number of occasions, he has found himself in need of help from those whom he has insulted and is, in the end, apologetic. Even before he was repainted red he was rather boastful.
James was the last of the steam engines to retain a prejudice against diesels. However, after stalling on a cold day, he was rescued by the Works Diesel and James had to admit that nothing was wrong with diesels. This appears to be one of the few lessons that has stuck.
Since Season 17, James has also been portrayed as a prankster, often tricking or scaring the other engines for fun, or to get out of something he dislikes. Following a particularly mean-spirited prank he played on Percy in Tale of the Brave, this gimmick seems to have died down.
Despite everything else, James has shown a caring side, is normally hard-working and like everybody else, wants to be a responsible, reliable and really useful engine on Sir Topham Hatt's railway.
In The Island of Sodor: Its People, History and Railways, it is stated that James is based on a Class 28 locomotive from the Lancashire and Yorkshire Railway Horwich Works, itself a development of the Class 27. The Class 28 engines were designed by George Hughes and had Belpaire fireboxes, a Schmidt/'twin-plug' superheater and an extended footplate and sandbox.
James has been modified with an experimental leading pony truck (making him a 2-6-0 instead of a 0-6-0), six 5'6" driving wheels and a Fowler tender. In both the Railway Series and television series, James is depicted with a Fowler tender.
The Red Engine shares his basis.
Sodor "historian" Martin Clutterbuck has pointed out that James strongly resembles a G&SWR Class 403 "Austrian Goods" 2-6-0 from the Glasgow and South Western Railway, but with the addition of a Belpaire firebox. At any rate, the Reverend W. Awdry used an engine of this class to represent James on his model railway. It is possible that he rejected this prototype for James' official "biography" on the grounds that an English locomotive would be more likely to end up on Sodor.
James was originally painted in L&YR's mixed traffic black with red lining before his accident and was given his red coat with yellow stripes and black lining to cheer him up. Sometime during the 1960s, James' black lining was repainted blue and gold. James has the number "5" painted in bright yellow with a blue border on his tender sides. Throughout the Railway Series, the illustrators would make his cab roof either red or black. Clive Spong, however, has always made James' cab roof red. In the Railway Series, he carries two builder's plates on the sides of his cab.
In the television series, James has always been painted in the North Western Railway's red livery with gold stripes and black lining, with three exceptions: in the tenth season episode The Green Controller, when he was painted yellow and black, like a bumblebee, on Percy's orders. Then, in the thirteenth season episode, Tickled Pink, James was painted in a pink undercoat. Though he was painted red in his official debut episode, he was painted in his black livery from the Railway Series in The Adventure Begins and had lining on the back of his tender. This disappeared when he was given his red livery. In The Great Race, golden linings and flower designs were added to him for the best decorated engine parade.
In the magazine story, An Important Visitor, he was briefly incorrectly painted blue. Ironically, Sir Topham Hatt once threatened to repaint James blue due to him misbehaving.
The Mid-Hants Railway repainted a Southern Railway N Class 2-6-0, No. 31874, into the livery of James. The engine retained this colour scheme for many years and participated in the Railway Series Golden Jubilee celebrations at the National Railway Museum. However, following the withdrawal of the N Class in 1998, the Mid-Hants Railway quickly repainted its cousin-engine, a Southern Railway U Class 2-6-0, No. 31625, into James for the 1999 season. After the withdrawal of the U Class, the N Class reprised its role as James, only wearing a face during Thomas events. However, due to the fact that both of these engines were privately owned, they left the Mid-Hants Railway in 2014. For the Mid-Hants Railway's "Steam Railway" supported gala in September 2012, it was decided to repaint N Class No. 31874 in wartime black to carry its Southern identity of No. 1874; this meant that James no longer appears at the Thomas events at the Watercress Line.
However, the repainting of the engine created a stir among railway enthusiasts, who felt that it was wrong to paint a historic main line locomotive in such a garish livery. Nevertheless, the locomotive was popular with the railway's younger visitors.
On the East Lancashire Railway, the unrestored LMS 2MT 2-6-0 No. 46428 has been painted as James, although his face only appears during Day Out with Thomas events.
James on the Big Screen
James was voiced by Susan Roman in Thomas and the Magic Railroad. In the film, Thomas meet James at Tidmouth Sheds until Diesel 10 first arrived and told them to destroy the lost engine named Lady. Thomas, James and Gordon being arguing about who should have taken Mr. Conductor. After Mr. Conductor is helping to make James' itch go away, he told James about Mr. Conductor happily says that his red paint is bright and cheerful just like the gold dust and sends him off to work. He was also later at the Smelter's Yard when Diesel 10 arrived with Junior. He almost got thrown into the smelting pit by Diesel 10, but luckily Junior used his gold dust to teleport them to a spot near the magic buffers, where Mr. Conductor was waiting.
- A large-scale working replica of James, along with replicas of Thomas, Percy, Harold and Jack, was created by BBC Visual Effects for a tour in 2003. The battery powered locomotive is listed in the 2004 Guinness Book of Records as the largest model railway engine ever built, at 2.64 x 1.5 x 6.52 metres.
- In the Classic Series, James was formally introduced in the episode, Thomas and the Breakdown Train, which was said to have been his first day on the railway. However, he had appeared in every prior episode as an extra, or background character. This might have been done as a means to populate the scenes, similar to the Marklin engine used in later episodes.
- In Toby's New Whistle, James revealed that he once had a three-chime steam whistle.
- In the Greek narration of the Classic Series, James is called "Jimmy." From the thirteenth season onward, James has been referred to with his original name.
- James' ERTL model appeared in the American sit-com, Full House, in an episode titled "Be True to Your Pre-School".
- In the television series, James has been repainted in four different liveries, more than any other engine. These include his Black, Red, Busy Bee (Black and Yellow) and his pink livery.
- One of James' models is currently on display in Japan at the Hara Model Railway Museum (previously on display at Nitrogen Studios). Another model was sold to an unknown buyer.
- In an interview with SiF, Andrew Brenner stated James was one of his favourite characters, along with Toby, Bill and Ben.
- Nathan Clarke did an audio sample for James on his DAA Management Page.
- James' whistle is Thomas and Gordon's at a low G and middle D flat chime.
- James is named after James Furze, a friend of the son of the man who published the second book in the Railway Series.
- James is the only Sodor Steam Team member to not have a video for Meet the Contenders.
- As of Journey Beyond Sodor, James is the first and so far only member of the Steam Team to be voiced by the same actor for both the US and UK versions, with Rob Rackstraw assuming the role in the UK from this special onwards.
- However, Rob Rackstraw gives James a British accent, similar to Keith Wickham, in the UK, whereas in the US, it is more of an American accent. This therefore makes James the second character to be voiced by the same actor in both English versions, yet receive different accents in both scripts, with the first being Belle.
- James was originally drawn in "The Sad Story of Henry" from The Three Railway Engines as the engine that tried to push Henry out of the tunnel, however, children kept sending letters to Awdry asking why James was red before he was repainted in James the Red Engine. Awdry decided to make the Red Engine a different character altogether.
- Two of James' face masks, one happy and the other eyes shut, are now owned by Twitter user Thomas Merchandise.
- James went through several aesthetic changes in the television series:
- Season 3:
- His brake pipe now faces downwards.
- His pupils became smaller.
- Season 4:
- His window frames became smaller.
- His whistle sound changed to Duck's at three whole steps and a half higher in pitch.
- Season 5:
- His whistle changed back to how it originally sounded.
- His brake pipe now faces upwards.
- Thomas and the Magic Railroad:
- His brake pipe now faces downwards again.
- The curve on James' cab lining underneath his window became shallower.
- His pupils became bigger again.
- Season 6:
- His safety valve disappeared.
- Season 8:
- His eyebrows became longer.
- Season 9:
- His eyebrows became thicker.
- Season 10:
- His buffers were moved down slightly.
- The riveting on his front bufferbeam disappeared.
- His cab roof became rounder.
- His windows became smaller.
- Hero of the Rails:
- He increased in size, making the top of his boiler the same height as Gordon's. His cab, funnel and tender were also scaled up accordingly.
- The curve on James' cab lining became even more shallow.
- Season 17:
- He gained permanent lamps on his front and tender.
- The Adventure Begins:
- He is painted in his black Railway Series livery and received external brake shoes with wooden blocks added on his rear driving wheels. Following his accident, he still had his brake shoes, but the wood blocks were replaced and he was repainted into his current livery. This change only appeared in this special.
- His brake pipe now faces upwards again.
- His side rods became silver.
- Season 3:
|North Western Railway|
|Thomas • Edward • Henry • Gordon • James • Percy • Toby • Duck • Donald and Douglas • Oliver • Barry • The Austerity Engine • Daisy • BoCo • Bear • The Works Diesel • Pip and Emma • Peel Godred Engines|
|Bill and Ben • Harvey • Emily • Fergus • Arthur • Murdoch • Molly • Neville • Rosie • Whiff • Billy • Stanley • Hank • Flora • Victor • Charlie • Bash and Dash • Ferdinand • Scruff • Belle • Porter • Timothy • Marion • Glynn • Ryan • Diesel • Mavis • Derek • Diesel 10 • 'Arry and Bert • Salty • Dennis • Den • Dart • Sidney • Paxton • Norman • Philip • Hugo • Flynn • Winston • Stafford • Dustin|