Thomas the Tank Engine Wikia


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This article is about the engine. You may be looking for the Railway Series book, the magazine story, the 1991 board book, the 1999 board book, the Story Library book or the Engine Adventures book.
"I am a splendid engine, ready for anything. You never see my paint dirty."
— James, Dirty Objects, first season




  • Number: 5
  • Class: L&YR Hughes Class 28
  • Designer: George Hughes
  • Builder: Horwich Works
  • Built: 1912/13
  • Configuration: 2-6-0
  • Arrived on Sodor: 1924-5

James is a red mixed-traffic L&YR Class 28 engine who can sometimes be vain and boastful. All the same, he means well and is a hard worker. He regularly works on the Main Line.

Bio in the Railway Series

James was designed by George Hughes and built at Horwich Works in 1912/13. He was an experiment of the 28 class 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 28 class'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. In 1924-5, James was sold to Sir Topham Hatt for mixed traffic duties, at which time he was still painted in mixed-traffic 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.

James was now a troublesome and vain engine when he returned, ruining Sir Topham Hatt's new top-hat with his steam and jarring his coaches so much that a brake pipe leaked. He was threatened with being painted blue (which James detests), 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 using special coal, 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, 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 Donald, 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 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 recognize 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.

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 teases Percy for being afraid of monsters. One night, he gets asked to pull The Flying Kipper since Henry is on the mainland. As he is pulling the train, he hears a voice saying hello to him. It is Gator, but James cannot see his face in the dark. James gets scared by his unusual shape and races away. As he raises out, he end up derailing at the Fenland track. The other engines tease him about his accident, so James decides to play a trick on Percy so he will be teased instead. That night, when Percy is taking the mail, James uses the Scrap Monster to scare Percy. The next day, he tries to apologise to Percy, but Percy will not forgive him. The two engines later meet at the Clay Pits and James decides to show Percy how brave he can be. He puffs into the pits looking for the monster, not noticing his whistle is shaking the cliffs. He sees a dinosaur skeleton sticking out of the cliff wall and races backwards as fast as he can. 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 "Sodor's Legend of the Lost Treasure", James teases Thomas for not waking up after having raced against Bertie and Henry for thinking he saw a ghostly sailboat before Salty tells him, along with Edward and Henry, about a "lost pirate".

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, both James and Thomas 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 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 is 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 goes to the Washdown and notices a tiny scratch on his paintwork, so James goes to the Steamworks to be repainted. However, James quickly leaves without letting his paint dry in time and when he makes his way to pick up the Fat Controller and the Mayor, leaves stick all over him. Embarrassed, James tells Edward to take the Fat Controller and the Mayor to Callan Castle. The Fat Controller explains that James should have ignored the scratch to finish his special job whilst Edward vouches 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 tell James to take him to Vicarstown tonight, 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.


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 engine 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.



L&YR Class 28

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 Works, itself a development of the Class 27. The Class 28 engines were designed by George Hughes and had Belpaire fireboxes, a Schmidt superheater and an extended footplate and sandbox.


Fowler Tender

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.

Sodor "historian" Martin Clutterbuck has pointed out that James strongly resembles a G&SWR "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.

In the television series, James has always been painted North Western Railway red 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 certain flowers were added to him for the best decorated engine parade.

In the Railway Series, he carries two builder's plates on the sides of his cab. In the magazine story, An Important Visitor was briefly incorrectly painted blue. On occasion, Sir Topham Hatt has threatened to repaint James blue due to him misbehaving.

James' Twins

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 means that James will no longer appear 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, James was present when Diesel 10 first arrived at Tidmouth Sheds. He was also 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.



Learning Segments:



James also appeared in the magazine stories, A Colourful Christmas, A Job for James, A Long Way Up!, A Special Story about Steam, Back-to-Front, Bricks and Tunnels, Building Blues!, Clever Climbers!, Coal Weather, Daisy's Day, Diesel's Drums, Diesel's Nasty Turn, Doctors and Nurses, Fast Food!, Fish and Fog!, Fishy Diesel!, Flying James, Glider Rider, Gordon the Town Engine, Harvest, Jack Frost, James and Edward, James and the Cheese, Lazy Wheels, Leaves on the Line, Looking Splendid, Lost and Found, Luggage, Missing Murdoch, Party Time!, Percy's House, Percy's Plight, Percy's Spooky Tooth, Picture Posters, Puzzles, Railway Open Day, Really Useful Edward, Rushing Around, Scaredy Puffer!, Sea Sick, Seeing Steam, Ship Ahoy!, Size Wise, Sodor's Strong Man, Sodor Goes Pop!, Special Passengers, Special Treats, Stick with Steam, Taking Off!, The Best Band, The Best Engine, The Cat Controller!, The Flower Dome, The Flyover!, The Haunted Mine, The Smartest Engine, The Smugglers, The Tiny Engine and The Very Important Job.

Voice Actors


  • 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 Toby's New Whistle, James revealed that he once had a three-chimed whistle.
  • In the Greek narration of the Classic Series, James is called "Jimmy". From thirteenth season onwards, James has been referred to with his original name.
  • In the television series, James has been painted 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 Railway Museum (previously on display at Nitrogen Studios). Another model was sold to an unknown buyer.
  • In an interview with SiFAndrew 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.
  • James went through several aesthetic changes in the television series:
    • Season 3:
      • His brake pipe now faces downwards.
    • Season 4:
      • His whistle sound changed to a higher-pitched version of Duck's, except in Bowled Out.
      • The brass window frames on his cab became smaller.
    • 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.
    • Season 6:
      • His safety valve disappeared.
    • Season 10:
      • His buffers were moved down slightly.
      • The riveting on his front bufferbeam disappeared.
    • Season 12:
      • His signature crow's feet thinned.
      • His eyebrows became thicker.
    • 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, though his cab roof became rounder and his cab windows became slightly smaller.
      • The curve on James' cab lining became even more shallow.
      • His signature crow's feet thickened.
    • Season 17:
      • He gained permanent lamps on his front and tender.
    • The Adventure Begins:
      • Painted in his black Railway Series livery and received external brake shoes with wooden blocks were 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.



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See also

North Western Railway
ThomasEdwardHenryGordonJamesPercyTobyDuckDonald and DouglasOliverBarryThe Austerity EngineDaisyBoCoBearThe Works DieselPip and EmmaPeel Godred Engines
HarveyEmilyFergusArthurMurdochMollyNevilleRosieWhiffBillyStanleyHankFloraVictorCharlieBash and DashFerdinandScruffBellePorterGlynnRyanDerekDiesel 10'Arry and BertSaltyDennisDenDartSidneyPaxtonNormanPhilipFlynnWinstonStafford

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