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One day, the Fat Controller sent James to be repainted. The workmen give James a new shiny coat of red paint and polishes him until he sparkled. James rushes back to the sheds to boast about his new coat of paint which annoyed the other engines.
Next morning, Percy is working at the coal mine, but he keeps thinking about James' new coat of paint. He wishes that he could be repainted, too. The Fat Controller goes to see James at Tidmouth Sheds and instructs him to assist Percy at the coal mine.
On his way to the mine, James goes past the canal and sees his reflection in the water. Although he is supposed to be in a hurry, James decides to stop and admire himself for a while. At the mine, Percy is working very hard, but he cannot manage all of the trucks alone. The yard manager is cross; James should have arrived by now. However, James is still thinking about how splendid he looks.
It is late by the time James gets to the mine. Percy is worn out and the yard manager tells James that he must make up for lost time by taking an extra long line of trucks to the docks. James is delighted; the docks are full of people who will be able to admire his smart new coat of paint. Percy warns James about the naughty trucks, but James is too busy thinking about people admiring him to listen.
During the journey to the docks, the trucks rock and bump sending soot and coal flying everywhere. It is not long before James is covered in thick black dust. He puffs quietly into the docks, hoping that no-one will see him. Percy teases James who now feels very silly indeed. He apologises to Percy and promises not to be so vain in the future.