- “You're finally in a poster. Maybe you are good enough after all!”
- ―Thomas seeing James in Edward's poster
James the Second Best is the twenty-seventh episode of the tenth season.
One morning, Sir Topham Hatt comes to Tidmouth Sheds with a photographer, declaring there will be a railway poster, and he needs an engine to be on the poster. James is confident that he will be on the poster, as he is a splendid engine, but Sir Topham Hatt chooses Edward to be the poster engine. Edward is very pleased, but James is shocked. So, as the photographer tries to take a picture of Edward, James puffs forward and blocks him. Sir Topham Hatt sternly orders James to leave, and James unhappily leaves the shed.
Later, the posters are up all over the railway, each bearing a picture of Edward. But that evening, James is upset, still wondering why Edward was chosen instead of him. Henry, Percy, and Thomas suggest that it is because Edward is gentle with his trucks, he does not mind doing dirty jobs, and he is always on time. This makes James cross, and he decides that he will do all those things as well to prove he is just as good as Edward.
At the coaling plant the following morning, Edward and Thomas are shunting coal trucks. Edward does his shunting gently, and when James arrives, he does the same thing. Thomas states that Edward has already finished and set off to deliver his coal, but James still wants to be just as good as Edward, so he rushes off to deliver his coal. All day, James delivers coal, and at the end of his job, he is very filthy. But at Maron, James tells Henry that he can get just as dirty as Edward, and feels that he is just as good as he is.
Later, James is being cleaned before his passenger train, but it takes a very long time to clean him. Percy cheekily tells James that he is late, and that Edward is always on time. James decides to take Gordon's express track instead of the branch line, and therefore, he will collect his passengers before Edward, and he will be good enough to be the poster engine.
James puffs off to collect his passengers, and he switches onto the express track, racing as fast as he can to get ahead of Edward. When James finally switches back onto the branch line, he is indeed ahead of Edward, but at that moment, the signal turns to red. James manages to stop, but Edward does not; he biffs into the back of James, pushing him straight into one of the posters. Edward apologizes for being unable to stop, but James owns up and admits it was his fault for pushing ahead.
Thomas puffs up on the track below and sees James; his face is sticking out of the poster in the exact position where Edward's face would be. Thomas cheekily laughs that James is finally in a poster, and that maybe he is good enough after all; James feels very silly.
Soon, Emily arrives with Sir Topham Hatt, who sternly tells James that his racing around the island has caused confusion and delay. Worse still, Edward's piston cyllinder has been damaged from the crash, meaning he cannot take the children to the seaside. Seeing the children sad that they cannot ride on the poster engine, James feels even worse. To make up for his accident, James offers to be Edward's back engine so he can still take the children, and Sir Topham Hatt agrees.
James sets off, pushing Edward and his coaches along towards the seaside. At Bluff's Cove, they stop to collect more passengers. The children cheer to see Edward, and they complement James as being a grand and kind engine. James feels proud and more useful than ever, and Edward remarks that the only thing more special than being the poster engine is being really useful.
- Sir Topham Hatt
- Emily (does not speak)
- The Photographer (does not speak)
- Stephen Hatt (cameo)
- Bridget Hatt (cameo)
- Refreshment Lady (cameo)
- The Storyteller (cameo)
- Gordon (mentioned)
- The Coaling Plant
- Hawin Croka Canal
- Bluff's Cove
- The Works
- The Washdown
- The School
- Crosby Tunnel
- Tidmouth Sheds
- The Main Line
- One of the Wellsworth station buildings is altered and used to portray Killdane, this could possibly be why Wellsworth never appeared in the tenth season.
- The narrator says that the Photographer was brought to Tidmouth Sheds, but the engines were at the works shed adjacent to Tidmouth.
- The posters Edward is on are inconsistent. Despite the photo being taken at the sheds, the posters depict him pulling two coaches on the mainline. In addition, one poster at Knapford features Edward without the coaches, however it is also very likely that multiple photos were taken of Edward.
- When Edward is pushing James and the camera speed slows as James derails, Edward's wheels are still moving forward.
- Despite his front crashing through the poster, only James' face is shown to have crashed through.
- James' face is loose when he is at the washdown.