James is a red mixed-traffic L&YR Class 28 engine with added leading bogey and Fowler tender 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.
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 realized 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 complains about Percy leaving for the harbour because now he has to "do Percy's job." Gordon advises James to pretend to be ill, which he does. Thomas happily takes James' trucks for him, but they play tricks on Thomas. James and Gordon sincerely apologize for getting Thomas into trouble, and Thomas forgives them.
In Percy, James and the Fruitful Day, James calls 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’s to pull a train of fruit, he ends up breaking down, leading to Percy excessively teasing him about it before ending up in a crash of his own. James also teases Percy for finding a scarf (trousers wrapped around his funnel) and leaves to tell Henry, who actually feels sorry for Percy. Along with Henry and Duck, he also teases Percy for thinking that he’s 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 doesn’t 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 causes Gordon to become tired so James does his work. This is a prospect that absolutely delights James; the narration states that “he liked to show off his smart red paint and was determined to be as fast as Gordon.” James boasts to “little Toby” that he’s an important engine, “regular as clockwork, never late, always on time.” Later James complains about being late when he hears the news about a dehydrated Toby stranded on the main line and is not happy that he has to push Toby along. He arrives at “the Works station” later than the express was scheduled to arrive. In The Trouble with Mud, as James gets ready to take the express in Gordon’s stead again, he ignores 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 offers to push behind, and James accepts the help.
In his next appearance, James is stated to supposedly brighten up everyone’s day. He brags to Thomas and Percy that he is the most useful engine on the line. Thomas calls this rubbish, and Percy calls out James on getting all puffed up. Later, he boasts to Gordon that he’s the pride of the line, but Gordon says that James is a mere goods engine and doesn’t pull coached very much. As a trick, James tells Thomas that he’s supposed to take Gordon’s express, leaving Thomas to give Gordon the trucks. James thinks his plan clever, but the Fat Controller sends him to the sheds until he is wanted. Gordon and Henry tease James (asking who will take the express). When James goes back to work, Thomas is glad to see him out and about, and James apologizes for tricking him. Thomas kindly gives James his trucks, and James takes them to the harbor, working very hard until it’s time to go home.
In the season four episode Paint Pots and Queens, James believes that he is the obvious choice to pull the Royal Train, but Henry doesn’t agree given James’ struggle climbing the hill with the express in the season three episode The Trouble with Mud. 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 have no sympathy for Thomas and Percy when the latter two are being hassled by Cranky. James says 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’re called bugs.
Starting with the fifth season, James has shown a different side. Despite his generally agreeing with Gordon such as in the above example, he becomes cross at Gordon’s constant complaining (Gordon once again calls him small), considers Gordon breaking down to serve him right for being full of himself, and has no sympathy for Gordon’s fire being unable to light. Throughout the season, Thomas often tries 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”), while scoffing at the job that Percy actually is doing – clearing the line of branches and trees that are too close. James is forced to eat his words when he comes across an unstable tree “standing” on the line about to fall over. Before the tree could fall on him, he is saved by Thomas. James once again complains about his work in front of Thomas when he says that the Fat Controller is working the engines harder than ever and during holiday time. Thomas tells James to think about others for a change, and James does when he takes a sad Mrs. Kyndley on a mystery tour to the fairground, which cheers her up. James tells 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. When he learns that Harold is showing a special visitor around the Island instead of any of the engines, he says, “Engines are meant to take visitors around our Island, not that whirlybird thing!” He has an extreme distaste toward the Horrid Lorries (Lorry 1 in particular, calling him “Despicable”), and considers 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!” (Before Harvey proved how useful he is). 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 “saves” the balloon after it falls on him by billowing smoke at causing it to rise, it wasn’t intentional. The Fat Controller explains that while the balloon carries holidaymakers, they still need an engine to take them home. This puts James in a much better mood, and he starts dreaming he can fly like the balloon.
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 says, “Very useful!” When Percy finds himself in the middle with trucks in front and behind, James laughs at him. Percy telling the Fat Controller about ‘Arry and Bert making him a middle engine prompts James to remark that he “could handle those diesels with bent buffers and a busted boiler” so the Fat Controller has James do Percy’s run to the smelters while Percy shunts trucks in the yards. Nonetheless, ‘Arry shunt trucks in front of James (ironically calling him little) to make him a middle engine, and Bert jeers, “Just like Percy!” James vehemently takes offence to this and refuses to move. The Fat Controller sends Percy to fetch James, and Percy brings all the trucks plus James to the docks. Percy says that James is learning to be a middle engine, and James tries to conceal himself with steam. Right before a big freeze, an eager James and Percy are given a job that James would later consider top priority: delivering extra coal to the stations. Thomas teases them about running into Jack Frost, but James is dismissive and considers Percy to be silly for being steamed up over Jack Frost. But James gets a fright when he sees an ice-bound Percy with spiky icicles on his face, believing it to be Jack Frost. The next morning, James brags to the other engines about it, but Percy points out that James ran away. The engines whistle, including James. Later, when Percy said that getting dirty much more frequently makes washdown more of a necessity for him than Gordon, who only does it to feel important, and Gordon insists that he is important, James says that Percy is being pouty. Also, when Alicia Botti was coming to the Island, James was certain he'd collect her due to being the brightest and the shiniest. Gordon says, "Nonsense, I'm the most important." Both engines appear cross when Thomas is chosen instead.
When Gordon breaks another record, a smug and unimpressed James says that speed isn’t everything, but Gordon retorts that he’ll never understand. Later, when Thomas and Henry are teasing Gordon for being overrun by Thomas and the Jet Engine, James brushes 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!” However, when Gordon returns from the works after a horrific accident feeling very unhappy with himself, James informs him that Salty’s sorry for their earlier argument, and Gordon apologizes for being too full of himself. Later, when Gordon calls Edward a useless old steampot that should be retired, James agrees with him. James is among the engines who are pleased when they hear Duck will help them while Edward is busy teaching Stepney how to run the new loop line. James is also seen smiling at Knapford as he beholds 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 is to collect the mayor, he tells a dust-covered Percy to keep his dirt away from him. Later, Gordon presents the chance for “important work”, and James immediately jumps on the opportunity, but he’s dismayed when he finds out that it’s taking a leaky old barge to the works. Throughout the journey, James is primarily concerned about staying shiny and clean, especially when oil spills everywhere, as opposed to the accident that just happened. James takes the barge to the Sodor Ironworks without getting dirty, but Percy blows dust on him anyway. In the eighth season, an inspector is to give a prize to the best engine during his inspection, and James thinks he'll give it to a red engine. He, along with Emily and Gordon, occupy the washdown area, preventing Thomas and Percy from using it. When the big engines have all been cleaned, they try to find the sunniest spot in the yard, but James accidentally triggers the coal hopper, causing it to pour out coal and ruining their looks. The prize goes to Thomas and Percy, whose hard work had made them dirty, and they had just returned from the washdown. When James gets a new coat of paintwork, he considers himself very special due to being splendid and being really useful, and Thomas reminds him that those things are not the same. James’ excessive showing off of his new coat to people and reflections makes him very late for work. As a result, he has to take a very long line of coal trucks to the docks. Though initially happy that he’s going to a place full of people to show off to, the coal flying everywhere ruins his look. James ends up seeing the funny side.
Since then, James has balanced his pride of his paint and pride of his job, but when he gains a job he considers top priority (delivering coal to all the stations), he doesn’t wait for water or helping Edward, which eventually leads to James running out of water and Edward being too restrained on time to help. Salty come to help James and tells him that no job is more important than helping another engine. James sees a broken down Diesel and helps him to the fitter’s yard before proceeding with his coal deliveries, which he completes on time. The Fat Controller praises James for that and for learning his lesson.
In the ninth season, when James sees the chance for a job he really wants (pulling the presents train), he aims to finish his current job as fast as he can so that he can take it. Unfortunately, he is saddled with Edward, whom James is sure he'd be slowed down by. He ignores Edward's advice to slow down and apply his brakes on the icy rails, and he ends up derailing. Once again, Salty comes by, and Sir Topham Hatt chastises the two for not taking care, but James owns up that it was his fault for ignoring Edward's advice. James offers to be Edward's back engine, and Sir Topham Hatt agrees as long as James goes slowly and takes care. James learns to take care just like Edward.
In the tenth season, James thought that he would be the poster engine, but Sir Topham Hatt chooses Edward. His friends tell him that Edward was chosen because he is gentle with his trucks, doesn't mind doing dirty work, and is always on time. James decides to show that he's good enough to be the poster engine by doing all those things. James does become gentle with the coal trucks, but he finds out that Edward already delivered all his coal so James works 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 makes him late. To make up for lost time and get to his passengers before Edward, James races along the main line. He ends up cutting in front of Edward, and the two end up crashing. Edward apologizes for the crash, but James admits that it was his fault. Once again, he offers to be Edward's back engine so that the children can still go to the seaside despite the damage done to Edward.
In the eleventh season, after returning from the works, James hopes he gets an important job so he immediately volunteers to take the mayor to the Festival of Light at the Scottish Castle. James is excited to be the star of the show. Emily asks James if he can help her, Thomas, and Percy with their jobs so that they can see the festival, but James says he can't as he considers it more important that he looks smart for his job. James refuses 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 has special flags fitted and passes by the Scottish Castle, where he finds no engines. Realizing that they're going to miss the festival, James sets off to help so that they could see him being the star of the show, but he ends up helping them despite being covered in coal dust, quarry dust, and fish. His decorations end up being damaged as well. When he arrives at the castle with the mayor, the Fat Controller calls James a very hard working and really useful engine for helping his friends and safely delivering his important passenger.
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.
In "Journey Beyond Sodor" James will be stuck on the Mainland and Thomas must help save him and bring him back to Sodor.
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