- “Just a... Just a little scratch on your paintwork".
"Oh, a scratch. A scratch?! That isn't nothing! I can't pick up the mayor looking like this!”
- ―The Workman and James
All in Vain is the sixteenth episode of the twentieth series.
One autumn morning, the Fat Controller comes to Tidmouth Sheds and has very exciting news; he and the Mayor of Sodor are going to a ball at Callan Castle and he needs an engine to take both of them to the castle. James volunteers to do it, for which The Fat Controller agrees and James promises to do all his jobs without complaining.
At the docks, James boasts to Cranky about collecting the Mayor and the Fat Controller. Cranky, suddenly, slips some of the sugar sacks with sea water splashing all over James. James is worried that his paintwork will be ruined, but he just keeps smiling. Later, James passes Farmer McColl's farm when Thomas passes and accidentally splashes mud all over James' face. James is fed up, but still stays smiling. He then goes under the coal hopper, but Stafford is shunting trucks and James suddenly gets coal dusts flows down all over him. Along the way, James meets Edward at the Sodor Bakery. James tells him that he needs a washdown before he can meet the Mayor. Edward asks if James needs help to do all of his jobs, but James declines. At the washdown, a workman notices that James has a scratch in his paintwork. James is horrified and hurriedly rushes to the Steamworks. Victor is worried that his paint will not be dry on time. James knows that the wind to Callan Castle will be stronger and able to dry him on time.
After he gets repainted, James makes his way to collect the Fat Controller and the Mayor; however, his paint is not dry. The wind blows dusts, twigs and leaves onto James' paintwork. James later notices this and feels rather silly. James asks Edward to pick up Sir Topham Hatt and the Mayor for him.
Despite all of the hard work, the Fat Controller comes to the sheds and says that James should have ignored his scratch to finish his special job. Edward vouches for James that he was working very hard all day. With the rest of the engines giggling except Edward, the Fat Controller orders James to go back to the Steamworks to be repainted again.
Once James is back at the Steamworks, he is once again repainted and is waiting for his paint to dry. A surprise awaits James: the Mayor of Sodor. The Mayor tells James that Edward was happy to help in collecting him and the Fat Controller. James tells him that Edward was very kind. The Mayor decides that he will invite James to a dinner at Vicarstown. James is honoured to take him. The Fat Controller wants to go, but the Mayor says he will only be needing James tonight. By the end of the day, James is very proud to be taking the Mayor. Edward knows that James is more splendid than ever, for which James happily agrees.
- Sir Topham Hatt
- The Mayor of Sodor
- A Washdown Worker
- Annie and Clarabel (cameo)
- Kevin (cameo)
- The Bakers (cameo)
- The Dock Manager (cameo)
- Big Mickey (faceless, cameo)
- Lord Callan (mentioned)
- Tidmouth Sheds
- Brendam Docks
- Knapford Yards
- Sodor Bakery
- Farmer McColl's Farm
- The Washdown
- Sodor Steamworks
- Victor's Shed
- Vicarstown (mentioned)
- Suddery (mentioned)
- Callan Castle (mentioned)
- John Hasler as Thomas
- Keith Wickham as Edward, Henry, Gordon, James, Stafford, the Fat Controller and the Washdown Worker
- Nigel Pilkington as Percy
- Teresa Gallagher as Emily
- Matt Wilkinson as Cranky
- David Bedella as Victor and the Mayor of Sodor
- Joseph May as Thomas
- William Hope as Edward
- Kerry Shale as Henry and Gordon
- Rob Rackstraw as James
- Christopher Ragland as Percy
- Jules de Jongh as Emily
- Glenn Wrage as Cranky
- David Bedella as Victor and the Mayor of Sodor
- Keith Wickham as Stafford, Sir Topham Hatt and the Washdown Worker
- Going by production order, this is the twenty-fourth episode of the twentieth series.
- It is revealed that the Mayor of Sodor lives in Suddery.
- This episode marks the first time that Suddery is mentioned by name in the television series.
- Behind the scenes footage of the episode was shown during The Making of The Great Race.
- This was one of the five episodes that was incomplete at the time Arc Productions went bankrupt and was finished off by Jam Filled Toronto after Jam Filled Entertainment bought the aforementioned studio. The other four episodes affected were Cautious Connor, Tit for Tat, Mike's Whistle and Useful Railway.
- Going by the Channel 5 guide listing, this is the eleventh episode of the twentieth series.
- This episode marks Stafford's last speaking role to date.
- In the close-up of James leaving the sheds, his tender wheels do not move. When the scene changes to the overhead shot, James jumps from the centre berth track to the one Thomas is on.
- When James is at Brendam Docks the sugar on his face does not have much opacity but in the next shot the sugar on James' face is a lot brighter.
- When Edward comes into Knapford as James leaves, he does not have a brake van, but when James passes him, he gains one.
- Throughout most of the episode, James' rear tender axle box is clipping through his rear bufferbeam.
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