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“Look here, Percy. Whatever is that dirty object?"
"That's James, didn't you know?"
"It's James' shape, but James is a splendid red engine,and you never see his paint dirty.”
―Toby and Percy teasing James

Dirty Objects, retitled James in a Mess in American releases, is the twenty-third episode of the first series. It is based on the story of the same name from The Railway Series book, Toby the Tram Engine.


Toby and Henrietta are enjoying their new lives on the Island of Sodor, but because of their paintwork and old-fashioned appearances, James often mocks them and calls them "dirty objects." One day, Toby asks why James is red and James says that it is because he is a splendid engine who is never dirty. Toby then teases James by reminding him of the time he needed bootlaces to mend a hole in his coaches, much to James' anger.

Later, at the end of the line, James leaves his coaches behind and stops at several stations to pick up trucks for a slow goods train at each station, in which he despises. Although the trucks initially behave well, James is so rough with them that they decide to pay him back. As he starts to climb Gordon's Hill, James should remember to have his brakes pinned down, given his previous accident with trucks, but he is too busy thinking of what he will say back to Toby. Seizing the opportunity, the trucks push James down the hill. Unable to stop, James flies out of control through Maron Station and collides with a line of tar tankers. Although James is not badly hurt, he is left completely covered in tar and the tankers are destroyed.

As Percy and Toby arrive at the scene, they both make fun of James, pretending not to recognise him due to his dirty paint. They take James back to Tidmouth Sheds where the Fat Controller is waiting. He commends Percy and Toby for their hard work and tells James he needs to be cleaned immediately. The Fat Controller awards Toby and Henrietta new coats of paint. Toby happily runs off to tell Henrietta the good news while James watches in silence, knowing full well that he is now the "dirty object."




  • Stock footage from Troublesome Trucks is used.
  • Deleted scenes of James crossing Maron Bridge and crashing into the tar tankers were later used in the song Troublesome Trucks.
  • During its original broadcast, this episode was paired with Thomas' Christmas Party. However, early VHS releases have it paired with Off the Rails, as do Norwegian and Swedish broadcasts.
  • In both Ringo Starr versions, when James crashes into the tar wagons, the crash sound is much louder than most other versions.
  • In most narrations, when the engines set to work clearing the mess, Percy whistles after Toby rings his bell. This is absent in both Ringo Starr versions.
  • This episode marks the last appearance of Maron Station until the sixth series episode Percy and the Haunted Mine.
  • The events of this episode were referenced by Douglas in the second series episode Break Van and by Thomas in the twenty-third series episode Chucklesome Trucks. The scene featuring James' crash was recreated in CGI during the latter episode.


  • When Toby asks James why he is red, he is missing his eyebrows.
  • When James leaves Elsbridge, his brake coach is at the back of his train, but when he arrives at Knapford, his brake coach has moved to the middle of his train and his whistle is crooked.
  • When James says "Dirty trucks from dirty sidings!" his eyes are wonky.
  • When James climbs Gordon's Hill with the trucks, a piece of string can be seen pulling him upward.
  • In the Spanish dub, when the narrator says "they run into their buffers and pushed him down off the hill," James is incorrectly referred to as Henry.
  • In the close-up of James going down Gordon's hill, his tender is missing.
  • When James races through Maron, his brake van changes from grey to brown.
  • The narrator states that James ran into two tar wagons, but there are actually four.
  • When Toby and Percy come to help James, his position changes.
  • When Toby says "...and you never see his paint dirty," the edge of the set is visible.
  • When Percy and Toby arrive at the yards, the man next to the Fat Controller has Blu-Tack on his feet.
  • In a close-up of the Fat Controller, he has a hole in his chin.
  • In Ringo Starr's US narration, when the Fat Controller says "Fancy letting your cars run away. I am surprised," the audio from the UK version can be faintly heard in the background.


In Other Languages

View content
Language Title
Brazilian Portuguese James em Problemas
Chinese 脏东西
Croatian Prljave Predmeti
Czech Špinavé Věci
Danish Gamle Dårligt
Dutch Een Vervelende Zaak
Finnish Sottaiset Surkimukset
French Des Objets Sales
German Dreckige Dinger
Hebrew חפצים מלוכלכים
Hungarian Piszkos Vonatok
Italian Che Sporcizia!
Japanese きたないきかんしゃ
Korean 곤경에 빠진 제임스 (JEI TV)
Norwegian Møkkete Saker
Polish Brudne Pojazdy
Romanian Obiecte Murdare
Russian Грязнули
Serbian Prljave Lokomotive
Slovak Spinavé Predmety
Slovenian Umazančki
Spanish James en Problemas
Swedish Smutsig Last
Thai เจมส์มอมแมม
Ukrainian Брудні предмети
Welsh James a'r Tryciau

Home Media Releases


DVD Boxsets




  • Coal and other stories
  • The Complete Series 1

DVD Boxsets

  • Complete Series 1-10
  • Classic Collection
  • Series One and Series Two Double Pack





  • The Flying Kipper







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