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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, and James leaves the station angry.

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, which he despises. Although the trucks initially behave well, James is so rough with them that they decide to pay him back. At the top of 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 through Maron Station and crashes into a line of tar tankers. Although James is not badly hurt, he is left completely covered in tar, while the tankers and some of his trucks are destroyed.

As Percy and Toby arrive at the scene, they both tease James, pretending not to recognize 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 rewards Toby with a new coat of paint and accepts his request that Henrietta have one too. 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".




  • An extended 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 of Ringo Starr's dubs, when James crashes into the tar wagons, the crashing sound is much louder than other ones.
  • Percy's whistling when the engines set to work clearing the mess is absent in both Ringo Starr dubs.
  • This episode marks the last appearance of Maron Station until the sixth series episode It's Only Snow.
  • 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 in the latter episode.
  • This episode was paired with Thomas' Christmas Party on its original broadcast at 9.45am after Danger Mouse. It aired individually a year later. Then it was paired again with Thomas' Christmas Party on 13th February 1989.
  • The crashing sound of James crashing into the tar wagons was in the 1983 film The Wind In The Willows.
  • This episode was never released on VHS and DVD in South Korea.


  • When James arrives at Elsbridge at the beginning, his eyes jolt up a bit.
  • 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 misaligned.
  • When James sets off with his long train, the chuffing sound can be heard before he starts to move.
  • When James ascends 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 groaning "I've got to stop! I've got to stop!" paying close attention shows that James is at a stand still for about a second, but his wheels are still moving.
  • When James passes the signal, the signal is given the "all clear" position, but there are tar wagons in the way.
  • When James races through Maron, his brake van changes from grey to brown.
  • James is nowhere to be seen in the close up of the tar wagons, even though he just passed Maron station.
  • A shovel is visible in James' tender when it should have fallen out.
  • A hand can be seen pushing James as he crashes into the tar wagons.
  • When James runs into the tankers, the truck behind him has no buffers.
  • The narrator says that James ran into two tar wagons, when there were four.
  • Studio equipment is reflected on James' tender when he crashes into the tar wagons. Also, Blu tack is visible in James' tender.
  • When Toby and Percy come to help James, his position changes.
  • When Toby and Percy tease James, Percy's eyes slightly jitter a few times, and his left eye (viewers' right) moves on its own for a second.
  • 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 tak on his feet.
  • In a close-up of the Fat Controller, he has a hole in his chin.
  • In Ringo Starr's US dub, when the Fat Controller says "Fancy letting your cars run away. I am surprised," the audio from the UK dub can be faintly heard in the background.


In Other Languages

View content
Language Title
Albanian Sende të pista
Brazilian Portuguese James Encrencado
Chinese Mandarin 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 (DVD Acadamy)
검둥이가 된 제임스 (JEI TV)
Latin American Spanish James en Problemas
Norwegian Møkkete Saker
Polish Brudne Graty (Original)
Brudne Pojazdy (Alternate)
Romanian Obiecte Murdare
Romansh Objects tschufs
Russian Грязнули
Serbian Prljave Lokomotive
Slovak Spinavé Predmety
Slovenian Umazančki
Swedish Smutsig Last
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







DVD Boxsets



DVD Packs





  • Thomas and Friends Season 1-4