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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.


Toby and Henrietta are settling into their new lives on the Island of Sodor, though they still look very old-fashioned and could use new paint. Due to their bad paintwork, the two become a subject of scorn for James who calls them "dirty objects". Offended, Toby asks why James is red and James says that it is because he is a splendid engine who is never dirty and ready for anything. Toby then teases James by reminding him of the bootlace incident, causing James to become angry.


"Yech, what Dirty Objects!"

Later, at the end of the line, James leaves his coaches and readies for his next train. He picks up a line of trucks for a slow goods train at each station. James' mood is worsened due to the hate of slow goods trains. Although the trucks start off behaving well, James is so rough with them that they end up being determined to pay him back. As he starts to climb up Gordon's Hill, James is supposed to stop and have his brakes pinned down. James, who had an accident with trucks before, should remember this, but forgets as he is too busy thinking of what he will say to Toby next time they meet. Seeing their chance, the trucks push James down the hill. Unable to stop, James runs through the station and crashes into a couple of tar tankers and derails along with all his trucks.

Although James is not badly hurt, he is covered from smoke box to cab in tar, while the tar tankers and some of the trucks are completely destroyed. Percy and Toby come to help clean up the mess and Toby makes fun of James reminding him that, as a red engine, he is supposed to look splendid and ready for anything. Percy and Toby take a sticky, dirty and rather very messy 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.

The Fat Controller awards Toby a new coat of paint and accepts Toby's request that Henrietta have one as well. Toby happily runs off to tell his coach the good news while James remains silent, knowing full well that today he is the "dirty object".




  • This episode is based on the story of the same name from The Railway Series book, Toby the Tram Engine.
  • When James races down the hill, the footage is sped up.
  • A deleted scene of James crashing into the tar tankers is used in the song, Troublesome Trucks.
  • Stock footage from Troublesome Trucks is used.
  • On 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 the Shining Time Station episode, A Dog's Life, a few seconds of the beginning got cut.
  • When James crashes into the tar wagons, the crash sound in the Ringo Starr version is the loudest out of all the other versions.
  • In all of the other narrations, Percy whistles after Toby's bell. It is absent in both of the Ringo Starr narrations.
  • This episode marks the last appearance of Maron Station until the sixth series episode, Percy and the Haunted Mine.
  • A CGI recreation of James' crash was made for the twenty-third series episode, Chucklesome Trucks.


  • When James leaves Elsbridge, his brake coach is at the rear 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.
  • During the stock footage, when James is on Gordon's Hill with the trucks, a piece of string can be seen pulling him up.
  • When James races through Maron, his brake van becomes brown.
  • In the shot of the tar wagons, James cannot be seen racing through the station.
  • The narrator said there were two tar wagons, but there are four.
  • When James crashes, the truck at the front is missing its buffers and face and a crew member’s hand can be seen pushing James. Blu-tak is also visible in James' tender.
  • In the scene prior to James rushing through the station, a signal tower can be seen showing "all clear", even though the train of tar wagons is on the line ahead. The signal before Maron also shows "all clear".
  • In the Latin American version, when the narrator says "they run into their buffers and pushed him down off the hill.", James is incorrectly referred to as Henry.
  • When James crashes into the tar wagons, he comes off the rails, but when Toby and Percy come to help, his position of derailment changes.
  • When Toby says "...and you never see his paint dirty!" the edge of the set is visible.
  • When James, Percy and Toby arrive at the yards, the man next to the Fat Controller has blu-tak on his feet.
  • When Toby asks James why he is red, he is missing his eyebrows.
  • When James says "Dirty trucks/cars from dirty sidings!" his eyes are misaligned.
  • In a picture of Percy and Toby teasing James, a few of the workmen can be seen fallen over, one of whom appears to be missing legs.
  • When James is ready to pull the trucks, chuffing sounds are heard before he moves and the tracks next to him come to an end.
  • In the close-up of James going down Gordon's hill, his tender is missing.
  • When James arrives at Elsbridge, his eyes jump up before he stops in the station.
  • In the close-up of Sir Topham Hatt, he has a hole in his chin.
  • In Ringo Starr's US narration, when James says "Blagh!" and when Sir Topham Hatt 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

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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 강등이가 된 제입스
Norwegian Møkkete Saker
Polish Brudne Pojazdy
Romanian Obiecte Murdare
Russian Грязнули
Serbian Prljave Lokomotive
Slovak Spinavé Predmety
Slovenian Umazančki
Spanish Objeto Sucios / James en Problemas
Swedish Smutsig Last
Thai เจมส์มอมแมม
Ukrainian Брудні предмети
Welsh James a'r Tryciau

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