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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 settling into their new lives on the Island of Sodor, but due to their bad paintwork and old-fashioned style, 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.


"Ugh! What Dirty Objects!"

Later, at the end of the line, James leaves his coaches and prepares 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 his dislike 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 out of control through Maron station, crashes into a line of tar tankers, and derails.

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 splendid red engine, his paint is never supposed to look dirty. An embarrassed James pretends he had not heard them. Percy and Toby 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.

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 her the good news while James remains silent, knowing full well that he is the "dirty object".




  • 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 and end were cut.
  • When James crashes into the tar wagons, the crash sound in both Ringo Starr versions is much louder than all the other versions, including George Carlin's narration.
  • In most narrations, Percy whistles after Toby's bell as they set to work clearing the mess and freeing James. It 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.
  • 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 changes to brown after being grey for the majority of the episode.
  • In the shot of the tar wagons, James cannot be seen racing through the station.
  • When James crashes, the truck at the front is missing its buffers and face. Blu tack 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 Percy and Toby arrive at the yards, the man next to the Fat Controller has blu tack on his feet.
  • When Toby asks James why he is red, he is missing his eyebrows.
  • When James says "Dirty trucks 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 the Fat Controller, he has a hole in his chin.
  • In Ringo Starr's US narration, when James says "Blegh!" and 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.
  • When Toby was talking to James, Percy's coupling hook is not hooked to him.


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 곤경에 빠진 제임스 (DVD Acadady) / 검둥이가 된 제임스 (재능TV)
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

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