Thomas the Tank Engine Wikia
For other uses, see James (disambiguation).

“You've made the most troublesome trucks on the line behave. After that performance, you deserve to keep your red coat.”
Sir Topham Hatt praising James[src]

James is a red mixed-traffic tender engine who works on the North Western Railway, usually working along the Main Line, and is number 5. He can be vain, boastful, and overconfident but means well and is a hard worker.


The Railway Series

James was designed by George Hughes and built by Horwich Works at some point between 1912 and 1913. He was designed as an experimental variation of the Class 28 locomotives, with a front pony truck installed at the front and 5'6" sized driving wheels instead of the class' usual 5'1" (added in an attempt to cure the "nose-diving" the class experienced when travelling at high speed), though unlike many other engines at the time, he was fitted with wooden brake blocks. The experiment did not entirely produce the results hoped for, and sometime after the Grouping, James was sold to the North Western Railway.[10] Shortly after he arrived on the Island of Sodor, James was severely damaged in a crash when his trucks pushed him down the line and his wooden brake blocks caught on fire. After being recovered from the wreck, James was sent to Crovan's Gate Works, where he was repaired, repainted red, and gained functional brakes[11]. He gained his Fowler tender around this time.

When James returned from the Works, he became vain and troublesome. While double-heading a passenger train with Edward, he accidentally showered water on the Fat Controller's new top hat, almost forgot to stop at the station, and disturbed an elderly lady with his hiccups. After being threatened by the Fat Controller with a coat of blue paint, James became resentful and started bumping the coaches around aggressively, though this backfired on him when one of the brake pipes began leaking and needed to be mended with a bootlace and some newspapers. Following this incident, James was shut up in the shed. When the Fat Controller finally allowed him out, James was assigned to a goods train to Killdane. Although he had some trouble when some of the trucks broke away, James managed to keep the train under control and deliver it to the station and was allowed to keep his red paint after the Fat Controller had seen everything.

Even though he had proven to be useful, James was still teased by Gordon and Henry for his past mistakes. However, after Gordon got lost and wound up at Tidmouth, James was allowed to take the express in his place. He did so successfully and he and Gordon became firm friends.[12]

When Thomas left Tidmouth to run the Ffarquhar Branch Line, James, Gordon and Henry became irritated, as they now had to fetch their own trains. After an incident on the turntable that left him humiliated, James, along with Gordon and Henry, decided to go on strike, refusing to leave the shed and behaving badly when they had to work. The Fat Controller eventually shut them up in the shed and had Thomas and Edward pull their trains, though he allowed them to come out when they were sorry.[13]

On more than one occasion, James has readily accepted help from those he insulted. When Toby and Henrietta came to work on Thomas' branch line, James insulted them by calling them "dirty objects" and boasting about how his red paint is never dirty. But later, some trucks pushed him down Gordon's Hill and he crashed into two tar wagons, spoiling his paint. Toby and Percy pulled James away, but not before Toby teased James about never having dirty paint.

Later, James was impatient with Edward for his clanking and being slow and late, comparing him unfavourably to "a lot of old iron". But when two boys played with James' controls and caused him to run away without anyone in his cab, Edward and an engine inspector came to his rescue and caught him. A weary James gratefully apologised to Edward for his insults and Edward forgave him.

When Diesel arrived on trial, James gained the nickname "Rusty Red Scrap-Iron". Believing that Duck was behind the insults, James, along with Gordon and Henry, turned against him. However, when Diesel was exposed and Duck was proven innocent, James and the other engines were sorry and welcomed him back.[14] James later recalled the events of Diesel's visit to Duncan, though he greatly exaggerated certain parts of the tale, making it seem as though he was the one who sent Diesel packing.[15]

James continued to treat diesel engines with hostility, long after the other steam engines had already accepted them. Despite the fact that he liked BoCo and Bear, James was openly unhappy with other diesels, believing them to be inferior in a reverse manner to how unfriendly diesels treat steam engines. However, when his injector froze one wintry day and he had to be rescued by the Works Diesel, James readily ended his prejudiced views, as the diesel had been friendly to him.[16]

In 2011, James was chosen by the Fat Controller to go to the Mainland to collect a bust of the Thin Clergyman and deliver it to Tidmouth. James did so, but on the way back the entrance to Henry's Tunnel collapsed. Thankfully, James had gone through the tunnel before it collapsed and made it to Tidmouth with the bust. He attended its unveiling alongside the other engines.[17]

Thomas & Friends

James' ego sometimes gets him in trouble. When he tried to switch his job of pulling trucks with Gordon's express train, he tricked Thomas to give him the express coaches by telling him that the Fat Controller ordered him to take the coaches. However, the Fat Controller heard about James' tricks from Gordon and his driver, and punished him by leaving him in the shed until he learned his lesson. The following day, he was allowed out to shunt trucks, but also got the chance to redeem himself when an inspector requested to ride with James to the Fat Controller. They arrived on time and the Fat Controller considered James a really useful engine.

James' ego has sometimes stopped him from following advice from others. When Percy and Terence tried to warn him about the dangers of trees getting too close to the line, he did not take any notice until a tree literally too close to the line slid on James' tracks. Luckily, Thomas came to his rescue and pulled James away just before the tree fell on him.

James' teasing has also backfired; after he saw Percy being a "middle engine" and made fun of him because of it, James later ended up being made a middle engine himself for which he was teased by Percy. ​​He's also shown to care a lot about his paintwork, having refused to help Percy at the coaling plant because of his admiration of it, wanting to stay nice and clean to be the star of the show and refused to travel across muddy tracks to not get it dirty.

After Thomas told Percy about footprints he had seen at the quarry, James started teasing Percy about a monster being on Sodor. After James himself ended up in mishaps of his own, he decided to make fun of Percy by making him think there was a monster. James was later forced by Thomas to apologise, but Percy refused to listen to what he thought was more of James' teasing which led to James venturing into the quarry to look for the footprints. This ended up causing a rockslide that Percy had to rescue him from, after which James apologised for everything.

The Adventure Begins

James in his original livery

James arrived on the North Western Railway sometime before Thomas' arrival and after Gordon, and he was originally painted black with wooden brake blocks, which were prone to burning up and emitting smoke when stopping. He originally owned Annie and Clarabel and believed that he would be given his own branch line, although the other engines doubted this.

When Thomas came to Sodor, James teased him on several occasions for making mistakes, often joining in with Gordon to make fun of him. However, one day, James ran out of control with a goods train and was unable to stop due to his brake blocks being on fire. Thomas chased after the train and tried to slow it down, but James flew off a bend and crashed in a field, the crash badly damaging him. Thomas rushed back to Knapford and retrieved Judy and Jerome, who helped to clear away the wreckage and placed James back on the rails. James was sent to the Steamworks to be mended, where he received his new red livery. Upon returning from the Steamworks, James found out that Annie and Clarabel now belonged to Thomas, who had been given the responsibility of running the Ffarquhar Branch Line. [18]

Thomas and the Magic Railroad

James in Thomas and the Magic Railroad

In the film, Thomas met James at Tidmouth Sheds until Diesel 10 first arrived and told them his plans to destroy the lost engine named Lady. James and Thomas rebelled against Diesel 10. Later on, Thomas, James and Gordon argued about who should have collected Mr. Conductor. After Mr. Conductor helped to make James' itch go away, James was sad because Diesel 10 said that red is a tiring colour, so Mr. Conductor happily said his red paint is bright and cheerful just like the gold dust and sent him off to work. Later, he and the other engines gathered for the meeting about their individual concerns about Diesel 10 destroying Lady. Some time afterwards, James appeared at the Smelter's Yard when Diesel 10 arrived with Junior. Junior landed onto James' cab and the two almost got thrown into the smelting pit by Diesel 10. Luckily, Junior used his gold dust to teleport them to a spot near the magic buffers, where Mr. Conductor was waiting. James departed and thanked Junior for his help. [19] In the original cut, he would have helped Junior and George defeat Splatter and Dodge by pushing a boulder in the diesels path, trapping them in a siding. He would have also been present at the well, along with Percy.


James is very proud of his splendid red paintwork. He dislikes pulling trucks (though not to the extent that Gordon does) and is so narcissistic that he thinks himself superior to the others and can be shallow, boastful, overconfident, arrogant, cocky, prideful, naughty and vain, particularly to those who appear old-fashioned, weak, slow or dirty. This has caused him to have somewhat of a rivalry with Edward, Percy, Toby and Duck, as well as Thomas, Gordon, Henry and even Philip lately on occasion. His vanity reached the point that he tried to block Edward from a photographer's view when Edward was having his picture taken and when he tried to get his work done quick so he can take the present train. In most cases, it takes scolding from others to make his penny drop, and even then it is too late to prevent trouble. He has acted like this even before he was repainted red. However, on a number of occasions, he has found himself in need of help from those whom he has insulted and is, in the end, apologetic.

James was the last of the steam engines to retain a prejudice against diesels, insulting them the same way other visiting diesels would insult the steam engines on Sodor, with BoCo and Bear barely being spared from his opinionated view. However, after stalling on a cold day, he was rescued by the Works Diesel and had to admit that nothing was wrong with diesels. This appears to be one of the few lessons that have stuck. Despite this, James can remain highly opinionated on someone's character, refusing to believe Sonny had given up life as a criminal, only to find out the hard way that when Sonny bumped him at the docks to save him from being splattered and dented by watermelons. In similar situations, James often feels remorse and guilt for his actions, often leading to his apologies coming out meekly.

James can also be somewhat and has been portrayed as a prankster at times, often tricking or scaring the other engines for fun or to get out of jobs he dislikes doing. However, following a particularly mean-spirited prank he played on Percy in the time he scared with a monster made of scrap, this gimmick seems to have died down. As of the meeting videos, he has been labelled as the "Joker" of the Steam Team by Thomas.

Despite all of that, James has shown a caring side to him. He has a heart of gold and wants to help anyone in a time of need. He is normally hard-working and, like everyone else, wants to be responsible, reliable and really useful on the Fat Controller's railway. Although his vanity usually hides it, James is capable of realizing when he crosses the line, and quietly mourns for himself and others once it occurs after an accident of his causing.

Of the three big engines, James is the most likely to criticize when he does not like something, though beyond this, his role in the trio between Gordon, Henry and himself is unknown.

Technical Details


James is based on a Lancashire and Yorkshire Railway (L&YR) Class 28, a class of 0-6-0 mixed-traffic tender locomotive designed by George Hughes for the Lancashire and Yorkshire Railway and built by Horwich Works between 1909 and 1912. Many were rebuilds of Aspinall's Class 27, with the addition of a Belpaire firebox, a Schmidt/ "Top & Bottom"/"twin-plug" superheater and the extension of the footplate and front sandboxes. One Class 27, 52322, survives and is operational at the Ribble Steam Railway.

According to The Island of Sodor: Its People, History and Railways, James is an experimental member of the Class 28s; he is fitted with a front pony truck (thus making him a 2-6-0 instead of an 0-6-0), 5'6" driving wheels instead of the class' original 5'1" ones and a Fowler tender. His front sandboxes also appear to be mounted underneath his footplate rather than joined to his leading splashers.

The Rev. W. Awdry's original model of James was modified from that of a G&SWR 403 Class 2-6-0 and materials related to Awdry's model layout indicate this was originally considered to be James' prototype.[20]

One of the unnamed red tender engines is also based on an L&YR Class 28 and has the same modifications as James.


James is painted in NWR scarlet red with black lining and gold boiler bands. His dome is brass and his number 5 is painted on the sides of his tender in yellow with black lining. In the Railway Series, James had blue lining instead of black lining after Main Line Engines. Between James the Red Engine and Oliver the Western Engine his cab rooftop colour was inconsistently illustrated as either black or red; however, since Clive Spong became illustrator, James has been consistently illustrated with a red cab rooftop. In some illustrations of the Railway Series, James has a golden builder's plate on the side of his cab.

James has also been seen in several other liveries aside from his red one:

  • In Thomas the Tank Engine, the second book of The Railway Series, James was painted black in "Thomas and the Breakdown Train". When he was reintroduced in the third Railway Series book James the Red Engine, he then received his red livery. In the TV series, he was originally depicted as having always been red, even when he was a new engine, most likely to save production costs; however, he appears in his black livery in The Adventure Begins. He also had a red lining on the back of his tender, which was removed after his repaint. This livery also appears in Meet James as part of a reference to the special. Unlike the television series, James has an L&YR tender in the Railway Series when he carried this livery, whereas in the television series, he had a Fowler tender throughout his appearances.
  • In The Green Controller, James was mistakenly painted in yellow and black stripes on Percy's orders. He was quickly repainted back into his original livery when the problem was noticed.
  • In Tickled Pink, James was painted in a pink undercoat before his standard red coat could be applied. Although he was said to be in an undercoat, James still retained his lining, number and black wheels and smokebox. This livery also appears in Meet James as part of a reference to the episode.
  • In The Great Race, James was painted in golden floral patterns for the Great Railway Show. He was painted back into his original livery when he returned to Sodor.
  • In An Engine of Many Colours, after hearing Kevin mention the Steamworks did not have any red paint, James dreamed he was painted in many different liveries including blue, green and silver and many more on a turntable near the last dream's final scenes. By the end of the episode, he was repainted in his standard red livery.


The Railway Series

Companion Volumes

Thomas & Friends


Music Videos

Learning Segments


Magazine Stories

James also appeared in the magazine stories, A Colourful Christmas, A Long Way Up!, A Special Story about Steam, Back-to-Front, Bricks and Tunnels, Building Blues!, Clever Climbers!, Coal Weather, Daisy's Day, Diesel's Drums, Diesel's Nasty Turn, Doctors and Nurses, Fast Food!, Fish and Fog!, Fishy Diesel!, Flying James, Gordon the Town Engine, Harvest, Jack Frost, James and Edward, James and the Cheese, Lazy Wheels, Leaves on the Line, Luggage, Party Time!, Percy's House, Picture Posters, Puzzles, Railway Open Day, Really Useful Edward, Rushing Around, Scaredy Puffer!, Sea Sick, Seeing Steam, Ship Ahoy!, Sodor's Strong Man, Special Passengers, Special Treats, The Best Band, The Best Engine, The Flower Dome, The Flyover!, The Haunted Mine, The Smartest Engine, The Smugglers, The Tiny Engine and The Very Important Job


Audio Files


First used Last used Composers Theme Song
Series 1 Series 1 Mike O'Donnell
Junior Campbell
Series 8 Series 12 Robert Hartshorne


First used Last used Sound Effect
Series 1 Learn with Thomas
First used Last used Sound Effect
Hero of the Rails Series 24

Throughout the fourth series, in some scenes of the fifth series and Thomas The Tank Engine (Kids Station Game), James incorrectly has Duck's whistle sound at seven steps higher in pitch.

First used Last used Sound Effect
Series 4 Go Go Thomas! (2014 version)

In Bowled Out, James is incorrectly portrayed with Smudger and Ryan's whistle.

First used Last used Sound Effect
Bowled Out

In Creaky Cranky, one scene in The Biggest Present of All and Kevin's Cranky Friend, James is incorrectly portrayed with Henry's CGI whistle.

First used Last used Sound Effect
Creaky Cranky Kevin's Cranky Friend

In one scene in Emily's Best Friend, James is incorrectly portrayed with Duck's whistle.

First used Last used Sound Effect
Emily's Best Friend

In the early version of the Guess Who? Puzzles segment, James is incorrectly portrayed with Gordon's CGI whistle.[21]

First used Last used Sound Effect
Guess Who? Puzzles

In James the Red Engine in the mobile app, Read and Play!, James is incorrectly portrayed with Edward's whistle.

First used Last used Sound Effect
James the Red Engine (Read and Play!)

In a Nick Jr. ad for Shining Time Station, James has a different whistle.

First used Last used Sound Effect
Nick Jr. Shining Time Station commercial

In The Whistle Song, James incorrectly has Stepney and Fergus' Whistle Song whistle.

First used Last used Sound Effect
The Whistle Song

In the Leapfrog books, James is incorrectly portrayed with a different whistle.

First used Last used Sound Effect

In 10 Stories from Thomas & Friends, James shares Thomas' whistle from the same sound book.

First used Last used Sound Effect
10 Stories from Thomas & Friends

In Building the New Line, James incorrectly has Henry's whistle at two steps higher in pitch.

First used Last used Sound Effect
Building the New Line

In a UK Nick Jr. 2005 promo, James is incorrectly portrayed with Gordon's Leapfrog whistle.

First used Last used Sound Effect
Nick Jr. 2005 promo

In Thomas and Toby Narrated by Simon Prebble and the mobile app, Read and Play!, James is incorrectly portrayed with Henry's whistle at an even lower pitch.

First used Last used Sound Effect
Thomas and Toby Narrated by Simon Prebble Read and Play!

In one scene of Thomas and the Sounds of Sodor, James is incorrectly portrayed with Henry's whistle at a lower pitch.

First used Last used Sound Effect
Thomas and the Sounds of Sodor

In Right on Time and one scene in Duck the Great Western Engine in the mobile app, Read and Play!, James is incorrectly portrayed with Percy's whistle.

First used Last used Sound Effect
Right on Time Duck the Great Western Engine (Read and Play!)

In the game Whistle and Peep, James is incorrectly portrayed with Stanley's whistle at a higher pitch.

First used Last used Sound Effect
Whistle and Peep


  • James is named after James Furze, a friend of Edmund Ward's son.
  • James is one of the two engines to be called a red nosed engine. The other being Thomas.
  • Michael Angelis gives James a Liverpudlian accent in the UK version of the live-action model era, but when the show switched from live-action to CGI animation, he gains a Cockney Londoner accent given by Keith Wickham and Rob Rackstraw. In the US dub, he consistently has an American accent, with the exceptions of Ringo Starr's US narrations for the first two seasons, the US narration of Gordon and Spencer done by Michael Angelis where he has his iconic Liverpudlian accent, and in both dubs of The Great Discovery where Pierce Brosnan gave both him and Gordon much more upper class voices.
  • James's catchphrase "Here's James!" seems to be a reference to Jack Torrance's catchphrase "Here's Johnny!" which is heard in the famous 1980 horror film The Shining. It can also be considered to be a reference to the line "Here's Brucey!" which is heard in the 2003 Pixar film Finding Nemo.
  • James was originally illustrated in The Three Railway Engines as the red engine who tried to push Henry out of the tunnel. However, children began sending letters to the Reverend W. Awdry asking why James was painted red prior to the events of Thomas the Tank Engine. In response, Awdry decided to make the Red Engine a completely different character altogether.
  • In Sodor: Reading Between the Lines, James is said to have been sold to the NWR in 1923; this creates anachronisms with events laid out in The Island of Sodor: Its People, History and Railways.
  • James' whistle is a synth version of Edward's whistle. A synth is a combination of two sounds to make a harmony. James' whistle is Edwards whistle 1 pitch lower combined with a 7 pitch lower version
  • In the first series, James was formally introduced in Thomas and the Breakdown Train, which was said to have been his first day on the railway. However, he had appeared in every prior episode as a background character. This may have been done to populate the sets, similar to how the Märklin Engine was used in later episodes.
  • A large scale working replica of James was built by BBC Visual Effects for a tour in 2003, along with Thomas, Percy, Harold and Jack. The battery-powered locomotive is listed in the 2004 Guinness Book of Records as the largest model railway engine ever built, at 2.64 x 1.5 x 6.52 metres.
  • James has been shown to be quite popular among several people who worked on the series:
  • In Toby's New Whistle, James revealed that he once had a three-chime steam whistle.
  • James was the character to have the most painted liveries.
  • Since the twenty-first series, James, along with Belle, are the only characters to have the same voice actors in both English dubs, albeit with different accents. He is also the only male member of the Steam Team to have the same voice actor in both English dubs.
  • In the French dub of the Model Series, James was known as Jacques.
  • On early Spanish translations of the Random House books, James was known as Jaime.
  • James' Wooden Railway, Wood, Plarail, Motor Road and Rail, Tomy and TrackMaster toys omit his pilot wheels, making him an 0-6-0 instead of a 2-6-0, much like the real members of his class.
  • James is the only 2-6-0 (mogul) locomotive in the television series to be named and seen.
  • Three of James' Wooden Railway toys (the original, lights and sounds and Team Colours variants) were among the toys that were part of the Lead Paint Crisis in 2005.
  • One of James' models is on display at the Hara Model Railway Museum and is currently wearing his alternate happy face. It had previously been on display at Nitrogen Studios without a face. Another is now owned by ThomasTankMerch with two of his faces (smiling and clenched). Another one was on display with the other Steam Team members, the Fat Controller, his crew, his car and Tidmouth Sheds on display at Drayton Manor and wore his happy face. Another was on display wearing his grinning face. His Wharf scale model was on display at the British Museum during the 70th Anniversary and was wearing his smiling face.
  • James' gauge 1 model had a total of twenty facial expressions during the model series era, one of which (a chuckling face) was not used on-screen. However, it appeared in a jigsaw puzzle.
    • His Wharf scale model had six facial expressions during the tenth series to The Great Discovery.


“Hello, I'm James. the number five red engine. I'm the brightest red engine on Sodor. Mind my paintwork.”
―James' website audio
“Here's James!”
―James' catchphrase
“I'm a splendid engine. Ready for anything. You never see my paint get dirty.”
―James to Toby in Dirty Objects
“Pulling the mail train is a job for a small engine, like Percy, not a splendid tender engine like me!”
―James to Thomas in The Smelly Kipper
“I'm the fastest red engine on Sodor!”
―James' second catchphrase
“Practice make perfect and that's what I am PERFECT”
―James to Thomas in James The Super Engine




* RWS only | ** T&F only | --- Dropped