Thomas the Tank Engine Wikia
The Railway Series

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 and is the railway's number 5 engine.

He primarily works on the Main Line, pulling both passenger and goods trains.


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.[1]

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[2]. 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.[3]

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.[4]

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.[5] 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.[6]

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.[7]

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.[8]


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, and Henry. 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, though he often feels remorse and guilt for his actions, often leading to his apologies coming out meekly.

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.

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

The Rev. W. Awdry's original model of James was modified from that of a G&SWR 403 Class 2-6-0 and early materials related to Awdry's model layout indicate this was originally considered to be James' prototype.[9]


James is painted in scarlet red with blue lining and yellow cab window frames. He has gold boiler bands and a brass dome. His number (5) is painted on his tender in yellow with a blue outline. He has a black running board with red bufferbeams and valences.

Prior to Main Line Engines, James had black lining instead of blue. Additionally, between James the Red Engine and Oliver the Western Engine, the colour of his cab roof was inconsistent: sometimes black, sometimes red. Since Clive Spong took over as illustrator, James has been consistently illustrated with a red cab roof.

When he first arrived on Sodor, James was painted black with red lining and boiler bands; his red livery was given to him to cheer him up after the accident on his first day.


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See Also


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