- “Diesels don't use coal and water. How can you trust an engine who isn't normal in his habits?”
- ―James, Old Stuck-Up
James and the Diesel Engines is the twenty-eighth book of the Railway Series.
To hear James talk sometimes you might have thought that he ran the Fat Controller's Railway on his own. He certainly needed no help from diesels - or so he imagined. The other engines were more sensible and realised that diesels could take some of the weight off their own couplings. But now the Fat Controller tells me that James has had a change of heart. These stories tell you how it happened.
BoCo is showing a visiting diesel around the line. When the diesel finds he is to share the shed with steam locomotives, he is disgusted and insults them, leading James to nickname him "Old Stuck-Up". The diesel sleeps outside the shed and when he wakes up the next day, remembers he has to refuel and be cleaned. In the part of the shed where BoCo and Bear sleep is a cleaning stop. The diesel decides to use it, but goes forward too quickly, slips on the oily tracks and crashes into the back of the shed. After a stern talking to by the Fat Controller for insulting the North Western Railway, the diesel then goes home in disgrace.
The engines are fed up with James' complaining about diesels having two cabs and boasting about his importance. He becomes worse than ever when he has to shunt a goods train one misty day. James has to whistle to alert the signalman to switch the points, but another engine whistles first and the confused signalman switches the points as a well wagon is going over them, causing it to go sideways into a signal, knocking it down in the process. Despite the fact that the accident was not James' fault, the Fat Controller speaks to him severely about it since it was an inconvenient loss.
During a discussion about paint one night, Henry remarks he is thankful he does not look like a fire-engine, like James, but James makes a crafty reply and the joke turns to Henry. Henry, furious, broods over paying James out and bangs around so much that the coupling on his tender breaks, causing him to be separated from his tender. Because they cannot get any more water, the crew is forced to throw out Henry's fire onto the line, but the sleepers start to catch fire. Edward comes to take Henry's train and tells the others later that day. Henry is given a temporary coupling to his tender and James notes that he has never made rude comments about fire engines since.
One wintry day, James takes on too much water at Crovan's Gate, which makes the water overflow on his filler-cap and freeze it, causing his injector to fail. A diesel comes to the rescue and although James feels humiliated at first, he quickly befriends the diesel and has since never made fun of diesels.
- Old Stuck-Up
- Sir Stephen Topham Hatt III (not seen)
- Douglas (does not speak)
- Bear (does not speak)
- Duck (cameo)
- Other British Railways Diesels (mentioned)
- Sir Stephen Topham Hatt III (does not speak)
- Toby (mentioned)
- King James I (mentioned)
- Edward (mentioned)
- Douglas (mentioned)
- Edward (does not speak)
- Flying Scotsman (mentioned)
- Gordon's Brothers (mentioned)
- Mavis (mentioned)
- The Fire Brigade (mentioned)
- Brendam Branch Line (mentioned)
- Paddington (mentioned)
- This is the first book that Sir Topham Hatt III runs the North Western Railway.
- This book marks the last of a few things:
- The last appearance of the old Tidmouth Sheds with eight berths.
- The last book in which BoCo's face is half green and half yellow.
- The last book in the Railway Series where Henry appears in all four stories.
- Bear's final appearance, excluding mentions in Gordon the High-Speed Engine and Henry and the Express.
- This book marks Edward's first appearance in the Railway Series since Main Line Engines.
- This book was published a few weeks before the first episode of Thomas the Tank Engine & Friends aired on television in the United Kingdom.
- The events of "Old Stuck-Up" took place in 1982 whilst the other three stories took place in 1984.
- Old Stuck-Up is based on a real event that happened to an A4 Pacific.
- In the adaptation James the Red Engine and the Signal, Duck is revealed to be the engine who whistled and the Signalman mistook in Crossed Lines.
- In "Old Stuck-Up":
- Henry does not have buffers in the second illustration.
- Douglas' name is missing on his name plate in the sixth illustration.
- In the first two illustrations of "Fire-Engine", Donald speaks but instead, Douglas is only seen.