James is a bright red mixed-traffic engine, who works as both a goods and passenger engine on the North Western Railway. After having an accident on his first day on Sodor, he was repainted to his current red livery.

James is proud of his shiny red paint and is rather shallow and vain, believing that he is better than any other engine on the line. Although his boastfulness can cause trouble, James means well, and strives to be a Really Useful engine.


The Railway Series

James was designed by George Hughes and built at Horwich Works in Horwich, Greater Manchester, England in 1912/13. He was an experimental engine of the L&YR Class 28, with a pony truck installed at the front in an attempt to cure the "nose-diving" issues his class went through when at high speed. Additionally, he was fitted with 5'6" driving wheels instead of the 5'1" wheels the rest of his class used. However, the experiment was not as successful as it had been hoped to be, and after the grouping of the LMS, James was sold to the North Western Railway. (Book; The Island of Sodor: Its People, History and Railways)

Unfortunately, when he first arrived on the Island, James ran out of control when the trucks pushed him down Gordon's Hill and his wooden brake blocks caught fire, preventing him from slowing down. James derailed in a field outside Wellsworth, and was rescued by Thomas. James was then sent to Crovan's Gate Works, where he was repainted from black to red and rebuilt with proper brakes and a Fowler tender, as his old tender was damaged beyond repair after his accident. (RWS; Thomas the Tank Engine)

When James returned from the Works, he became vain and conceited, and caused several problems for the Fat Controller. While double-heading a passenger train with Edward, James soaked the Fat Controller's new top hat when he wheeshed steam at him, tried to run past the first station and disturbed an elderly lady. The Fat Controller reprimanded James and threatened to take away his red livery and paint him blue, making James cranky and irritable, especially when he had to fetch his own coaches. James banged the coaches around so hard that he damaged a brake-pipe, which had to be mended with a passenger's bootlace and some newspaper. After this incident, James was shut up in the shed until he could behave better.

James eventually learned his lesson and got the chance to come out of the sheds, and was allowed to take a goods train to Killdane. Although some of the trucks broke away on the hill, James managed to get the train to the station safely, and was praised by the Fat Controller. He was allowed to keep his red paint, and did odd jobs around the yard. After Gordon got lost on the loop line, James was allowed to pull the express. He did so successfully, and became friends with Gordon. (RWS; James the Red Engine)

After Thomas left the yard and went to work on the Ffarquhar Branch Line, James grumbled about having to fetch his own trains. After he got stuck on a turntable spinning out of control, James had enough and refused to do his jobs, and when he did, he behaved badly. The Fat Controller shut him, Gordon and Henry up in the shed and allowed Percy, Edward and Thomas to do their usual jobs, but let the three big engines out when they apologized. (RWS; Troublesome Engines)

When Toby and Henrietta came to the railway, James teased them for their shabby paintwork, but got his comeuppance when the trucks he was pulling pushed him down the hill and through the station, causing him to crash into a goods train and covering him in tar from two of the wagons he destroyed. In the end, Toby was the one that came to his aid. (RWS; Toby the Tram Engine)

James was later chosen to pull the express after Gordon was forbidden to pull coaches. Although Gordon warned James to be careful on the hill, James just laughed and ignored him. However, as he was taking the train up the hill, James' wheels slipped on the autumn leaves, and he was forced to go back down to the bottom of the hill. With Gordon's help, James managed to get over the hill with his train.

When Queen Elizabeth II was coming to the Island, James was of the opinion that he would be chosen to pull the Royal Train, but most of the other engines doubted this due to his struggles on the hill before. Although James was not chosen to pull the Royal Train, he was present at Tidmouth when the Queen arrived. (RWS; Gordon the Big Engine)

After his Fireman fell ill, James was left in a siding at Maron until a new fireman could be found. While he rested in the yard, a pair of boys climbed into his cab and fiddled with his controls, and with no crew member to stop him, James became a runaway. Thankfully, he was stopped when Edward came to his rescue, and he apologized to Edward for being rude to him previously. (RWS; Edward the Blue Engine)

While shunting trucks in the yard, Percy told James that the Fat Controller wanted to speak to him, and told him not to leave the shed. James did so, and was so stubborn that the other engines had to do his work as well as his own, and he did not find out that Percy had tricked him until an inspector arrived. James and Gordon both got tired of Percy's tricks, and tricked him into believing "backing signals" were real. Their plan was successful, and Percy fell for their trick.

When Duck arrived, James, along with the other two big engines, teased him, wheeshing steam at him and ordering him about. However, Duck and Percy managed to get back at them by blocking the entrance to the sheds, preventing the big engines from entering. (RWS; Percy the Small Engine)

After Gordon returned from pulling the express from Barrow-in-Furness to St. Pancras, the Fat Controller allowed him to rest in the shed and gave James the job of pulling the express. However, when Toby ran out of water and came to a stop on the Main Line, James refusd to assist him, but when his passengers argued with him, he reluctantly agreed to do so. James later went to England along with the other seven engines and the Fat Controller. (RWS; The Eight Famous Engines)

When Diesel came to the railway and spread lies about Duck, James was given the nickname "Rusty Red Scrap-Iron" by the trucks. James became cross, and he, Gordon and Henry turned against Duck. However, Diesel was caught in his lies and sent away, and James became sorry for Duck and wanted him to return. (RWS; Duck and the Diesel Engine) James later recalled his experience with Diesel to Duncan, but exaggerated the events and made it seem as if he was responsible for sending Diesel away. (RWS; The Little Old Engine)

James later had to do Donald's good work as well as his own, much to his annoyance. While taking a goods train, James was held back by the trucks and a spiteful brake van, and required Douglas' assistance to get over Gordon's Hill. However, the train struggled to get up the hill, and Douglas destroyed the brake van by mistake. (RWS; The Twin Engines)

Although many of the North Western Railway engines accepted diesel engines, James still held a prejudice against them. Although he was friends with BoCo and Bear, he remained untrustworthy of diesel engines from the Other Railway and treated them with hostility. He complained to the other engines about them, and grumbled even more when he had to shunt trucks in the yard. However, as he was shunting some wellwagons, James accidentally destroyed a signal when one of his wagons drifted along two tracks sideways.

Eventually, James got over his prejudice against diesel engines when his injector failed, and the Works Diesel came to his rescue. The Works Diesel was so kind and friendly that James quickly befriended him, and got over his hatred of diesels. (RWS; James and the Diesel Engines)

The Fat Controller later sent James to retrieve the Thin Clergyman's bust from the Mainland. James managed to fetch the bust and returned to Sodor, when the tunnel collapsed behind him. James later attended the unveiling of the Thin Clergyman's bust at Tidmouth with the other engines. (RWS; Thomas and his Friends)

Thomas & Friends

James arrived on the North Western Railway prior to Thomas' arrival, and originally owned Annie and Clarabel. Although he was a useful engine, James was fitted with wooden brake blocks, which heated up and made a burning smell whenever he applied his brakes. James was the first engine to meet Thomas when he arrived on Sodor. He, along with Gordon, often teased Thomas for his constant mistakes, and he believed that he would be given a branch line to look after by the Fat Controller.

One day, whilst pulling a goods train, James ran out of control when the trucks pushed him, and his brake blocks caught fire when he tried to stop. Thomas chased after James and tried to slow him down, but unfortunately James derailed at a bend and landed in a field, and was left badly damaged by the crash. Thomas picked up Jerome and Judy and rescued James, and he was sent to the Steamworks to be repaired. After his accident, James was repainted to his red livery, and upon his return, he discovered that Annie and Clarabel were now Thomas' coaches. (TVS; The Adventure Begins)

James was later chosen by the Fat Controller to participate in the Great Railway Show, and was repainted so that he could compete in the Best Decorated Engine Parade. James was of the belief that he would win, but was disappointed when Rajiv was declared the winner instead. (TVS; The Great Race)

Personality and Traits

Technical Details


James is based on an L&YR Class 28. He is an experimental rebuild of the class, with a pony truck installed at the front to cure the "nose-diving" issues of his class, along with 5'6" driving wheels. James also lacks the sandboxes that the Class 28s had on their front splashers.


James is painted scarlet red with black lining on his cab, wheel-arches and tender, and gold lining on his boiler and firebox. His dome is brass, his footplate is black, and his number is painted on the sides of his tender in yellow with black lining. In Main Line Engines, James' black lining became blue, and he received lining on the back of his tender. Prior to his arrival, James was painted black with red lining.

In the television series, James has always been painted red with black and gold lining, and his footplate is light grey. In the first season, he was seen in his red livery from the start, but in The Adventure Begins, he was painted black with red lining up until his accident, but unlike his original Railway Series livery, he has a brass dome and carries his number on his tender. James also had red lining on the back of his tender, but this was removed when he was repainted to his red livery.

James has also been painted in several different liveries throughout the television series. In The Green Controller, James was painted yellow and black after Percy mistakenly told him to be repainted. He was painted back to his red livery after this. In Tickled Pink, he was sent to the Steamworks to be repainted. He was painted in a bright pink undercoat before his red paint could be applied, yet strangely, he kept his lining and number. In The Great Race, James was painted with bright golden artwork for the Great Railway Show. After the event was over with, he was repainted back to his original red livery.


The Railway Series

Thomas & Friends





  • James is the first, and currently only, member of the Steam Team to be an antagonist in a special, serving as the titular antagonist of Tale of the Brave.
  • For unknown reasons, James did not receive a promotional video for the Meet the Contenders shorts, despite participating in the Great Railway Show.



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