James is a mixed-traffic tender engine who works on the North Western Railway, usually working along the Main Line. He can be vain and sometimes boastful, but means well and is a hard worker.
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”. These were added in an attempt to cure the “nose-diving” the class experienced when travelling at high speed. The experiment did not entirely produce the results hoped for, and after the Grouping James was sold to the North Western Railway. Shortly after he arrived on the Island of Sodor, James was 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 into a new red livery and gained functional brakes. He presumably 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 grumpy 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 until he could learn his lesson. When he was finally let out by the Fat Controller, James was assigned to pulling 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, who mocked him 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.
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 made Thomas and Edward pull their trains, though he allowed them to come out when they were sorry.
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. 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 him packing.
James is very proud of his splendid red paintwork. He dislikes pulling trucks and believes that he should only pull coaches. He thinks himself superior to the others and can be shallow, boastful, overconfident, 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. 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. 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 has stuck.
Despite all of that, James has shown a caring side to him. He has a heart of gold, is normally hard-working and like everyone else, wants to be responsible, reliable and really useful on Sir Topham Hatt's railway.
Technical Details Edit
James is based on the 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. It was a rebuild of Aspinall's Class 27, with the addition of a Belpaire firebox, a Schmidt/"twin-plug" superheater and the extension of the footplate and front sandboxes.
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 indicates this was originally considered to be James' prototype.
One of the red tender engines is also based on this design.
James is painted in NWR red with black lining and gold boiler bands. His dome is brass and his number is painted on the sides of his tender in yellow with black lining. In the Railway Series, James' black lining became blue after Main Line Engines. Between James the Red Engine and Oliver the Western Engine his roof colour was inconsistently illustrated as either black or red; however, since Clive Spong became illustrator, James has been consistently illustrated with a red cab roof.