James is a mixed-traffic tender engine who works on the North Western Railway
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 gained his Fowler tender around this time.
When James returned from the Works, he was vain and troublesome. Whilst 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 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.
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 apologized to Edward for his insults and Edward forgave him.
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. 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 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, James is an experimental design of class 28; being fitted with a front pony truck making him a 2-6-0 instead of an 0-6-0. 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.
James is painted in the North Western Railway's red livery 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.
- James has the most lines as of Old Reliable with 63 lines