James is a red mixed traffic engine. He speaks with a Lancastrian accent.
James was built by George Hughes at Horwich Works in 1912 as an 0-6-0 with a wooden brakes, James was once unable to stop due to his wooden brake blocks. After his first accident he had his front sandboxes removed, was rebuilt into a 2-6-0 with a proper brake and a Fowler tender and repainted red with gold stripes and blue lining. He was troublesome when he returned, ruining Sir Topham Hatt's new top hat with his steam and jarring his coaches so much a brake pipe leaks. He was threatened to be painted blue (which James detests), but later made the line's worst trucks behave after being given a second chance. Persona James is very proud of his paintwork. He hates pulling trucks, and believes that he should only pull coaches. He thinks himself superior to the others, and can be shallow, boastful and vain, particularly to those who appear old fashioned, weak, slow or dirty. However, on a number of occasions he has found himself in need of help from those he has insulted, and is, in the end, apologetic but he didn't need to apologize when he let off steam at the carol party. James was the last engine to retain a prejudice against diesels. However, after stalling on a cold day he was rescued by the Works Diesel, and James had to admit that nothing was wrong with diesels. This appears to be one of the few lessons that has stuck.
In The Island of Sodor: Its People, History and Railways it was claimed that James is based on a rebuild of a L&YR Class 27/28 hybrid super heated 2-6-0 tender locomotive from the Lancashire and Yorkshire Railway and designed by George Hughes, approx. 48 ft 6 in long, who added a Belpaire firebox and a Schmidt super heater and extended the footplate and sandbox. However, as with most of the early Railway Series characters, this information was purely retcon. Since his his rebuild in 1923, he has 5'6" driving wheels as opposed to the standard 5'1" driving wheels, extended the running plate for the fitting of the pony wheel truck, no sandboxes over the front splashers and a flush riveted 3500 gallon-type Fowler-style tender with horizontal strips removed and the rivets facing inward rather than outward, and a three-chimed whistle. His whistle valve is turned on its side and attached to a brass pipe, which in turn is connected to the cab roof. He has also a maximum speed of 50 mph.
Sodor "historian" Martin Clutterbuck has pointed out that James strongly resembles an G&SWR "Austrian Goods" 2-6-0 from the Glasgow and South Western Railway, but with the addition of a belpaire firebox. At any rate, the Reverend W. Awdry used an engine of this class to represent James on his model railway. It is possible that he rejected this prototype for James' official "biography" on the grounds that an English locomotive would be more likely to end up on Sodor.
James was originally painted navy black with red lining before his accident and was given his red coat with yellow stripes and black lining to cheer him up. Sometime during the 1960s, James' black lining was repainted blue and gold. James has a brass dome, a black cab roof and the number "5" painted in bright yellow with a blue border on his tender sides. James has always been red with gold stripes on his boiler, gold dome and black lining on the side of his splashers and tender, and the number "5" painted in yellow with a black border on his tender sides, except in Thomas and the Breakdown Train, when he was painted navy black with red lining before his accident on his first day, and in the 10th season episode "The Green Controller", when he was painted yellow and black, like a bumblebee, on Percy's orders.
Then, in the season 13 episode Tickled Pink, James was painted in pink! This time it was only an undercoat, though.
The Mid Hants Railway repainted a Southern Railway N Class into the livery of James. The engine retained this colour scheme for many years, and participated in the Railway Series Golden Jubilee celebrations at the National Railway Museum. The repainting of the engine, however, created a stir among railway enthusiasts who felt that it was wrong to paint a historic mainline locomotive in such a garish livery. Nevertheless, the locomotive was popular with the railway's younger visitors.
On the East Lancashire Railway, unrestored LMS 2MT 2-6-0 No. 46428 has been painted as James, although his face only appears during Thomas events.
- Michael Angelis (Thomas and the Magic Railroad; original workprints only)
- Susan Roman (Thomas and the Magic Railroad)
- Keith Wickham (UK; Hero of the Rails - The Great Race, excluding Tit for Tat)
- Kerry Shale (US; Hero of the Rails - Season 18)
- Rob Rackstraw (US; The Adventure Begins onwards, UK; Tit for Tat onwards, excluding The Great Race)
- かつじ もり (Japan; 第1-8シリーズ)
- まさし えばら (Japan; みんなあつまれ!しゅっぱつしんこう onwards)
- Arturo Mercado (Mexico; Series 1 - 2)
- Irwin Daayán (Mexico; Season 3 - 4)
- Gabriel Ramos (Mexico; Season 5 - 7)
- Enzo Fortuny (Mexico; Season 8 onwards)
- The Bachmann range originally depicted James with grey wheels and tender axle boxes and red smokebox sides.
- A large scale working replica of James, along with replicas of Thomas, Percy, Harold, and Jack, was created by BBC Visual Effects for a tour in 2003. The battery powered locomotive is listed in the Guinness Book of Records as the largest model railway engine ever built, at 2.64 x 1.5 x 6.52 metres.
- James had a three chimed whistle at some point. James's whistle sounds like two medium blasts.