James the Red Engine
|James the Red Engine|
|Thomas & Friends character|
|First appearance||Thomas and Friends)|
|Portrayed by||Kerry Shale (US)
Keith Wickham (UK)
Susan Roman (Thomas and the Magic Railroad)
Michael Angelis (Film cut only)
James the Red Engine is a fictional anthropomorphic tender locomotive from The Railway Series children's books by the Rev. Wilbert Awdry, and the spin-off TV series Thomas & Friends. He is a mixed-traffic engine, which means he is just as capable of pulling coaches as trucks. He has a 2-6-0 ("Mogul") wheel arrangement and is engine number 5 on the North Western Railway, The Fat Controller's railway on the Island of Sodor.
James first appeared in The Railway Series in 1946, in the book Thomas the Tank Engine. Two books in the series, no. 3 James the Red Engine and no. 28 James and the Diesel Engines are dedicated to James.
In the stories, James crashed into a field on his first day. The accident was blamed on his wooden brake blocks, which were thereafter replaced with metal ones. James has a reputation for being naughty. Some of his incidents include breaking a coach brake pipe and needing a passenger's bootlace to fix it, crashing into tar wagons, and spinning on the turntable although that was due to the wind rather than him. Despite his behavior, James is an engine proud of his red paint and shining brass dome, hard-working, and reliable and is generally considered to be a really useful engine.
Adding to that, he also likes to stay clean. He hates pulling trucks, and believes that he should only be used to pull coaches. He thinks himself superior to the other engines, and can be shallow, boastful and arrogant – particularly to Edward, and those engines who appear old-fashioned, weak, slow or dirty. However, on a number of occasions, he has found himself forced to accept help from those he has insulted, and is ultimately apologetic.
James is one of the few characters to have their own song in the TV series, the chorus of which is based on his theme music used in the early seasons. This song would be called "James the Really Splendid Engine", from the show's sixth season.
In the Railway Series books, James was (for a long time) one of the last engines to retain a prejudice against diesels. However, he was forced to admit that there was nothing wrong with diesels as a whole in the book James and the Diesel Engines (This, however, appears to be one of the few lessons that has stuck.
James is very proud of his paintwork, but he hates pulling trucks and believes that he should only pull coaches, because being a mixed traffic engine. 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. These traits have caused somewhat of a friendship/conflict relationship between him and Toby and also Edward.
In most adaptations, James has a bad reputation for his behavior; most notably crashing to a field on his first day at Sodor. The most humiliating scenario James ever entered in was when he broke a coach brake pipe and needed a passenger's bootlace to fix it. This particular incident made James an unpopular figure and a short-time target of insults from Toby, Gordon and Thomas. However, he later befriended Gordon after he struggled with a particular task, and today both engines get along with each other.
In the storyJames and the Bootlace, James is being threatened by Edward's blue paint.
Behind the scenes
James first appeared in The Railway Series in the book Thomas the Tank Engine in 1946. He was actually painted black at this point. At the request of the publishers, Awdry dedicated the next book to the character. It was, in this book, that James finally received his red paint and his personality.
James is based on the Lancashire and Yorkshire Railway "Class 28", an 0-6-0 mixed-traffic tender engine of 1912/13, designed by George Hughes and based on the earlier Class 27 designed by John Aspinall. According to the Awdry, the Class 28s were powerful goods engines but had a tendency to be nose-heavy, especially when used as relief engines on excursion trains, as they often were, and driven at speed.
In the book The Island of Sodor: Its People, History and Railways, Awdry explained the difference in James's appearance from a Class 28. James was built by Hughes as an experiment to see if the nose-heaviness could be counter-acted. The locomotive was fitted with larger (5' 6") driving wheels and a pony truck, making it into a 2-6-0 wheel arrangement. (The real Class 28 has 5' 1" wheels.) James is also missing the prominent front sandboxes fitted to the Class 28s. The improvement was not as great as hoped for, and after the grouping, the LMS sold James to the Fat Controller's North Western Railway. As with most of the early Railway Series characters, which were not so closely based on real locomotive classes, Awdry's explanation is a case of retroactive continuity.
James as a model
Awdry had two models of James on his OO gauge model railway. The first, from the 1950s, was based on a 2-6-0 Glasgow and South Western Railway locomotive, the "Austrian Goods", designed by Peter Drummond. Awdry's model was painted red with yellow lining as James was in the books. Despite being professionally made and "a beautiful model", the motor was so unreliable that the loco could not be used for regular services. Awdry later noted that it was sent away in the 1980s for a new motor and chassis and came back "completely transformed".
Awdry's second model of James was based on a 1960s Tri-ang "Johnson 3F" 0-6-0; a conversion which Hornby themselves would use for the production version of their model of James, several decades later.
James the Red Engine in The Railway Series
James the Red Engine was the third book in the Railway Series by Reverend W. Awdry. It picked up where the previous book, Thomas The Tank Engine, left off, as James was introduced in the last story of that book, "Thomas & The Breakdown Train", when, being new to the island, James (who was then painted black) was pushed off the rails by some silly trucks when his wooden brake blocks caught on fire. After being rescued, he was given some new brakes and repainted red.
- James and The Top Hat
James has been given a new coat of red paint, to cheer him up after the accident on his first day, and becomes rather conceited. He lets off steam and sprays water on the Fat Controller's top hat. He is ashamed, though, and worries about the consequences. Even though he is not punished on this occasion, but the Fat Controller turns very furious and threatens to have James be painted blue (just like Edward is) if his bad behavior continues.
- James and The Bootlace
James is furious when no one dares come near him on the platform, following the mishap with the Fat Controller's hat. He is so furious, that he bumps the coaches very hard, and causes a leak in the brake pipe. The hole has to be mended with some newspaper and a passenger's bootlace, and the only passenger with a bootlace needs some coercing before he hands them over.
- Troublesome Trucks
James is punished this time as Sir Topham Hatt makes him stay in the shed for a long time, and his is so miserable he then cries. The Fat Controller eventually decides to let him out, and tells him to pull some trucks. The trucks dislike James, and try to stop him from reaching the summit of Gordon's hill. Eventually, a rusty coupling snaps and some trucks roll downhill. The guard stops them, and Edward offers to help - but James prefers to go it alone. The trucks seem to realize James will keep trying whatever they do, and finally allow James to reach the top of the hill. The Fat Controller has seen all of that from Edward's train, and he is so pleased with James he decides to let him keep his red paint forever.
- James and The Express
Gordon boasts to James that he is the only engine who is able to pull the express. James is resting in the shed the next day, when Gordon arrives feeling mournfully (he has accidentally been switched to the loop line and had a long, wasted journey). James teases him about it, but a horde of angry passengers arrives and demands refunds. Instead, James pulls the express and is from time to time, by allowed to do only to give Gordon a break. James and Gordon are now new friends and they soon talk about trucks.
James the Red Engine in the TV series
Unlike the books, the TV episode of "Thomas and the Breakdown Train" had a red-coloured James from the beginning and omitted the Fat Controller's granting him a new coat of paint (most likely done for cost reasons).
James in Thomas and the Magic Railroad
Susan Roman voiced James in the film, Thomas and the Magic Railroad. Originally, he was played by UK TV Series narrator Michael Angelis, who was also to voice Percy. Unfortunately, test audiences said he sounded "too old", so Susan Roman replaced him. Roman, however, made James sound too feminine, something fans have strongly disliked.
In the film, James was briefly threatened by the evil Diesel 10 and almost pushed back into a smelting pit before being teleported out by Mr Conductor Junior (Michael E. Rodgers). At the beginning the fly annoying James was a reference to the original Awdry story, Buzz, Buzz.
James in the Guinness Book of Records
A large-scale working replica of James (along with Thomas, Percy, Gordon, Harold and Jack) was created by BBC Visual Effects (UK) for a 2003 live stage show tour. This 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.
"Real life" James
The Mid-Hants Railway repainted one of its engines – 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. This engine was the only replica Thomas character to be certified to run on the main line. On the East Lancashire Railway, unrestored LMS Ivatt Class 2 Mogul No. 46428 has been painted as James the Red Engine.
It created a certain amount of controversy among railway enthusiasts, who felt that it was inappropriate to paint a historic main-line locomotive in such a garish livery. Nonetheless, the locomotive was popular with the railway's younger visitors.
- The Rev. W. Awdry; G. Awdry (1987). The Island of Sodor: Its People, History and Railways. Kaye & Ward. pp. 129–30. ISBN 0-434-92762-7.
- "Steam Loco Class Information", Rail UK.
- "James". "The Real Lives of Thomas the Tank Engine" (The real prototype locomotives that inspired the Rev. W. Awdry). Retrieved 27 January 2011.
- "Full Cast and Crew for Thomas and the Magic Railroad (2000)", imdb.com. Retrieved May 22, 2005
- Claire Folkard (ed.) (ed.). Guinness World Records 2004. Guinness World Records Limited. p. 107. ISBN 0-85112-180-2.