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James was built by George Hughes at Horwich Works in 1915 as an 0-6-0 with wooden brakes. He arrived on Sodor in 1948, and was overhauled with his front sandboxes removed, re-arranged to a 2-6-0 with proper brakes, a Fowler tender and red with gold stripes and blue lining. He didn't like diesels from the start. In 1986, his brake blocks were stiff, and got a rest and was called "Old Groaner". He believed Edward was too old to be useful in 1995, but soon learned that Edward has plenty life in him left. In 2009, he tried to go fast with the Flying Kipper, but crashed into a tent, naming him James the Clown Engine, much to his misery. He set an express record the same year, but ended with scolding.
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. James was the last engine to retain a prejudice against diesels. However, after saving Daisy and Mavis with Dennis from Splatter and Dodge, and James had to admit that nothing was wrong with diesels. This appears to be one of the few lessons that has stuck.
James is based on L&YR Class 27/27 hybrid 2-6-0 with a Fowler tender. He was originally a 0-6-0.
James is painted NWR red with blue and yellow stripes and black wheels. James was originally painted black with red stripes.