James is very proud of his splendid red 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, 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 Toby. 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 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.
Despite everything else, James has shown a caring side, is normally hard-working and like everybody else, wants to be a responsible, reliable and really useful engine on Sir Topham Hatt's railway.
In The Island of Sodor: Its People, History and Railways, it is stated that James is based on a Class 28 locomotive from the Lancashire and Yorkshire Railway Works, itself a development of the Class 27. The Class 28 engines were designed by George Hughes and had Belpaire fireboxes, a Schmidt superheater and an extended footplate and sandbox. James has been modified with an experimental leading pony truck (making hime a 2-6-0 instead of a 0-6-0), six 5'6" driving wheels, and a Fowler tender.
Sodor "historian" Martin Clutterbuck has pointed out that James strongly resembles a 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 in the L&YR's mixed traffic black livery with red lining, but after an accident. He was repainted NWR red with gold stripes and black lining to cheer him up.
James has also been shown in many different liveries in the television series: these include the tenth season episode The Green Controller, when he was painted yellow and black, like a bumblebee, on Percy's orders. Then, in the thirteenth season episode, Tickled Pink, James was painted in a pink undercoat. Though he was painted red in his official debut episode, he was painted in his black livery from the Railway Series in The Adventure Begins and had lining on the back of his tender. This disappeared when he was given his red livery. In The Great Race, golden linings and certain flowers were added to him for the best decorated engine parade.
- Season 1 - Geoffrey's Real, Percy's Oil Spill, Tankers of Doom (cameo), Henry the Warrior, The Great Western Way, Skarloey Comes Home (cameo), The Lost Breakdown Train (mentioned), Fergus and the Small Engines (mentioned), and Gordon, Spencer and the Flying Scotsman
- Season 2 - Disappearing Diesel (cameo), Haunted Henry's Forest, Trouble on the Line (mentioned), The New Controller, Trouble with Brake Vans, Jealous James, Duncan's Discovery, Jack and the Quack (cameo), Back to Misty Island (does not speak), Long Lost Twins (cameo), and Timothy and the Aquarium (cameo)
- Railway Show Engines - Vinnie's Vicious Deed (cameo) and Red and Fast
- In Toby's New Whistle, James revealed that he once had a three-chimed whistle.
- In the television series, James has been painted four different liveries, more than any other engine. These include his Black, Red, Busy Bee (Black and Yellow), and his pink livery.
|North Western Railway|
|Thomas • Edward • Henry • Gordon • James • Percy • Toby • Duck • Donald and Douglas • Oliver • Bill and Ben • Daisy • BoCo • Bear • Neil • Harvey • Emily • Fergus • Arthur • Murdoch • Molly • Neville • Rosie • Whiff • Stanley • Hank • Flora • Victor • Charlie • Bash and Dash • Ferdinand • Scruff • Belle • Porter • Timothy • Marion • Logan • Glynn • Ryan • Geoffrey • Diesel • Mavis • Derek • Diesel 10 • 'Arry and Bert • Salty • Dennis • Den • Dart • Sidney • Paxton • Norman • Philip • Flynn • Winston • Stafford • Dustin|