James and the Fat Controller is an Adventures on Rails short that was released on June 19th, 2017.

James and the Fat Controller
Season B, Episode 8
Air date 19 June 2017
Written by Rev. W. Awdry (original)

MainLineEngines (adapted)

Directed by MainLineEngines
Episode guide
Thomas, the Really Useful Engine
Saving the Mountain Engines


In 1923, a new engine from the Lancashire and Yorkshire Railway arrives on the North Western Railway. He proves to be a bit of trouble at first, but slowly starts to establish himself as the No. 5 of the Fat Controller's Railway.

It was 1912 on the Lancashire and Yorkshire Railway. Designer George Hughes was designing his next engine as an upgrade of John Aspinall's Class 27.

He had settled on a six driving wheel base for his engines with larger cylinders, a Belpaire firebox and a superheater.

This became the Class 28 of the Lancashire and Yorkshire Railwy. A good number were built at Horwich Works and quickly put to the test on the railway. They ran well but there was a problem when going at speed. They were "front-heavy" due to the cylinders being larger than the ones on the Class 27.

Thus, Hughes chose a member from the last batch. He been named "James" after the son of a friend of his Driver.

James was rebuilt in 1919 with a leading pony truck, 5 foot 6 inch driving wheels and wooden brakes in order to cure "nose-diving" while going at speed.

These rebuilds were not exactly succesfull, especially the wooden brakes.

"They'll trip you up sooner or later," his Driver would say.

"Oh, they're not so bad," James replied.

Over the years, James was rebuilt and modified multiple times.

"Bother!" he would say. "I've been in the Works so many times these past two months!"

It was now 1923 and the Lancashire and Yorkshire Railway had merged to become part of the London, Midland and Scottish Railway (LMS).

James began to worry that he might not be numbered along with his brothers.

"It's because of the excessive modifications," explained Hughes. "I'm sorry, but your chances look slim."

"Well, can you find any alternatives?" asked James.

"Don't worry, I'll do anything to help you."

"Thank you, Sir."

Even with that, James was not completely sure.

One day, Hughes was sitting in his office when he heard on knock on his door. Outside, he saw a smartly dressed gentleman. He got up to greet the man.

"Hullo. I am George Hughes, chief mechanical engineer of the London, Midland and Scottish Railway, former CME of the Lancashire and Yorkshire Railway."

"I am Sir Topham Hatt, director of the North Western Railway. I have heard about an engine designed by you, a variation of your Class 28 nonetheless," replied the gentleman.

"Ah, James," replied Hughes. "He has gone through quite a bit. Come into my office and we'll talk a bit."

And he explained the various modifications that James had gone through.

"So you see," he finished. "The LMS is planning to rid of these 'experimentals' since unfortunely, they haven't lived up to the expectations."

"I see," replied Sir Topham Hatt. "There's a similar case with the London and North Eastern Railway. I recently bought an experimental engine from Sir Nigel Gresley."

"So would you be interested in James."

"Well," sighed Sir Topham Hatt. "I do need another engine. I've only got two reliable engines for the Main Line and the railway is really growing."

"Well then, let's work something out."

The two men spent three days figuring out the details and then they went to see James.

"Hullo James, this Sir Topham Hatt from the North Western Railway."

"Nice to meet you Sir," replied James.

"Now, you understand that your future here does not look very bright."

"That is true."

"Which is why he would like to offer you work on his railway."

"Really? Even an experimental engine like me?"

"Of course!" replied Sir Topham Hatt. "Some of my engines were experimentals too."

"Well then, I'd be happy to work for your railway."

So it was soon arranged and James was transferred to the Island of Sodor.

About a week later, James arrived at Vicarstown, the head-quarters of the Railway.

"Welcome to Sodor, James!"

"Thank you Sir."

"You can go to the Shed to rest, I will have your jobs soon enough."

So James went to the Shed where he saw three other engines. They were all painted blue with red stripes.

"Who's that?" they asked each other.

"Hullo," said the Furness Railway K2, "I'm Edward. I'm assuming you're a new engine."

"Yes. I'm James."

"Well, I'm Gordon."

"And I'm Henry."

"Welcome to our Railway," said Edward. "If I may ask, where are you from?"

So James told them about his past.

"I see," said Edward. "It's been difficult for you."

"Yes," sighed James. "I always tried my best - through all those rebuilds. But unfortunately, nothing was a success."

"Never mind," replied Edward. "Here's a new opportunity to be Really Useful."

"Don't fuss yourself. I'm an experimental too," said Gordon. "Sir Nigel Gresley built me as a test for his 'A1' class which if it is a success, that'll be attributed to me."

The engines talked for a while then Gordon had to go and pull the Express.

"Sorry I have to go but I am the only engine who can pull the Express."

"Don't be so sure. Henry and I once pulled it," retorted Edward.

"Why?" asked James.

"Gordon burst his safety valve and Henry had stuck in a tunnel."


"Well, uh, yes," admitted Gordon, rather embarrassed. "Well, gotta go!" and he was off in a huff.

"Well I didn't want my paint spoilt in the rain," answered Henry.

Just then, the Stationmaster came up.

"The Fat Director has told me that James is to take goods train to Tidmouth in half an hour."

"Yes Sir!"

James was bit puzzled.

"Where's Tidmouth?" he asked.

"That's the other end of the line," explained Edward. "No worried though, the signalman always sets the points so you can run on the right line."

"Of course. This is my first real job in all my years really."

"Just be careful with those trucks."


"They can be very troublesome. You should see the trouble they caused for Thomas!"


"Oh, he's a tank engine who lives my Yard, at Wellsworth. Which reminds me, take care on Gordon's Hill, that's where trucks like to try their tricks."

"Yes, thank you!"

Then, James's Driver came back.

"All right, let's go sort our train."

James soon found the trucks. The trucks were surprised.

"Who the heck is this?" they asked. "A new engine? Does that Fat Hatt think any engine can get the better of us."

They complained bitterly but James took no notice. The Guard blew his whistle and James set off on his journey.

He was soon puffing down the Main Line. They were going well. Signals posts were down and the line was clear. In addition, James got to know the line.

They rumbled over the Viaduct and presently reached Maron which is at the foot of Gordon's Hill.

"All right. Let's get a good lot of steam to get over the Hill," said the Fireman and he shovelled in some more coal.

James's fire burnt fiercely and he forced the trucks up the Hill.

"I'm doing it! I'm doing it!" he panted.

Then he reached the top. Heavy goods trains halt here to set down their brakes. So, the Driver applied the brakes but the trucks pushed forward.

"On! On! On! On!" they yelled.

James's wooden brakes were not strong enough and he picked up speed down the Hill!

"Help! Help!" whistled James.

The Driver tightened the brakes but they were useless. Worse still, they began to catch fire!

"Oh dear!" yelled James.

They rushed through Wellsworth and past a tank engine shunting.

"They're pushing me! They're pushing me!"

"On! On!"

James sped under a bridge and up head saw a bend in the line.

"I can't stop!" he cried.

He fell off the track, crashed through a fence and into a cow field.

Luckily, his Driver and Fireman were unhurt. The last few trucks and the brake van stayed on the rails, but the front trucks were piled up in a heap along with his tender.

James's crew got out to examine him.

"Never mind," they sighed. "It was those trucks and your old wooden brakes that caused the accident. We always said they were no good."

James had to agree.

Just then, they heard a whistle.

"Peep! Peep! We're here!" It was the tank engine James had seen at the station. "I'm Thomas and we'll soon have you back on the track."

Thomas was hard at work puffing backwards and forwards all the afternoon. He bumped the trucks furiously and spoke to them rather bluntly.

"He does seem good at handling trucks," James thought to himself.

It was evening when James was lifted back onto the tracks with the Breakdown Train.

He tried to move but he couldn't, so Thomas helped him back to Wellsworth.

The Fat Director was waiting anxiously for them.

He praised Thomas then told James, "you shall have some proper brakes and a new coat of paint."

Afterwards, James was taken to the Works. The Fat Director was there.

"This is our Works," he began, "we have done extensive work when repairing engines, so I'm sure they'll do a good job on you. I'm sure you'll be better than ever before."

James was in the Works for a bit over a year. He longed to be outside pulling trucks and coaches like the other engines.

But he had to admit that the Works improved his initial faulty design. He was also given a new tender after his old one had been wrecked by the accident. Best of all, he was given a beautiful coat of red with gold stripes around his boiler.

"The paint will cheer you up after your accident," smiled Sir Topham Hatt, now known as the Fat Controller by the engines.

James was very pleased with his new paintwork.

"I do look magnificent, don't I?" he asked his Driver.

"Indeed," he agreed. "Now let's get to work."

And they set off to Tidmouth which had become the Big Station on the Main Line recently.

When James arrived at Tidmouth, the Fat Controller was waiting with Edward.

"James, I want to pull some coaches with Edward," he told him kindly and he walked away to the platfrom.

James arranged the coaches as Edward observed.

"Be careful with the coaches James. Trucks are silly. They need to bump to behave. Coaches get cross if they are bump and will try to pay you out."

So James brought the coaches smoothly into the Station.

Some little boys, the Guard and the Fat Controller came to admire James's shiny coat of paint.

"I am a really splendid engine," he thought and suddenly let out steam!

The Guard jumped, the little boys ran off and a shower of water fell on the Fat Controller's nice new top-hat.

Just then, James heard the Guard's whistle and thought they should go.

"Go on! Go on!" he urged.

"Stop pushing. Stop pushing," hissed Edward for he did not like starting quickly.

The coaches grumbled too, "don't go so fast! Don't go so fast!"

James didn't listen; he wanted to escape before the Fat Controller could call him back. He didn't even want to stop at the next station but two coaches ran beyond the platform.

More people came to admire James's paintwork and as no one seemed to know about the Fat Controller's top-hat, James felt happier.

Presently, they reached the Junction where Thomas was waiting.

James was pleased to see Thomas.

"Hullo James!" called Thomas. "Feeling better? That's right." Just then, his Guard blew the whistle. "That's my Guard's whistle. I must go. I don't know what the Fat Controller would do without me to run this Branch Line."

He puffed importantly with his two coaches into the tunnel.

Then they passed the field where James had had his accident. The fence was mended and the cows were back. James whistled but they paid no attention. Next, Edward and James reached Gordon's Hill.

"It's ever so steep. It's ever so steep," panted James.

"I've done it before. I've done it before," puffed Edward in front.

The two engines puffed together and were soon over the top and resting at Maron.

"I say, do you know why we call it Gordon's Hill?" Edward asked.

"No, why?"

"Well, Gordon, our big, strong Express engine once got stuck on the Hill pulling a lot of coal trucks and I had to help him up."

"What?!" exclaimed James and he began to laugh. He laughed so hard that he hiccoughed and surprised an old lady with a black bonnet. She dropped all her parcels and the Stationmaster and three porters had to run after her picking them up.

James enjoyed the rest of his day but he was worried what the Fat Controller would have to say about his top-hat.

The next day, James was alone in the Shed waiting for his first passenger train when the Fat Controller came up.

"I am disappointed in you James," he began. "I expect better behaviour from you. If you cannot behave I shall take away your red coat and have you painted blue."

After the Fat Controller went away, James seethed angrily.

"How dare he! My red paint is the best," he thought to himself.

He was still cross as he puffed away to fetch his coaches. He was very rough as he brought them to the platform.

"Don't talk! Come on!" he ordered.

"Oh! Oh!" screamed the coaches.

"Gordon never has to fetch his own coaches and he's only painted blue," he thought. To make James even more cross, he then had to take his coaches to another platform where no one came near him. The Fat Controller was in his office, the Guard was at the other end of the train and even the little boys stood a long way off.

James felt lonely. "They think Gordon is the only engine who can pull coaches. I'll show them."

James steamed out of the station.

"Hurry! Hurry! Hurry!"

"You're going too fast! You're going too fast!" called the coaches.

And indeed, they were going so fast that they swayed from side to side. James laughed and tried to go fast but the coaches wouldn't let him.

"We're going to stop. We're going to stop We're - going - to - stop."

"What's the matter?" asked James.

"The brakes are hard on. Leak in the pipe most likely. You've banged the coaches enough to make a leak in anything," replied the Driver.

They looked along the brakes pipes on the train and found the hole.

"How shall we mend it?" asked the Guard.

"We'll do it with newspaper and a leather bootlace."

"I've got newspaper in my van, but where is the bootlace coming from?"

"Ask the passengers."

So the Guard made everyone get out.

"Has anyone got a leather bootlace?"

They all said no expect for a man in a bowler hat (who name was Jeremiah Jobling) who tried to hide his feet.

"You have a leather bootlace there I see Sir. Please give it to me."

"I won't," said Jeremiah Jobling.

"Then I'm afraid the train will just stop where it is."

Everyone was very cross. They said what a Bad Railway it was. The Guard went to his van and the Driver made James let off steam so they all told Jeremiah Jobling he was a Bad Man instead.

At last, he handed the laces over. The Driver tied a pad of newspaper over the hole in the brake pipe and James was able to pull the train.

But he was sad and when he returned to Tidmouth he saw the Fat Controller waiting for him.

His message was brief and blunt. "You are to go to the Shed and stay there."

James puffed sadly into the Shed.

"I've let the whole Railway down," he thought sadly to himself.

He was left alone for several days and was not even allowed out to push coaches or trucks in the Yard.

"Oh dear. I wonder how long I shall have to stay in this Shed? Why did I go so fast that I caused a hole in one of my coaches and had to be mended with of all things - a passenger's bootlace!"

Then the Fat Controller arrived.

"I see you are sorry James. I know too that you want to be Really Useful. People are laughing at my Railway and I do not look that at all."

"I will do my best, Sir."

"Good. I want you to take some trucks to Killdane for me."

"Yes Sir!" and James puffed excitedly away.

Thomas arranged his train.

"Here are your trucks James. Have you got some bootlaces ready?" and he ran off laughing.

James backed onto the trucks.

"Oh! Oh!" they screamed. "We want a proper engine not a red monster!"

James took no notice and started as soon as the Guard was ready.

James had to work very hard indeed. Sometimes the trucks' brakes would slip on and at other times their axle boxes would "run hot" and each time they had to stop and set the trouble right and James would start again determined not to let them beat him.

"You can't pull us! You can't! You can't!"

"I can and I will. I can and I will."

They soon reached Gordon's Hill.

"Be careful James. Let's puff quickly and get them up before they know it," called his Driver.

The Driver advanced the regulator and soon they were half-way up.

"I'm doing it. Will the top ever come?"

Then, with a sudden jerk, it all came easier!

"Hurray! It's easy now!" thought James.

His Driver looked back. "Woah James!" and he shut off steam.

The last ten trucks ran backwards down the hill. But the Guard was brave. With skill, he slowed the trucks to a stop then he walked along the line with his red flag.

"Bother! That's why it was easy. What silly thing trucks are, there might have been an accident!"

The Guard had stopped Edward who pulling a passenger train.

"Hullo James. Would you like some help?"

"No thank you. I can do it myself."

"Good. Don't let them beat you."

The Guard blew his whistle.

"Come on! Come on!"

James heaved his heavy train into motion.

Slowly but surely he moved them up the Hill.

Finally, he reached the top.

"Hurray! I've done it!" he cheered.

James was tired but proud.

The rest of the way to Killdane was straight and he soon arranged the trucks.

"Not so troublesome anymore," he chuckled to himself.

Then he saw the Fat Controller.

"Oh no," he thought, "what will he say?"

But the Fat Controller was smiling. "I was in Edward's train and I saw everything. You've made the most troublesome train on the line behave. After that performance, you deserve to keep your red coat."

James puffed home content with the day's work.

When he returned, the Fat Controller had more news.

"Now, I want you to help out in the Yard."

"No problem! I can do it."

The Fat Controller smiled. "I know you'll do a great job."

James took charge of the Yard. He sorted out trucks and coaches and prepared the trains. He was doing a fine job and the Fat Controller became very impressed.

"The Fat Controller really likes your work," the Driver told him one day.

James was pleased to hear this.

"If we keep it up, he might even let us pull more trains."

This delighted James and he worked even harder.

Still, Gordon and Henry sometimes would make fun of him.

One night, the three engines were in the Shed.

"Do you remember when they had to use a bootlace to get out of trouble?"

Gordon and Henry laughed.

James tried to get back by talking about engines who got shut up in tunnels and stuck on hills.

"You talk too much little James. A big engine like me has something to talk about. I'm the only engine who can pull the Express. When I'm not there they need two engines. Think of that!"

James sighed.

"I've pulled Expresses for years," continued Gordon, "and have never once lost my way. I seem to know the right line by instinct."

Every wise engine knows that the Signalman sets the points to make the engines run on the right line but Gordon was so proud that he had forgotten.

The next day, the engines woke up for work.

"Well, James, what are you doing today? Odd jobs? Oh well, we all have to begin somewhere don't we? Run along now and fetch the Express."

James collected the coaches. They were all new and had shiny paintwork. James was careful not to bump them and they followed him smoothly into the station.

"We're going away! We're going away!" they sang.

"I wish I was going with you," said James. "I should love to pull the Express and go flying along the line."

Gordon, with much noise and steam backed onto the train.

The Express was filled with many important people. The Guard blew his whistle.

"Poop! Poop! Good-bye, little James. See you tomorrow!"

James pushed some trucks into their proper sidings and then fetched coaches for another train.

Then he heard a "slush-slush" and saw Gordon trying to sidle into the station without being noticed.

"Hullo Gordon. Is it tomorrow?"

Gordon didn't answer he just let off steam feebly.

"Did you lose you way?"

"No, it was lost for me. I was switched off the Main Line and onto the loop."

"Perhaps it was instinct!" said James brightly.

Whilst Gordon's Fireman tried to build up more steam, all the passengers rushed to the ticket window.

"We want our money back!" they demanded.

The Fat Controller heard the commotion and left his office.

"What's going on?" he asked the Guard.

The Guard explained what had happened.

"We can't allow that. Now if I may."

He took the Guard's whistle and climbed onto a luggage trolley and blew the whistle so loudly that all the passengers stopped to look at him.

"I understand there's been a mishap, but I'll have a new train for you at once," he promised.

The passengers relaxed and went to board the coaches.

The Fat Controller walked over to James.

"Sir, what are you going to do?"

"Gordon can't do it. Will you pull it for us James?"

"Of course!"

James backed onto the train.

"Do your best!" called the Fat Controller as he boarded the train.

The Guard blew the whistle and waved his green flag.

James started smoothly out of the station.

"You're pulling us well. You're pulling us well," sang the coaches.

It was a lovely journey. Bridges and stations flashed by and the passengers waved and cheered. And they soon reached the Terminus.

All the passengers were pleased and said "thank you" to James.

"No problem," he replied. "I'm just doing my work."

The Fat Controller was pleased.

"Great job James! How would you like to pull the Express sometimes?"

"Yes please!"

With that, James knew he had won the Fat Controller's confidence in him and he was very proud of that. Gordon was also very pleased with James's work and the two became good friends. Now James takes the Express to give Gordon a rest. Gordon never mentions bootlaces and they are both quite agreed with the subject of trucks.

The End.


James the Red Engine is a very proud engine. But he wasn't always like that. And he wasn't always painted red!

George Hughes - You're a splendid mixed-traffic engine.

James - Thank you Sir!

And when he first arrived on the Island, he had to settle in.

James - I'm coming off the rails!

Thomas - Don't worry James. I'm here!

Sir Topham Hatt - James, you shall have proper brakes and a new coat of paint.

And he gets too full of himself . . .

James - Why is Gordon the only engine to pull coaches? . . . I am a really splendid engine.

But will he prove to the Fat Controller that he is really useful?

James - I can do it! Will the top never come?

Sir Topham Hatt - Gordon can't do it. Will you pull it for us James?

James - I'll try!

Find out in James and the Fat Controller. Coming June 2017.


This year . . . see James' beginnings all over again.

James - Here's James!

As he learns to become a Really Useful Engine

Edward - Be careful with the coaches James. They don't like to be bumped.

James - I'm a really splendid engine!

(wheeshes steam)

And he proves his worth to the Fat Controller

James - No thank you, I'll manage myself. Will the top never come?

And earn himself a place in the Yard

Gordon - When I'm not there they need two engines. Think of that!

Sir Topham Hatt - Gordon can't do it. Will you pull the Express for us James?

James - Yes. I'll try.

Find out on June 19th, 2017

In James and the Fat Controller.

Preview - "James's Accident"

James soon arrived at Vicarstown, the Big Station on the Main Line. The Fat Director was waiting anxiously for him.

"Ah! There you are. I am Sir Topham Hatt and I'm very pleased to know."

"I'm James," the Class 28 explained.

"Very well. Now, for your first job, I want you to take these trucks to Tidmouth, on the other end of the line."

"Yes Sir! Right away."

James was soon coupled up and off he went.

He was making great time although the trucks felt disgruntled.

"What does this rookie think he is? Barging in and thinking he can just pull us with ease."

They chattered, but James took no notice.

"Come on! I musn't be late on my first day."

James rumbled over the Viaduct. He was enjoying his journey.

Presently, they reached Maron. The line climbed here.

James puffed with all his might, but finally, he heaved his train to the top.

"I did it!" he cheered.

Then there was trouble!

"On! On! On! On!" laughed the trucks and they pushed James down the hill!

"No! Stop!" wailed James.

His Driver applied the brakes, but they were no good against the trucks' mad rush!

"Help! Help! My brakes are on fire!"

The friction between the wood and the rails caused sparks to stream out on each side. James felt they would explode!

Down at Wellsworth, a little blue tank engine was shunting when suddenly James rushed through much too fast!

"They're pushing me! They're pushing me!" cried James.

"On! On! Faster! Faster!" called the trucks.

James screamed under a bridge and disappeared.

Just then, up ahead, he saw a bend on the line!

"Oh dear! I can't stop!"

His Driver and Fireman jumped clear!

James crashed off the track, through a fence and into a field with some cows.

Luckily, both his Driver and Fireman were alright. The Guard in the brake van stayed on the track, but his front trucks were in a heap along with his tender.

James groaned. He was scratched and battered.

The alarm was soon raised and help was on its way.

Meanwhile, James' Driver and Fireman looked him all over.

"Never mind James," they said. "It was your old wooden brakes that caused the accident. We always said they were no good."




  • The short is based off the Railway Series book, James the Red Engine by the Rev. W. Awdry.
  • Following the release of Thomas, the Really Useful Engine, a short scene was released. Later, on 13 February 2017, the first trailer was released.
  • A teaser for the next short was also released.
Community content is available under CC-BY-SA unless otherwise noted.