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James and the Pipes is the first story of volume three.

James and the Pipes
Season X, Episode 51
Air date 3 January 2021
Written by MainLineEngines
Directed by MainLineEngines
Episode guide
Christmas at Norwich
The Back of the Train


One winter morning, James was waiting in the yard at Big Station for a train of ballast to take to Edward's station. The wind was blowing: it was icy and cold. Luckily, there was no snow but dark clouds loomed overhead.

Presently, Ryan arrived.

"Morning James! Here are your trucks."

"Thanks," said James, shivering a little.

"Feeling a bit cold?"

"Just a tad."

"So was I but as soon as you get going, you'll feel nice and warm."

"I sure hope so."

Ryan shunted the trucks behind James and when all was ready, James puffed away.

He was soon making good time. The signal at the Junction was green.

"All is clear," thought James. "Away we go, with caution, of course."

He was taking care because the rails were icy and slippery.

Then, they saw a yellow signal as they approached Edward's station.

"We must start slowing down," said the Driver.

He applied the brakes but James's wheels could not grip the icy rails. The Driver tried to let sand onto the rails but nothing happened. The station came nearer and nearer.

"I have to stop!" groaned James as he tried to grip the rails.

With a sudden jolt, the train came to a stop.

"Oh! Oh! Oh!" cried the trucks.

"That was close," sighed James.

Then, Edward bustled in.

"Morning James, glad to see you."

"Hullo Edward. I was wondering if you have any sand available."

"We have plenty in the shed."


"No problem," said Edward as he puffed away.

So, James shunted the trucks into a siding and was about to fill up with sand before heading back to the Big Station when the Stationmaster came up.

"Due to some delays, you must go to Brendam to pick up a load of pipes and take them to Vicarstown," said the Stationmaster.

James wasn't so pleased about the change, but he knew that the work had to be done.

When he arrived at the Docks, Cranky was still unloading the pipes.

"Ahoy there, James!" called Salty.

"Hullo Salty," said James.

"Great to see you again. It's been a while."

"Yes, and just so you know, this time, I am not stuck on the Branch Line."

"Well three times would be a bit too much."

"It's been 'one time too many' since the first time. But anyways, I have to take this train of pipes to Vicarstown now."

"I'll have your trucks loaded in no time," said Cranky.

"All right but make it quick. This train is already late," said James.

"Yeah, yeah. The ship was delayed. Patience, my friend."

"I can wait but not forever."

"Hey! Loading things takes time," retorted Cranky.

Salty saw what was happening and was concerned.

"Is everything all right over here?" he asked.

"Everything is fine," said Cranky. "I'm doing my job safely and correctly whether James likes it or not."

"I do think you could be a bit quicker," put in James.

Cranky was so busy arguing with James that he didn't wait till his crane-arm was properly secured to the load of pipes. As he swung his arm around, the pipes fell onto the tracks instead of the trucks. The pipes fell right beside James with a clang.

"Whoa! What the heck was that!" exclaimed James.

"You see, this is what happens when you engines distract me," complained Cranky.

"Nonsense. You weren't paying attention," said James.

"Yeah, 'cause of you."

"But I thought you were ignoring me and doing your job as you're supposed to."

James and Cranky began arguing again. Salty saw this and blew his horn so loudly the other two stopped arguing.

"All this arguing is getting us nowhere! James's train and the ship might be delayed. Now we must clear up this mess!" said Salty.

Both Cranky and James knew Salty was right.

It took a long time but finally, James was ready.

"Sorry about dropping the pipes," apologised Cranky.

"I'm sorry for complaining," replied James.

"Try to make up for lost time."

"I'll try."

With that, James puffed away.

Soon, he was nearing Gordon's Hill.

"We'll have a jolly good run up the hill," said James's Driver.

As he climbed the slope, James felt the weight of the heavy train.

"I must do it, I must do it," panted James. "I just need a good grip!"

Then the Driver realised. "We forgot to take on more sand."

But James wouldn't give up. The Fireman shovelled for dear life and finally, James was at the top and slope was easier.

"Hurray!" cheered James. "The worse is over," he thought. "That was not easy," he added.

James tried to pick up speed but he felt short of breath after climbing the Hill.

James's Fireman noticed this. "Hmm, we're losing steam."

"Perhaps we should stop for a while until we can get steam up," said the Driver.

At Killdane, they stopped at a siding and waited for another train to pass. While they waited, James got some much needed rest.

"The only bad thing about this is that we're going to be even more late," sighed James.

"Never mind," soothed the Driver. "You got up the hill all by yourself."

"Well, I hope all goes well from here on," said James.

Then, the signal turned green and James puffed back onto the Main Line.

Presently, he stopped at the Works station to take on water and saw Henry.

"Hullo James. You look like you're having a busy day," said Henry.

"Well, as a matter of fact, this isn't even my train and it's a harder job than I thought it would be but at least I'm nearly at Vicarstown," said James.

"Ah well, delays are bound to happen."

"I suppose so," muttered James.

Soon, he was on his way again but as he approached the station, he heard the clanging of pipes behind him.

The Driver looked back and saw that the side of two trucks had collapsed and some pipes were blocking the line.

"We must alert the Signalman immediately."

The Guard ran to warn the Signalman and soon, Edward arrived with Rocky to help clear the line. James had taken the unharmed trucks to the station and came back for the remaining load.

"Well, today has been difficult to say the least. Almost nothing has gone right. I can't believe I am struggling just to complete this one job," said James.

"We all have bad days," soothed Edward. "I hear you got up Gordon's Hill without any help."

"Yes, but then I met Henry and as it turns out he's been on time all day."

"Never mind that. You'll deliver these trucks then you'll have a rest."

"I have a stopping train so hopefully all goes well there."

"That's more like it!" encouraged Edward.

So, at last, James delivered the pipes. And when he was back at the sheds, he was very vocal about the delays he had. However, after some more days of delays and bad luck, the engines began to get tired of his complaining.

But that's another story.




  • This story takes shortly before Henry, James and the Lucky Trucks which is a re-write of Henry's Lucky Day and is featured in You Lucky Engine. The scene in Henry's Lucky Day where Rocky is clearing pipes from the tracks serves as the basis for this story.
  • References to Points of No Return and Tenderfirst are made since they are the two times James has been stuck on Edward's Branch Line in the series.