James and the Coaches, retitled James Learns a Lesson in American releases, is the eighth episode of the first season. It aired in the US on the Shining Time Station episodes, "Pitching in and Helping Out" and "The Mayor Runs for Re-Election".
James is settling into his new life nicely. The Fat Controller tells James that he is a mixed-traffic engine, so can take coaches or trucks easily but must learn from his mistakes. James, who had a nasty accident with trucks on his first day, knew exactly what the Fat Controller meant.
James' first job of the day is to double-head a train of coaches with Edward, who warns him that the coaches don't like being bumped. People have arrived on the platform to admire James, who quickly gets full of himself and lets off steam without warning causing a shower of water to fall on the Fat Controller's brand new top hat. It is time for the train to leave and James tries to get out as fast as he can which angers Edward and the coaches. This causes trouble at the first station, when James causes two of the coaches to run beyond the platform forcing the train to reverse to let the passengers out. However, it seems that no one knows what happened with the Fat Controller, much to James's relief.
Next James and Edward stop at the station on Thomas' new branch line, where the tank engine greets James before leaving. The train then passes the field where James had crashed. Finally, the journey ends and after unloading the passengers James and Edward head for home, with James still wondering what the Fat Controller will have to say about his top hat.
The next morning, the Fat Controller visits James in the shed and gives him a severe telling off and warns him that if anything else happens again, then James will be punished by being painted blue. James does not like this idea at all.
However, rather than calm James down, this only serves to make him angry and later that day he roughly bumps his coaches, moaning that he has to fetch them. To make matters worse, none of the passengers dare go near him, which makes James even crosser.
James pulls the coaches very roughly and tries to run as fast as he can. Eventually the coaches force James to stop. His driver explains that James' rough treatment has caused a leak in the coaches pipes. The crew inspects the damage and the guard's only recommendation is to plug the leak with newspaper and a leather bootlace. However none of the crew have a leather bootlace on them. They ask the passengers and the guard finds a man with a leather bootlace, who initially refuses to give it up. The guard explains that without the bootlace, the train can not continue. The other passengers get very angry, both at the man and at the railway. Under pressure, the man finally hands over the bootlace and the damage is temporarily repaired allowing James to finish the journey.
James proceeds on his way with the coaches, knowing that he is going to be in a lot of trouble with the Fat Controller.
- Sir Topham Hatt
- Jeremiah Jobling (not named)
- Annie and Clarabel (cameo)
- Gordon (mentioned)
- This episode is based on the stories James and the Top-Hat and James and the Bootlace from The Railway Series book, James the Red Engine.
- Stock footage from Thomas and the Breakdown Train is used.
- A train passing Edward and James, when they are in front of the Fat Controller, has a truck with "NE" painted on the side.
- The two coaches at the end of James' train are Annie and Clarabel (in that order).
- George Carlin's US narration was not released on home video until 2002 when it was included on Best of James.
- After the narrator says "James was still wondering what The Fat Controller/Sir Topham Hatt would have to say about his top hat," James' whistle sound is actually the same audio of James whistling in Thomas and the Trucks, when Sir Topham Hatt asks Thomas what he is doing at Maron Station. Here, the first note of James' whistle is cut off slightly.
- This episode marks the last appearance of Henry's Tunnel until the fourth season, though it was mentioned in the second season episode, Percy Takes the Plunge.
- While the Fat Controller is talking to Edward and James, a train passing them has a brakevan in the middle of its train.
- It is mentioned that the events of the previous episode happened on James' first day. However, James had appeared in every single episode leading up to the airing of the aforementioned episode.
- Clarabel is facing the wrong way when Thomas leaves the junction.
- A member of James' crew is blonde at the beginning, but when his crew wonder how to fix the leak all three have dark hair.
- When James and Edward overrun the platform, they are on Thomas' Branch Line.
- When James and Edward pass by the field where James crashed, the narrator says that the fence was mended, but there never was a fence.