Dirty Objects, retitled James in a Mess in American releases, is the twenty-third episode of the first series. It is based on the story of the same name from the Railway Series book Toby the Tram Engine.
Toby and Henrietta are settling into their new lives on the Island of Sodor, though they still look very old-fashioned and could use new paint. Due to their bad paintwork, the two become a subject of scorn for James who calls them "dirty objects". Offended, Toby asks why James is red and James says that it is because he is a splendid engine who is never dirty and ready for anything. Toby then teases James by reminding him of the bootlace incident, causing James to become angry.
Later, at the end of the line, James leaves his coaches and readies for his next train. He picks up a line of trucks for a slow goods train at each station. James' mood is worsened due to the hate of slow goods trains. Although the trucks start off behaving well, James is so rough with them that they end up being determined to pay him back. As he starts to climb up Gordon's Hill, James is supposed to stop and have his brakes pinned down. James, who had an accident with trucks before, should remember this, but forgets as he is too busy thinking of what he will say to Toby next time they meet. Seeing their chance, the trucks push James down the hill. Unable to stop, James runs through the station and crashes into a couple of tar tankers and derails.