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Gordon The Big Engine

Promotional picture of Gordon in full CGi
Number 4, previously 1469 and 60103
Class LNER Gresley Class A3 4-6-2 with LMS Stanier components and Fowler tender, originally LNER Gresley Class A0 4-6-2 (he was experimental)
Livery LNER apple green with black and white lining (1922), NWR blue with red lining (since 1939)
Line Tidmouth-Barrow-in-Furness mainline
Built 1922

LNER Doncaster Works


Designer Sir Nigel Gresley
Date of Birth June 2, 1922
First Appearance Thomas and Gordon
Voice Actors Keith Wickham (UK)
Kerry Shale (USA)

Gordon the Big Engine is a fictional anthropomorphic tender locomotive in The Railway Series books by Rev. W. Awdry. Gordon is painted blue and carries the number 4. Gordon views himself as the most important engine because he is the biggest (not including Murdoch from Thomas the Tank Engine and Friends) and he pulls the Express. Gordon is one of the central characters in the TV series Thomas the Tank Engine and Friends, which is based on the books.

Although he can be boastful, he is hard working and strong, and performs his express duties to the absolute best of his ability. He is also the fastest engine in the Island of Sodor. He is sometimes teased by other engines, particularly the smaller ones, and has been known to have a good-natured rivalry with fellow main line engines Henry the Green Engine and James the Red Engine. Nevertheless, he is also quick to forgive and sometimes gives advice and assistance to other engines. He also has a ready wit.

He is usually the first choice for special trains, and was honoured to pull the Royal Train when Queen Elizabeth II visited Sodor. His great strength means that he is also sometimes called upon for heavy goods trains and rescue operations, but he by far prefers passenger trains.

In the Railway Series book The Eight Famous Engines, Gordon made headlines when he visited London. He has also been to Carlisle when an enthusiasts' special train broke down.

Despite his fame and importance, he can be very competitive. He particularly dislikes being told about engines who are faster than him, and once lost his dome through trying to compete with City of Truro.

He is proud of having been built at Doncaster and his work on the East Coast Main Line in his youth. Therefore, he never misses an opportunity to talk about his Doncaster brothers and cousins from the London and North Eastern Railway. He arrived on Sodor in 1922.

His first appearance in the Railway Series was in Book 1, The Three Railway Engines. The eighth book in the series was dedicated to him, as was the thirty-first.

Gordon's Origins[]

Gordon was one of the first characters created in The Railway Series, initially to provide a foil for Edward. Inspiration came from watching locomotives at work on the Great Western Railway near the Rev. W. Awdry's childhood home, in particular from the large locomotives that would have to be assisted up the hill. When a story inspired by this was devised for the young Christopher Awdry, the big engine was named Gordon after a bossy child who lived on the same road.

Gordon is a 4-6-2 similar to the Flying Scotsman, a LNER A3 class locomotive. In the book Enterprising Engines, it is stated that the two engines are in fact brothers. The Rev. Awdry elaborates upon this in The Island of Sodor: Its People, History and Railways . This companion volume to The Railway Series states that Gordon was built as a test locomotive for the Great Northern Railway. When the Great Northern Railway had finished with him, they sold him to the Fat Controller for a knockdown price. Gordon was rebuilt by the London, Midland and Scottish Railway at Crewe Works with a new chassis designed by William Stanier, the Fat Controller's mentor, who was also responsible for Henry's rebuild.

In actual fact, the reason for this somewhat complicated explanation lies with the early illustrations of the character. The Rev. Awdry constantly sought railway realism in his books, and often argued over the illustrations provided by C. Reginald Dalby, which tended to be inconsistent in terms of scale and accuracy. In an effort to combat this problem, he sent the illustrator a number of photographs of the characters as portrayed on his own model railway. The model of Gordon was converted into an A3 from a Tri-ang model of a Princess Royal class locomotive. The conversion was not perfect and still retained many of the Princess Royal's features, including the chassis, and so these errors were carried over into subsequent illustrations.

True Origins[]

Gordon was built at Doncaster as an experimental prototype for Mr Nigel Gresley's straight A1 4-6-2 Pacific with a GNR 8-wheeled tender for the Great Northern Railway. Inevitably there were faults that needed correction so Gordon was kept hush hush and apart from test runs was never put into regular traffic or given a GNR number. He was used experimentally till all defects had been cured and the first batch of Pacifics had appeared in 1922/23. In 1923 therefore Gordon was no longer needed and was sold to the NWR along with a spare boiler and firebox.

In 1939. Gordon went to Crewe for a rebuild. His conjugated valve gear was playing up as it did on alot of A1's during that period. It was replaced by a 2 cylinder design, now that Sir Topham Hatt had the capital to fund the retrofit. Gordon received a smoother-looking running plate designed by Hatt himself (he might have gotten the basic idea from Henry MK 1), Stanier underframes, and most likely Black-5 cylinders and valve gear (Gordon could have had cylinders cast to specifications slightly larger than those of the Black 5s, however this is less likely, but not impossible). Gordon's original pony and bogey were retained. Squared-off side windows, rectangular buffers, and the Fowler style tender (probably flush-riveted 3500 Gallon type with horizontal strip removed) complimented the retrofit. The Island of Sodor spans 62 miles East-West, so the larger GNR tender was likely considered a waste of size and weight.

Gordon's present form is interesting. He is a Gresley/Stanier hybrid. Above the running plate he is Gresley, below it he is Stanier. This is the result of a heavy overhaul at Crewe in 1939. Gresley's conjugated valve gear had been giving endless trouble, so Topham Hatt persuaded Mr Stanier to substitute a 2 cylinder chassis of his own devising instead.

Gordon in Thomas and the Magic Railroad[]

Gordon is voiced by Neil Crone on the Thomas and the Magic Railroad film. His character was very much as it appears in the television series and early Railway Series books.

Real Life Gordon[]

In the late 1980s, a full-size replica of Gordon could be seen on the Mid Hants Railway. This replica was far from precise, as it was not an A3. In fact, it was an Austerity 2-10-0 class designed for heavy freight work. However, it was suitable as a replica for three reasons. Firstly, it was a very large engine. Secondly, it was preserved in the rich blue livery of the Longmoor Military Railway, similar to Gordon's own colour scheme. And thirdly, it was actually called Gordon. All that was needed for the conversion was the addition of a face on the smokebox door and the replacement of the letters "LMR" on the tender with a large number 4.

The engine usually resides on the Severn Valley Railway.

Gordon as a model[]

Gordon is supposed to be an experimental precursor of Sir Nigel Gresley's A1 Pacific design for the GNR in 1922, and conceived at the famous Doncaster Works in Yorkshire, affectionately known to locals as "The Plant". Apparently, owing to various problems, Gordon was rebuilt at Crewe with new curving footplate, unique square buffers, Stanier two-cylinder motion and Walschaerts valve gear (check the crosshead in two slide bars), and then supplied with a six-wheel LMS-style tender to replace his eight-wheel GNR tender.The A1 boiler is easily distinguished by the rear curve of the footplate, with the firebox sides extended below the driving wheels in a smooth, angled line.

At the outset of the LNER's history in 1923, the new GNR engine beat Raven's rather similar NER Pacific in trials. It thus became the LNER's top-link passenger locomotive for the next decade, until Gresley went in the wind-tunnel and produced the graceful streamlined A4, still the fastest steam engine on rails. Of the production build, No. 4472, then 103, and hence on BR No. 60103, "Flying Scotsman" is arguably the most famous steam engine in England. It was the first authenticated loco to travel over 100mph and hauled the crack express of the same name from London King’s Cross to Edinburgh Waverley, in 1928 the longest regular non-stop run in the world.

After an exhaustive million-pound overhaul following his purchase by Dr. Tony Marchington in 1996, a triumphant run from King’s Cross to Doncaster in 1999 witnessed the track lined with spectators and his new owner giving lumps of coal from the tender to an adoring crowd in the manner of a rock star. However, as of April 5, 2004, No. 4472 has been acquired by the National Railway Museum in York after a successful public appeal.

Sadly, "Flying Scotsman" is the only example of the A3 remaining in existence. Later LNER rebuilds, starting in 1927, gave him a higher pressure boiler and the "banjo" dome. He was officially converted from A1 to A3 in 1947. Flying Scotsman says, "I had a 'rebuild' too, and looked hideous". This presumably refers to BR fitters giving him smoke deflectors and a double chimney. His trip to Sodor occurred during his ownership by Alan Pegler, when he carried two tenders. For an exhaustive technical history of the A1/A3 you can do no better than visit Richard Marsden's excellent page, part of his LNER Encyclopedia.

Gordon was an experimental engine, built by the Great Northern Railway (before the LNER was formed in 1923) in 1922 of which later became the class A3 Pacific's (4-6-2), of which the Flying Scotsman is the only other survivor. Having only been an experimental locomotive Gordon never received a number but was later rebuilt at Crewe and now has LMS under-parts. Shortly after arrival on Sodor, Gordon stalled on the large hill in the middle of the line, and hence its name.

Gordon has always been based at Tidmouth for working the Main Line, which he works with Henry, James, Bear, Donald and Douglas. Tom Wright adds: -Gordon is said to have been rebuilt below the footplate to Stanier designs, his running plate being Sir Topham Hatt's own design.

The original Gordon on the Rev Awdry's model layout was in fact bashed from a Triang LMS 7P "Princess" Pacific loco, a moulding which launched the Rovex, later Triang range in 1950 and the basis for Testbedford Jct's Turbomotive. This model was in fact well short of true scale length.

GORDON: Built 1956 from "butchered Triang "Princess. Tender Triang 3F type. Chassis standard Triang except trailing truck bought from W&H Ltd.

"Flying Scotsman", on the other hand, has been one of the most popular locomotives in the Triang-Hornby/Hornby range continuously since 1968. The famous extra tender was eventually modelled in 1993. One of these mouldings, possibly the early A1 tool with round dome, was eventually co-opted to produce Gordon:


  • Throughout the run of the television show, Gordon is one of the few characters who has maintained the same "angry face" design for all of the seasons.
  • In the Railway Series, Gordon's buffers were square and pointy. In the TV show, they were rounded at the corners. The Rev. W. Awdry said in a letter to a young fan that the reason for Gordon's unusual buffer shape was simply that he had broken his round buffers and square ones were all that was available at the Works.
  • In the TV Series, Gordon has had two accidents which have probably been the most serious and graphic in the show's run. When he crashed through a terminal station (in Season Five's A Better View for Gordon), his front wheels were torn down from his front. In Gordon Takes a Tumble (Season Six), Gordon had a rollover (the camera showed him tipping to the side for a quick second).
  • In the Japanese version of the movie and show Gordon was voiced by Kenji Utsumi.
  • In the Railway Series story "Gordon Goes Foreign" from The Eight Famous Engines, we find out that Gordon used to work from Kings Cross in London. In the book James and the Diesel Engines it is revealed that he used to be "green" when he was young.
  • Two of Gordon's relatives have appeared in the Railway Series. His brother Flying Scotsman was a major character in the book Enterprising Engines, and his cousin Mallard in Thomas and the Great Railway Show. Although Mallard was indirectly described as Gordon's cousin in Gordon the High Speed Engine, the link was not made when he actually appeared.
  • In Great Little Engines in the picture where Gordon is seen with Sir Handel he has a banjo dome like other A3s.
  • He has been seen with all characters (except The Pack, Horrid Lorries, Wilbert, Sixteen, Frank, Charlie, Billy, Hector, Jeremy, Colin, Freddie, Smudger, Duke, Bertram, Ivo Hugh, Dart, Den, Belle and Flynn who haven't been seen with him so far)


  • Gordon's theme is his Season 1 theme.

Counterparts (Hero Version)[]

Counterparts (Girl Version)[]

Counterparts (Villian Version)[]

  • Diesel 10 (Thomas the Tank Engine and Friends)
  • Johnny Cuba or Smelter (TUGS)
  • Cabot (Theodore Tugboat)
  • Smithy (Super Mario Bros.)
  • Gerald Robotnik (Sonic the Hedgehog)
  • Snake Jailbird (The Simpsons)
  • Death (Family Guy)
  • Shredder (Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles)
  • Discord (My Little Pony: Friendship is Magic)
  • Gaston (Beauty and the Beast)