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characters of sodor

gordon the big engine

& FLying Scotsman

A3 GOrdon.jpg

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.


Pictured Left: Flying Scotsman on home turf beneath Cubitt's famous arches. “When I was young and green, ... I remember going to London. Do you know the place? The station’s called King’s Cross.”*

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.


"Oh dear!" he through, "I shall never get out." - GBE - Page 16

From Tony Grigg's notes on “The Island of Sodor”:
Number 4 “Gordon”

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 Pacifics (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.

Early view of Thomas and Gordon by the Rev W Awdry from the 1940s. With thanks to Jim Gratton.

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 Hatt’s own design.


And Simon Martin & Sean O'Oconnor make a compelling case regarding Gordon's original locomotive build. Brilliantly researched and recommended reading:

Gresley's A0 Pacific and the Origin of NWR's No. 4.

Awdry Gordon.jpg

Gordon debuted in “The Three Railway Engines” and received his own book,

Gordon the Big Engine” in 1953.
Flying Scotsman was the guest of honour in "Enterprising Engines" (1968)
*Gordon, “The Eight Famous Engines”, 1957

The Rev. Awdry's Models of Gordon

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. This model was in fact well short of true scale length.

Model Gordon.jpg

GORDON: Built 1956 from "butchered Triang "Princess. Tender Triang 3F type. Chassis standard Triang except trailing truck bought from W&H Ltd. Part of the "Awdry Study" at the NGRM, Tywyn. Photo by © Martin Clutterbuck

For more Info on gordon the big engine please visit the Thomas Wikia!

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