Thomas the Tank Engine Wiki
The Railway Series

For other uses, see Gordon (disambiguation).

“You don't understand, little Thomas. We Tender Engines have a position to keep up. It doesn't matter where you go, but we are important, and for the Fat Controller to make us shunt trucks, fetch coaches and go on some of those dirty sidings it's, it's, well it's not the proper thing!”
― Gordon[src]

Gordon is a big blue tender engine who lives and works on the Island of Sodor, and is the North Western Railway's number 4 engine. He is Flying Scotsman's only surviving brother.


Gordon was built at Doncaster in 1920-1921 as an experimental prototype for Sir Nigel Gresley's A1 Pacific design for the Great Northern Railway.[2] The design had faults which needed correction, so Gordon was kept "hush hush" and apart from test runs, was never put into regular traffic or assigned a GNR number. He was used experimentally until 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 North Western Railway together with a spare boiler and firebox.

During Gordon's early years on the railway, he often looked down on the smaller engines like Edward and Thomas. However, he would soon find he needed help from Edward to be his banker after he got stuck on a hill with a train of trucks. He also needed Edward and Henry to pull his passenger train after he broke his safety valve in front of Henry's Tunnel.

Gordon often found Thomas very annoying for whistling rudely at him, so he taught him a lesson by bringing him along with his express train before he could be uncoupled. Thomas usually fetched the coaches for him, but then Thomas left the yard when he was given a branch line and Gordon, along with Henry and James, became infuriated when they soon found that they had to fetch their own coaches. After the big engines had several mishaps (one of which involved Gordon having to pull his train backwards), Gordon proposed that they all go on strike; they would only pull their coaches if another engine fetched them. Edward was the only engine left and since he was a tender engine and that Gordon proposed that tender engines do not shunt, they started to discriminate against Edward until the Fat Controller decided to leave them in the shed until they learnt the error of their ways.

After Gordon, Henry and James saw how silly they were, the Fat Controller let them out, reminding them to behave and bought a tank engine named Percy to help fetch their coaches. Gordon almost had a run-in accident with Percy when the latter carelessly stood on the Main Line. After Percy ran away backwards and stopped in a pile of dirt, Gordon helped him out. Gordon was still arrogant and insulted Henry for the way he whistled. However, he ate his own words when his whistle jammed and he went running down the main line whistling continuously. He did not stop until a fitter climbed up and knocked his whistle in place.

In 1939, Gordon went to Crewe for a rebuild. His conjugated valve gear - which had been giving much trouble - was replaced by a two-cylinder chassis (designed by the Fat Controller) and he received a smoother running plate, as the new cylinders could not fit under the original. This rebuild effectively made him a hybrid with Stanier valve gear, running plate, cylinders and wheels, while the rest above was Gresley built.

In 1952, he was called upon to pull a special goods train, much to his disgust. To get out of pulling the train, he tried to jam the turntable, but he could not stop himself and ran into a ditch. After he was rescued from the ditch, the Fat Controller banned Gordon from pulling passenger trains for nearly an entire year until he proved himself a Really Useful Engine. After a period of good behaviour, the Fat Controller rewarded him by allowing him to pull Queen Elizabeth II's royal train when she came to visit Sodor. In 1956, he travelled to London, where he was lauded by a large crowd. Gordon did not like the visit, however, as he discovered that London's big station was St. Pancras, which he thought was King's Cross.

During City of Truro's visit in 1957, Gordon heard that the famous engine had reached 100 miles an hour and believed that he could reach that speed. This resulted in him losing his dome on the viaduct. Later, when Diesel arrived on trial and was having trouble moving some old trucks, he accused Duck by making rumours about him giving Gordon a bad nickname, "Galloping Sausage". As a result, Gordon, Henry and James began to turn against Duck by forbidding him from the shed. However, when the truth came out that Duck had not made the nicknames, they began to feel very silly about jumping to conclusions before knowing the true story.

In 1965, Gordon complained about BoCo - the new diesel - going on the main line, because the diesel only works on Edward's Branch Line. He claimed that the Fat Controller would never agree and states that branch lines are vulgar. That night, Gordon's crew mistakenly believed that the passenger with a green hat was the guard waving his green flag. As a result, Gordon left with the majority of the passengers, the luggage and the guard stranded on the platform. Everyone was surprised, but the surprise quickly gave way to anger. This made Gordon so embarrassed, he brought his train back down to the big station as Edward was already late with his train. But the signalman at the junction was not told about the change. Because of this, Edward was sent to the main line and Gordon was sent down to Edward's branch line. He spent the night at Brendam and was teased by Bill and Ben of being a lot of old iron that should be scrapped. BoCo stopped them and Gordon gained respect for him.

In 1967, Gordon felt devastated to hear that his brothers and sisters were all scrapped on the Mainland, but happy to hear that his brother Flying Scotsman was preserved, when the Fat Controller brought him to reunite with Gordon.

Soon after, in 1986, Gordon heard about high speed trains on the Other Railway and believed that he could go faster than them. However, he had an excessive wheelslip and later covered wedding guests and the Fat Controller's top hat with soot. He managed to redeem himself and get the Express over his hill after his firebars collapsed and got to visit Carlisle when a diesel taking a Railtour failed.

In 1995, Gordon had been hauling the Express when a flock of crows swooped in front of the train, resulting in one of them knocking the seal out of his front brake pipe.

As Gordon could not go far on the Other Railway due to a lack of water pipes, he would have to change places with a diesel locomotive at Barrow, who would take the Wild Nor' Wester onwards to London. By the early 2000's, however, this wasted too much time and the timetable was considered too slow. The Fat Controller decided to buy Pip and Emma to run the service, as they are capable of doing a complete round trip every day, which he did so in 2010. Gordon now pulls stopping passenger trains, which he prefers as he can do two round trips per day instead of one and does not need to hurry.

Gordon's last train of the day stops at all the stations on the Main Line. One evening, delays on the Other Railway resulted in him being late. At Killdane, he encountered a fire and he urged his driver to do something; his driver used a hose to put out the fire with water from Gordon's tender. Following this, the Fire Brigade recommended him for The Queen's Fire Service Medal, which he is very proud of.


Gordon's important position as the engine who pulls the Express has made him proud, pompous, arrogant, stubborn, prideful, and self-important, with a good reason too; he is the fastest steam engine on Sodor. He is extremely proud of this and is inclined to boast. But despite his pompousness, he is goodhearted, always willing to forgive, and uses his superior strength to help smaller engines out of trouble. Though he is also vengeful and will plot retribution if he feels he has been sufficiently slighted, as mentioned before he is happy to forgive especially after he has either had his retribution or the individual has received some other comeuppance. He also has a great hatred of goods trains and believes that he should only pull coaches. Because of his rank in the social order of the North Western Railway, Gordon expects to get the important passenger jobs, and either he sulks when he does not get what he wants or gets jealous of engines who do.

Gordon is rude and egotistical more often than not, especially towards smaller engines like Thomas or Percy. Despite this, he has helped them on a few occasions and does not necessarily dislike them.

Technical Details


According to The Island of Sodor: Its People, History and Railways, Gordon is the experimental prototype for Sir Nigel Gresley's A1 Pacific design for the Great Northern Railway, built at Doncaster Works in Yorkshire.

Owing to various problems, Gordon was rebuilt in 1939 at Crewe. Sir Topham Hatt and Sir William Stanier worked together to rectify these problems - everything under the running board is of Stanier's design while the running board itself is that of Sir Topham Hatt's. His middle piston and conjugated valve gear were removed, and his eight wheel tender was replaced with a Fowler tender.


Gordon is painted in the standard blue livery used by the North Western Railway, with red and yellow lining. His number (4) is painted on his tender in yellow with a red outline. During Gunvor and Peter Edwards' tenure as the series illustrators, the colours used for his number were reversed. He has a black running board with red bufferbeams and valences.

In William Middleton's illustrations, Gordon was a significantly darker shade of blue compared to later illustrations. His roof was blue, his wheels, buffer holds and valences were black, and his buffers were white. Additionally, Gordon is described in these editions of the book as having yellow lining, which was later altered to red in re-publications.

Before arriving on Sodor, he was painted in Great Northern Railway (GNR) apple green with white and black lining and brown frames.


The Railway Series

Companion Volumes

Pop-Up Books

Thomas & Friends


Annual Stories


Official Description

From Official Media:[3]

Gordon (NWR No.4): As now running Gordon presents points of peculiar interest. He was built at Doncaster as an experimental prototype for Mr Nigel Gresley's 4-6-2 for the Great Northern Railway. Inevitably there were faults which 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 together with a spare boiler and firebox. 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. Between chassis and boiler Gordon’s running plate is a law unto itself. Personally we prefer its flowing curves to either Gresley or Stanier angularities.

From Official Media:[4]

Gordon (4): Gordon is sometimes compared with that most famous of all Gresley 'Pacifics', No.4472 Flying Scotsman. In fact a true likeness is now pretty loose, but according to notes my father made when talking to Sodor railwaymen, Gordon stems from a prototype, experimental engine built in 1922 when Gresley was projecting his new Class A1 (as they were then) 4-6-2s for the Great Northern Railway. The prototype was never used in traffic by that Company, was set aside when the production run began and then, in 1923, was sold to the North Western Railway along with a spare boiler. Which is where his similarity to Flying Scotsman ceases, because in 1939, during the course of a heavy overhaul at Crewe, his conjugated valve gear, as originally fitted by Gresley, was removed and a two-cylinder chassis of The Fat Controller's own devising substituted.


  • According to the Rev. W. Awdry in The Thomas the Tank Engine Man, the reason why Gordon has square buffers is because not long after he got his new safety valve following the events of The Three Railway Engines, he was showing it off and not paying attention to his surroundings. He crashed into the end of the "Big Station" at Tidmouth, damaging his buffers and had to go to the Works to have them replaced. The only buffers available were long, square ones, which Gordon despised at first, but soon got used to them and became proud of being the only engine on the railway with square buffers. Then Henry had a similar incident to Gordon and got square buffers himself (explaining the illustration error in Thomas and the Guard), now the subject of buffers offends Gordon greatly when mentioned to him.

See also