He is usually the first choice for special trains for events such as football, cricket and other events, and was honored 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. Once, when he was to pull a freight train, he got stuck in a ditch in an attempt to get out of pulling the train.
Despite his fame and importance, he can be very competitive. He particularly dislikes being told about engines who are faster than he is, 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 1923.
Gordon 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.
Despite his hard-working nature and his position among the engines, Gordon can be very arrogant, and has at times antagonized the other engines, particularly Edward, Thomas and Percy. But following mis-adventures where Edward had to help him, Gordon had to acknowledge that despite being old, Edward is still a very useful engine.
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, an 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 new wheels, motion and running plate designed by William Stanier, the Fat Controller's mentor, who was also responsible for Henry's rebuild.
Actually, 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 1958 Princess Royal class locomotive. However, the conversion was not perfect and resulted in a severely butchered-up Tri-ang Princess Royal which still retained many of the Princess Royal's features, including the chassis- the driving wheels were not evenly spaced. These errors were carried over into subsequent illustrations. Awdry ended up removing some of the Princess Royal's features such as the chimney and the dome, which were replaced by a LNER Gresley chimney and dome that were fitted on. He then reshaped the Belpaire firebox and reshaped the firebox by filing down and rubbing down the Belplair firebox into a tapered firebox/LNER A3/A1 Class firebox.
Gordon in The Railway SeriesEdit
- In the Railway Series, Gordon's buffers were square and pointy. 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. (A drawing inaccuracy in the last picture in The Three Railway Engines shows Gordon with round buffers.)
- 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.