Gordon the Big Engine

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.

Pictured Right: 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.”*

Flying Scotsman


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.

The Rev. Awdry's sketch of Gordon
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 (click link):Gresley's A0 Pacific and the Origin of NWR's No. 4.

Flying Scotsman, De Havilland Puss Moth Aircraft and Speedboat racing
In this Awdryesque scene from the 8 June, 1931, Flying Scotsman races a speedboat and a De Havilland Puss Moth.
The action, captured in British Pathe newsreels with others, can be downloaded directly from ITN Source (right click, save target as...)
Speed”,
pursued by the giant “Heracles” in “In the Van
and lastly, watch FS on its 40th Anniversary run from King’s Cross to Edinburgh in May, 1968

The real Gordon in a ditch
In 1952, a recalcitrant Ivatt 2-6-0 left a turntable in South Lynn and slid down a bank just as in Gordon's story "Off the Rails". For more about this and other stories behind the stories, see the Real Stories Database. Photo from Lynn News and Advertiser

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 Model 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 and the basis for Testbedford Jct's Turbomotive. This model was in fact well short of true scale length.

The Rev. Awdry's model of Gordon
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

Modeller's Corner

“Flying Scotsman”, on the other hand, has been one of the most popular locomotives in the Triang-Hornby/Hornby range continuously since 1968.

Hornby Twin-Tendered Flying Scotsman
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:
Hornby Flying Scotsman
Hornby OO model of Flying Scotsman (with face) available from Amazon.co.uk
Hornby model of Gordon
Hornby OO model of Gordon available from Amazon.co.uk
Bachmann 00 Model of Gordon
Bachmann OO Model of Gordon available from Amazon UK and US

Fandom Corner

The enterprising Gavin Rose has kitbashed not one, but two versions of Gordon based on his research into the engine's history in the Railway Series.

Gavin explains the hows, whys and wherefores here.

Gavin Rose's model of Gordon MK I

And below, Ajani Booth shares a few photos taken of LNER A3 103/502 (4472) in wartime livery at the NRM during a pilgrimage there in 2011. Photos credit Ajani Booth with our many thanks. Click the image below to view more photos.


Our good friend Jenn sent in this picture of herself with Gordon

Collector's Corner

Classic ERTL models of Gordon and Flying Scotsman LC Wooden Gordon from Amazon UK and US Now a rarity - LC Wooden Flying Scotsman from Amazon.co.uk
ERTL Gordon
ERTL Flying Scotsman
Learning Curve Wooden Gordon Learning Curve model of Flying Scotsman
LC Take-Along Gordon from Amazon UK and US TOMY version of Gordon from Amazon.co.uk
Learning Curve Take Along Gordon TOMY Model of Gordon
Brio model of Flying Scotsman
Brio's nice model of Flying Scotsman, currently in the NRM’s workshop undergoing extensive overhaul.

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