Gordon MK-I
Gordon MK-I
Gordon MK-I on Gavin's Layout

Gordon's livery was originally green on the 'Other Railway'. He was the experimental loco before Great Northern, the 1st ever A1. Once the engineers ironed out the defects, and Great Northern and the other initial A1's were built, Gordon was sold to the NWR on Sodor with a spare boiler and firebox. In this form he is a straight A1 with a GNR 8-wheeled tender. The Rev. Awdry never modelled this or had it depicted in his stories or illustrations, though. To build Gordon, I used a Hornby Great Northern, being the first-ever A1, this should ensure that any subtle detail differences in this class of locomotive are avoided.

(There is a question whether or not Gordon and Great Northern are one and the same. It's very possible!)

Gordon's front detail Detail of Gordon's tender
Front side-view detail Tender detail
View of Gordon MK-I Gordon MK-I's face!
Another side-view of Gordon MK-I Gavin even sculpted a face for Gordon!

Gordon MK-II

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 also appears to have the lower-type cab typical of late A1's and all A3's. Although the boiler resembles and may very well be that of an A1, a wealth of research with Rhys Davies/Loey Machan and his calculations determined that Gordon's spare A1 boiler was in part exchanged for that of an A3, with the super heater on the smokebox side replaced by another one-off design, mounted on the interior as had been done with other locomotives, a very possible proposition. Gordon MK II is likely to be slightly weaker than his original form, redesigned partly for economy, as James and Henry can often match his performance for less money.

Rhys decided that Black 5 wheels are a high possibility and would give Gordon more power, but I decided to use Princess wheels because it was also agreed they should give more of a speed compromise and look more 'correct' (at least to me) as the former look too small. In reality, either option is possible.

Gordon MK-II
Gavin's kitbashed Gordon MK-II

The model I used was the chassis from a Hornby Princess and the body of a Hornby A1 (later cab type). Gordon's wheels are of debate, and as mentioned above, on my model I used Princess 6’ 6" wheels. Wilbert's model was an old tooling Stanier Princess from the 1950's, I believe. The Rev.'s model was less scaled, and the chassis had the spacing between each driving wheel even. I found that this wasn't so on a real Princess and on the new model chassis I was using, it was uneven - the rear driver is further away from the front two. The splasher spacing was obviously different too, so I had to destroy the running plate and make my own. If Wilbert had this newer type to use as a model, the illustrations would have had uneven driving wheels, which to a real Princess would be correct, and I presume the same could be said about the illustrations.

The same could be said for the boiler bands. Wilbert was trying to make an A1/3 out of a Princess and he ended up with 5 boiler bands. also seen in the illustrations. His detailed description of Gordon in The Island of Sodor: It's People History and Railways specifically state that the top is half is still Gresley and not Stanier. This shouts to me that 7 boiler bands is more correct. The real A1/3's have exactly 7 boiler bands, therefore his model should have had 7 bands for these reasons.

I'm speculating that uneven wheel spacings, a modified Princess chassis including wheels were possibly used to build Gordon MK II. These are my justifications for going against the illustrations! Logical though.

Gordon MK-II front side view Gordon MK-II's Tender
Front side-view of Gordon MK-II Gordon MK-II's Tender detail

Gordon's characteristic curved flowing front on his running plate was again questionable. On the running plate of an A1/3 it goes from the rear to the front straight, then drops down at the front splasher. I decided to raise it there at the front, meeting the height of the rear section. Different RWS illustrations show otherwise, but Gordon's valve gear would not practically fit. Artists John T. Kenney and especially Peter and Guvnor Edwards' pictures look better scale-wise, and the question is whether or not the new running plate height is neither lower level with the front half or somewhere in between. It's a small difference either way, you decide!

Plasticard was used for the new running plate sloping forward to match the front already sloped upwards (if that makes sense). The middle part of the curve in front of the smokebox door was made using a rather unconventional method, Glue! Normally, a filler or putty would be used, but I instead filled it with Polystyrene Cement and angled it so that gravity would keep it in the correct position. Once it was dried into a semi-hard goo, I fiddled the edges to neaten its appearance. Once completely dried, I used a mini-drill equipped with a wool buffer and went at it, painting it black afterwards. I then buffered and repeated the process to a smooth finish.

I later found out that Gordon MK II was likely to be left hand drive, based on a combination of research and illustrations. On my model the pipe on the right side of the boiler was moved to the left to match the reverser rod under the running plate. I also changed some aspects of the cab layout around, and made a mock-up pipe and oil can. This cab change isn't mega-accurate though. Gordon's Tender is an etched Brass kit from Comet Models via Mainlytrains.com

I still need to add a tender door, smoke generators and coal though. I fitted works plates to both sides of the cab in relation to Gordon's two forms, as illustrated in the pictures. I added scaled couplings to the front, and I drilled holes in the lamps to fit on the lamp irons in any combination, bluetack inside. A tip from me, but Tony Wright should be credited as I heard it from him in one of his Right Track DVD series. Highly recommended viewing!

Gordon MK-II Side view of Gordon MK-II
Forward facing view of Gavin's model ...and another view of Gordon MK-II

One of the other things I must bring to your attention is to the steam pipes on the edge of the smokebox. On all A1/3's they go into the cylinder from the rear half. Most illustrations show this feature too, however, on Black 5 cylinders the steam pipe enters at the centre! So this means that either the steam pipes need to be moved, or the cylinder position moved, OR as I suggested earlier the cylinders are possibly a slightly different design likely to be more meaty than black 5 ones to compensate for Gordon's removal of the middle cylinder.

I prefer this proposition as it would make sense for Gordon and Henry to be able to exchange parts, but seeing as Sir Topham Hatt has never been conventional and is renown for experimenting and trying out new things, having unique and more powerful cylinders cast wouldn't be an impossibility.

As a finishing touch, I weather the locomotives slightly.

Basically, I dust the black down to give a compromise with the different visions we have. Light-grey running plates, dark-grey and black. I paint them black to resemble the late RWS pics, Wilbert's models and real engines. Lightly weathering them with grey gives a good compromise and takes the model sheen off. Underframes are treated with mild rust, dust and oil on the rods.

With all aspects of RWS research things needing to be thoroughly investigated, several true outcomes are possible. But the deeper you look into things, the closer you get to the truth providing you to add everything into the pot. I could go on forever about how I did this, but I better stop here!

Gordon MK-I Revisited!

As some of you may already know, I try to model the RWS engines most likely as they 'should' be as opposed to how I would like them or want them to appear. This explains my lack of compromise – though it's not to say I never compromise as I'm not perfect! But like most things in life, I'm after the truth, or at least as close that can be considered RWS truth after thorough research. I want to thank Rhys Davies for helping me with the first two versions of Gordon and for the research previously done that made these models a reality.

New knowledge has since come to light about Gordon’s origins which influenced me to modify Gordon’s MK I model based on the research described below:

My original Gordon MK I was simply a repaint of a Hornby 'Great Northern' as stated in my account of the model's customizing at the begining of this page. The main reason I did this was to test different shades of blue, and to test my air brushing techniques in preparation for my MK II or post-Crewe model.

After an in-depth research into the origins and character of Gordon was completed by two good friends of mine: Simon Martin and Sean O'Connor, I decided, with their help to flesh-out their theories in physical form for my own modelling and filming purpose, and to provide visual substance to their work. I'd like to give thanks to both of these gentlemen for their help and consultation. To those of you who have yet to read the two papers in questions, I highly recommend that you do so: The Gresley A0 Pacific Locomotive & the Origins of the NWR's no.4, and The Rebuilding of the NWR's no.4

The main changes to my blue Great-Northern were new running plates and splashers, and a slight bash modification of the valve gear.

Gordon MK I alterations
Running plate modifications made by Gavin to reflect A0 specifications. Photo: Gavin Rose (2009)

As can be seen in the technical drawing of the final draft A0 from the 2nd paper, the section before the standard A1 plate is indeed curved at the front. Comparison checks with scale drawings confirmed that the running plate height is the same as that of a standard A1 plate, thus requiring me to rebuild most of it.

Front running plate detail
Front running plate detail

Consequently, the top of the valve gear was in the way of the new lower running plate, so I had to spend an hour or so redesigning and bashing it with brass and a soldering iron, which resulted in me making a new bracket entirely. Another change to the running plate was the rear 'S' curve; it had to be brought forward as per the 'A0'.

I repainted the entire model with a sable brush by hand on top of the existing coating. I initially feared that doing so would result in a thick and uneven finish but thankfully, I was wrong! I also had apprehensions about applying a coat of gloss varnish, but doing so, in my opinion has proven rather effective in enhancing the appearance of a fine express engine such as the prototype A1, the A0 Gordon.

GNR Brass works plates from Fox-transfers added the final touch. All my NWR models currently have yellow window frames. My understanding is that they might instead need a brass finish; if this proves so then it will be a small job.

Click buttons to navigate through Gavin's slideshow of A0 Gordon

NWR #4 Gordon MKII Revisited (B)

Following my update of Gordon MK 1, I decided to also update my MKII model to align with Simon and Sean's research and to give visual substance to their work; same as before. I am very pleased with the finished result.

This time I used another Hornby Great Northern A1 as the base like I did with the 'A0'. This should ensure the detail changes from MK1 to MKII are consistent and more believable. The windows like in the A0 have retained the top curves for its structural stability effect.

The windows are now painted a brass colour, thinly done compared to last time. I was very unsure about this and felt the change to brass might ruin the look, yellow is very characteristic of the engines in the illustrations and most people perceive them as yellow to the best of my knowledge. After talking to Simon and Sean, I'm now glad I went for the change. Real engines have brass, Wilbert's models have brass, and it seems the illustrations were attempting to portray brass. Anyway, I'm rambling too much on that, the other models might subsequently get updated to follow suit. The chimney and cab are also the same larger type.

The running plate has been made much in the same way as before, save I used more plastic pieces rather than a few big ones. This enabled me to have more movement in the modelling and change the curve profile, it's better than before and I tried to keep the angles close to a logical progression of the A0 curve. The cylinders this time were fat Brittania cylinders to represent the custom built 20 x 28 inch as the Brittania cylinders match. I had to shave half a millimeter or so from the top but this is moot. As they are fictional, I'm sure a scale few inches would be considered in the design to not be an issue. The valve gear is the same as before, Hornby black 5 but this time I scratch built the bracket in a rough style like on the 8F locomotives. Running plate has steps like on the A0 but this time it was with a detailed plastic sheet to represent foot grip. The cylinder drain cocks are scratch built from brass wire soldered together and the hand rails this time are painted silver, more bling!

A slight weathering has been applied to the body as before, but just enough to get away with. The only thing that you may notice being out of place in the photographs is that the steps below the cab are painted black instead of blue. I forgot to paint them, but rest assured that they will be blue in the very near-future!

Enjoy! :)

Click buttons above to see Gavin's new model version of Gordon MKII

Finally, below are photos of the Rev. Awdry's model of Gordon (top) that you can compare with Gavin's new version (bottom).

Photos of Gordon MKII before and after Gavin's rebuild
Compare the Rev. Awdry's "Gordon" (top) with Gavin's version (below)