Gordon was built at Doncaster in 1922 as an experimental prototype for Sir Nigel Gresley’s A1 Pacific design 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 untill 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.
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 his express train before he could be uncoupled. Thomas usually fetched the coaches for him, however, after Thomas left the yard when he was given a branch line, Gordon, along with Henry and James, 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, where 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 learned 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 he 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.
Gordon is mainly used for passenger duties, pulling the North Western Railway's express, the Wild Nor' Wester, but has occasionally pulled goods trains, much to his dislike. He has been known to run into ditches and stop on hills to get out of doing these jobs, as he believes that these are below him.
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), he received a smoother running plate, Stanier underframes, wheels, cylinders, squared-off side windows, rectangular buffers and a Fowler tender. This rebuild effectively made him a Gresley/Stanier hybrid.
Gordon has become famous after his adventures: In 1953, he pulled Queen Elizabeth II's royal train and 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.
In 1957, when Diesel arrived on trial and was having trouble moving some old trucks, he decided to make rumours about Duck giving Gordon a bad nickname, the "Galloping Sausage". So he, Henry and James decided to wheesh and yell at Duck to keep out of their sheds. However, when the truth came out that Duck had not made the nicknames, they begin to feel very silly about jumping to conclusions before knowing the true story.
In 1965, Gordon complained about BoCo going on the main line, because the diesel only works on Edward's Branch Line. He claims that the Fat Controller would never agree and states that branch lines are vulgar. That night, Gordon's crew mistakenly claimed that the passenger with a green hat is the guard waving his green flag. As a result, Gordon leaves with the majority of the passengers, the luggage, and the guard stranded on the platform. Everyone is surprised, but the surprise quickly gives way to anger. This makes 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 wasn't told about the change. Because of this, Edward was sent to the main line and Gordon was sent down to Edward's branch line.
In 1967, Gordon felt devastated about his siblings were all scrapped on the Mainland, but happy to hear that his brother Flying Scotsman was preserved, when the Fat Controller brought him to reunit with Gordon.
Then, in 1986, Gordon got to visit Carlisle when a Diesel taking a Railtour failed.
In 2011, he was dismissed from pulling the express regularly to Barrow due to the purchase of Pip and Emma. He likes this, because he can do two trips a day instead of one and he does not have to hurry.
Gordon has, to date, been the fastest engine on Sodor, but has sometimes had accidents, due to him trying to show off. In the fifth season, his brakes were not working and he could not stop, resulting in him crashing through the Kirk Ronan Station wall. Also, in the sixth season, he ignored Salty's advice about going slow while pulling trucks, resulting in him speeding down a rickety old branch line and tumbling into a field. Though he has proven to not be too big for his wheels and to be useful instead, like when Spencer first arrived on Sodor, he gave him advice about taking on water before going to Maron Station; in result, he ran out of water on Gordon's Hill and Gordon had to pull him from there. In the tenth season, he, along with Edward, criticised Rocky when he first arrived on Sodor and called him "new-fangled nonsense." Afterwards, when he crashed into Edward's pipes, which had fallen off his flatbeds, he derailed. In result, Rocky came and lifted him back onto the rails and cleared the pipes, proving how useful he is.
Gordon once tried taking a shortcut in order to beat Stanley to Great Waterton, but accidentally crashed into Ben's logs, but luckily, saved Stanley from crashing into them on the track below. When Gordon was given the task of taking the Lion of Sodor to the Duke and Duchess of Boxford's Summer House with Ferdinand, he ignored his advice about going slowly over the Fenland, with the result of the statue falling into the muddy marsh. After the statue was cleaned, Gordon let Ferdinand be his front engine and they delivered the statue safely to the summer house. They have since then been good friends. One day, Gordon accidentally broke his buffer beam after colliding with a truck at the Dieselworks and Den and Dart gave Gordon a yellow and hazard buffer beam (similar to Den's), but Gordon refused to wear it until he later found that he can still be really useful as what Thomas said. One winter he, along with the rest of the Steam Team, had to find places to sleep, when the turntable at Tidmouth Sheds was frozen, so he decided to sleep there, in the one accessible berth, resulting in him getting stuck in there the next morning and remaining there for the rest of the day. He has since become a more sensible engine.
Once, he was waiting at Kellsthorpe Road Station while a workman was painting a telephone box on the other platform. But the man accidentally kicked his paint can onto the track next to Gordon, just as Connor raced through the station, splattering red paint all over Gordon. When Henry saw red spots all over Gordon, he assumed the blue engine had chicken pox. Later, as he was filling up with water, he told Philip to get on with his work and keep out of his way. He explained to Philip that he pulls the express and is very fast. As Gordon returned to Knapford with the express, Philip reversed back to the station as Gordon braked hard and told him that he nearly caused an accident. As he was resting in the yard, Philip challenged Gordon to a race and started to race away, but Gordon went back to resting instead of racing him. That night, Gordon was not very happy and decided to show Philip how fast he can go tomorrow and told him to have another race.
In Sodor's Legend of the Lost Treasure, Gordon called Thomas a silly little engine, making Thomas upset. Thomas wanted to take revenge, but ended up running Gordon's express coaches off the rails. Due to this incident, Thomas was sent away. Later, while he was pulling the express, Thomas nearly collided with him while chasing Sailor John and Skiff.
In the twentieth season, he was not ready to leave the sheds as his firebox had not been cleaned out in the morning. As Henry was pulling the express, Gordon arrived into Knapford to fetch his train, but the Fat Controller scolded Gordon for coming in late and told him that he had been assigned to a goods train for the rest of the day. Gordon was grumpy as he arrived at Brendam Docks with his goods train. Salty, Porter and Cranky greeted him. Gordon was given a train of coal. When he returned to Knapford, he asked the Fat Controller if he could pull the express again, but he was told to go to the Blue Mountain Quarry instead. As he arrived at the quarry, Gordon was still in a bad mood as he collected a train of stone. As he began to leave, the trucks put their brakes on and then released them, causing Gordon to jump the points and hit a buffer stop. Finally fed up with his work, he ordered to be uncoupled so he could go back to the sheds. That night, the Fat Controller scolded him again for not doing all his jobs that day and ordered him to pull the Flying Kipper as punishment. Henry and Thomas teased him about it not being an easy job, but Gordon was determined to prove them wrong and left the sheds to pull the Flying Kipper. As he returned to the sheds next morning, the Fat Controller praised him for successfully delivering the Kipper on time and told him that he could now go back to being the express engine again much to Gordon's delight. When the other engines noticed how smelly he was after pulling the Flying Kipper, he quickly went to the washdown whilst the other engines laughed.
In The Great Race, Gordon introduced Thomas to his brother, the Flying Scotsman, at Vicarstown and later teased Thomas for wanting to compete in the Great Railway Show, believing that he is too small to compete. Gordon was selected by the Fat Controller to participate in the Great Race and was temporarily streamlined for the event. However, Gordon refused to undergo the final safety checks and as a result, the workmen forgot to attach his safety valve. Thomas brought the new safety valve to the Mainland and tried to warn Gordon, but he competed in the race without it and his boiler exploded when he refused to heed Thomas and Flying Scotsman's warnings. Gordon had to drop out of the race as a result. After the Great Railway Show was over and all of the foreign engines (bar Ashima) had gone home, Gordon met up with Flying Scotsman, who admitted that his opinion on Sudrian engines has improved significantly since the race.
In Season 21, Spencer and him upset their passengers when they go too far with their competitiveness.
Gordon is the fastest and most powerful engine on Sodor. He is extremely proud of this and is inclined to boast. He is goodhearted, always willing to forgive and uses his superior strength to help smaller engines out of trouble.
Gordon's important position as the engine who usually pulls the Express has made him proud, pompous and self-important, with good reason too; he is the fastest engine on Sodor. His philosophy "tender engines don't shunt" meant that he looked down on tank engines and tender engines who do shunt, but after being locked in the shed with Henry and James after going on strike and before the seventeenth season, he seemed to have abandoned this philosophy.
Because of his rank in the social order of the North Western Railway, Gordon expects to get the important jobs and either sulks when he does not, or gets jealous of those who do. Sometimes, Gordon acts as a bully, particularly towards Edward, but following misadventures where Edward had to help him, Gordon had to acknowledge that despite being old, Edward is still a very useful engine. However, sometimes Gordon still doubts Edward is still reliable, such as the time he did not believe Edward could win a race against Spencer because he's only "a back engine" and "a waste of steam." He would soon stop belittling Edward after being tricked by Thomas; he learned his lesson and apologised to Edward saying that he promised not call him old or unreliable anymore.
Sometimes, Gordon shows a kinder side and gives the younger engines advice, usually after he has had some mishap as a result of his foolhardiness. Some of his advice is not exactly helpful, though, as James and Sir Handel have discovered.
As of the twentieth season, Gordon seems to have developed a tendency of pinning his own faults on others, as shown when he blamed Henry over having to do his jobs for the day and vice-versa, or when he and the rest of the Steam Team got in trouble for refusing to leave the shed at night, believing there was a ghost train (which was actually Henry with a coat of luminous paint) - again, Gordon blamed Henry for the predicament.
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. Gordon was built at Doncaster Works in Yorkshire. Once the first batch of A1 Pacifics appeared in 1922 Gordon would have more than likely have been reclassified A1/1 - the '/1' indicating he is slightly different to the rest of the class.
Gordon, being an experimental engine, never received a number and was never put into regular traffic, he was only ever used on test runs. 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. In both the Railway Series and television series, Gordon is depicted with a Fowler tender
As "The Shooting Star", Gordon's appearance is based on a streamlined Pennsylvania Railroad K4 (Hank's class), specifically #3768.
Gordon is painted in the North Western Railway's sky blue livery with red and yellow lining. The number "4" is painted on his tender sides in yellow. Before arriving on Sodor, he was painted in the Great Northern Railway's Apple Green livery with white and black lining.
In the Railway Series, he carries two builder's plates on the sides of his cab.
In the sixteenth season episode, Bust My Buffers!, Gordon received a yellow and black hazard stripe painted bufferbeam akin to Den's. In The Great Race, in his streamlined form, he is painted in the North Western Railway's sky blue livery with silver, red and dark blue lining. His number is still painted on his tender in yellow, smaller and surrounded by a dark blue circle.
Gordon on the Big Screen
Gordon was voiced by Neil Crone in Thomas and the Magic Railroad. In the film, he complained to Thomas, who was late and Thomas retorted that Gordon was being bossy and told him that he had to find Mr. Conductor, who was coming to visit Sodor to look after the North Western Railway while Sir Topham Hatt was taking a holiday. He thought Mr. Conductor was not needed until Diesel 10 sped through Thomas and Gordon at Killaban by. Later, he, James and Thomas argued about who should have taken Mr. Conductor and retorted that James is a big engine and Thomas is a small blue engine.
In the Greek narration of the Classic Series, Gordon is called Johny. From thirteenth season onward, Gordon has been referred to with his original name.
According to the Rev. W. Awdry in the book 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 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.
Gordon's eyes shut face mask is now owned by Twitter user Thomas Merchandise.
Gordon has went through several aesthetic changes in the television series:
His brake pipe is facing downward.
He shares the same whistle sound as Duck in nearly all of his roles.
The eyebrows on his first shocked face are thickened.
He regained his old whistle sound, excluding "Bye George!".
Thomas and the Magic Railroad:
His brake pipe is facing upward again.
He gained red lining on the cab side of his tender.
His trailing wheels became larger and moved forward, joining to his driving wheel chassis.
The wonky eyebrow on his second shocked face is corrected.
The lining on his pistons was moved slightly inwards.
His eyebrows become thinner and arch more.
His cylinders, which appeared to be broken, were fixed.
His eyebrows change shape completely.
The lining on the cab side of his tender was removed.
Hero of the Rails:
He lost facial detail; wrinkles on his forehead when cross or worried.
He became slightly bigger.
The middle sections of his driving wheels are painted black.
He gained a permanent head lamp and tail lamp.
His wheels are fully blue again.
The Adventure Begins:
His side rods become silver.
"If you were a nice tank engine, you'd be alright! Now you'll have to pull the next train backwards."
"Look!There's a new tank engine... oh, it's only Gordon back to front."
"Hullo! Playing Tank Engines? Sensible engine. Take my advice; scrap your tender and have a nice bunker!"
- Gordon jokingly mistaken for a tank engine, "Tenders and Turntables"
"Good riddance!Chatting all night keeping important engines awake, who is he anyway?"
"He's City of Truro. He's famous."
"As famous as me? Nonsense!"
"He's famouser than you. He went 100 miles an hour before you were drawn or thought of!"
"So he says. But I didn't like his looks. He's got no dome! Never trust domeless engines, they're not respectable! I never boast, But a 100 miles an hour would be easy for me! Goodbye."
- Gordon and Duck arguing about City of Truro, "Domeless Engines"
"It's not fair!"
"What isn't fair?"
"Letting branch line diesels pull main line trains!"
"Never mind, Gordon. I'm sure BoCo will let you pull his trucks sometime."
"I won't pull BoCo's dirty trucks! I won't run on branch lines!"
"Why not? It would be a nice change."
"The Fat Controller would never approve!Branch lines are vulgar!"
- Edward and Gordon taking about branch lines, "Wrong Road", second season
"When Gordon smiles, it changes his whole face. Hehehe. It is most interesting!"