The line is a severe test for the engines on the North Western Railway. Over a distance of eight kilometers (five miles), the line climbs a hundred metres (280 feet) to reach Maron, meaning a gradient of 1:75. Due to the steep grade, bankers are often called to assist heavy trains up the hill.
Strong winds from the ocean can make the hill more difficult to climb. This was countered by planting trees to provide shelter. In the autumn, there is additional risk of slipping on the leaves as James found in Leaves from Gordon the Big Engine.
- Gordon's Hill is based on "Lickey Incline" near King Norton's station on the Midland Railway.
- Whilst it is probably a coincidence, there is a real place in London called "Gordon's Hill.
- Over the years, several accidents have occurred on the hill. It is also a starting place for runaway trains due to broken couplings or an engine's brakes failing.