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Duke, named after the Duke of Sodor and originally called The Duke, is a narrow gauge tank-tender engine, who is considered a hero amongst all the engines. He is also one of the oldest engines on Sodor.
Duke was built at Boston Lodge in Minffordd, Wales to the order of John Arnold Norramby, Earl of Sodor and Chairman of the MSR, in 1879 for the opening of the Mid Sodor Railway in 1880. The Board of Directors named him in honour of the Earl and rostered him to haul the Opening Train. He worked with several other engines on the Mid Sodor, including Falcon and Stuart (later named Sir Handel and Peter Sam, respectively).
Soundly built, Duke was well maintained and kept in service until 1947 when the railway closed. While Stuart and Falcon were sold, no buyers were interested in him, so he was left oiled, greased and sheeted up in Arlesdale Sheds, where he was all but forgotten. He believed that the Earl would come to rescue him, but as time went on, he did not show, and Duke began to have doubts which grew stronger and stronger. He was unaware the Earl he knew had been killed during the Second World War, and that his successor was just a boy, who did not know of Duke.
He was later discovered by Mr Fergus Duncan, the Rev. Teddy Boston and the Rev. W. Awdry in 1969 and taken by road and rail to Crovan's Gate Works. There Duke was restored and rebuilt, through the kindness and generosity of Sir Topham Hatt and the present Earl of Sodor, who shared the cost with Sir Handel Lloyd Brown. He was finally re-united with Sir Handel and Peter Sam and for the first time in its history the Skarloey Railway had motive power to spare, which allowed Sir Handel to be lent to the Talyllyn Railway in 1982, while Sir Haydn was out of service for repairs.
He attended Ivo Hugh's naming ceremony in 1996.
Duke lived on the Mid Sodor Railway with several engines including Stuart, Falcon, and briefly Smudger, until the line went bankrupt and Stuart and Falcon were sold. Duke, however, was sheeted until a group of adventurers found his shed, buried under soil that had washed down from the mountains. Skarloey and Rheneas took him back to the Skarloey Railway, where he was soon returned to service.
Duke is one of the oldest and most experienced engines of the Skarloey Railway. He is also the mentor of Peter Sam and Sir Handel, from their younger days on the Mid Sodor Railway, when they were called Stuart and Falcon respectively. Being the oldest engine on the line, Duke liked everything to be "just so". Although once lost for many years in an old shed that nature tucked away and forgot, after the Mid Sodor came to an end, he was found by rescuers, although quite by accident, when one dropped in through his shed roof. He may have a head teacher attitude and maintain his authority at all times, but can be quick to apply his knowledge and years of experience to help guide and correct any younger engine. He is proud of his name and keen to uphold the respect it merits. He can often be heard to say "That would never suit His Grace!" upon hearing or seeing something that he takes a disapproval to, or pedantically stating how he thinks someone would have adhered to the rules and regulations in his younger days. Despite their teasing ways, Sir Handel and Peter Sam have grown to become very fond of Duke and dearly nicknamed him "Granpuff" for his long service to the railway.
Duke himself is based on Prince, a George England tank engine from the Ffestiniog Railway at Porthmadog, North Wales. Unlike his basis, Duke is built to 2ft 3in gauge, while Prince is built to 1ft 11½in gauge. Bertram is another member of this class.
In the Railway Series, Duke was painted red-brown with black lining. On the Mid Sodor Railway, Duke was numbered "1" and his tender bore the Mid Sodor Railway's crest. When he moved to the Skarloey Railway, he was not repainted in the Railway's standard red livery, instead being restored to his brown MSR livery with brass nameplates. He bears neither his MSR number (1) or his SR number (8) for unknown reasons. In the television series, Duke was painted brown with yellow lining and has two red plaques on either side of his saddle tank with his name written in gold.
On the Rev. W. Awdry's model railway, he had "The Duke" written on his sides and "MS" written on his tender.