Once upon a time, there were three engines who lived on their own railway. Their names were Duke, Stuart, and Falcon. Duke was the oldest of the three and had been named after the Duke of Sodor. Duke felt very proud of this and decided it was his responsibility to keep the younger engines in line. While other engines came and went, Duke outlasted all of them. Stuart and Falcon gave Duke the nickname "Granpuff" and were very fond of him, but did sometimes tire of his bossiness and would occasionally tease him.
Duke warns Stuart and Falcon that if they do not behave they could end up like Smudger. Stuart and Falcon are curious about Smudger, so Duke tells them about him. Smudger was a show-off, who ran roughly and often derailed, spilling his loads. Duke tried to warn Smudger, but Smudger simply did not care and laughed at Duke. But he quickly stopped laughing when the manager told Smudger he was going to be useful one way or another. Smudger didn't laugh at that and from then on, the only running Smudger did was running as a generator behind the shed. He never went on the rails again.
Stuart and Falcon began behaving better and all three remained friends for years. However, this all ended when hard times came. The mines that the engines depended on for work closed and the railway soon followed. As a result, the engines were all put up for sale. Stuart and Falcon were bought together, but no one wanted to buy an old engine like Duke. Stuart and Falcon promise Granpuff they will find another railway for him to run on.
Duke's crew oiled and greased him one last time, then put him to sleep snugly in his shed and bid him a final goodbye as they had to leave to find new jobs. Duke then went to sleep, waiting for the day he would be able to run again. Years went by and torrents of rain washed soil down from the mountains and countryside grew over the shed. No one would know from looking that a small shed was there, let alone an engine asleep inside.
While Duke was in his shed for many years, he was certainly not forgotten and recently a team of people visited the Fat Controller intending to find and rescue Duke. The team was prepared with maps and knew where to look, so the Fat Controller agreed. Everyone set off to the mountains in a train and began the long search. As the days passed, the search grew harder and there was no sign of Duke, but the rescuers were just as determined to find him.
Finally, the search ended, quite by accident, when one of the team members fell through the roof of Duke's shed, having not realised he was standing on it. Duke wakes up and asks the men if they are vandals, but they assure him that they are there to rescue him and reunite him with Stuart and Falcon. After digging him out of the shed, they took Duke to his new home, the Skarloey Railway. Falcon and Stuart - now Sir Handel and Peter Sam - were ready to greet their old friend, who complained that they woke him up and started to tell them about the older days.
The two engines laughed at this and told Duke that they were all due to go back to work tomorrow and they could keep Duke in order. Duke pretended to be cross, but he could not be happier to be back at work with his friends.
At the time the story took place, Falcon was still new to the Mid Sodor Railway and so was to double-head a train along the Mountain Road with Duke. Falcon was cross and insisted on going in front, but he paid too much attention to the view and not enough to the rails and thus derailed, hanging dangerously over the edge of a cliff. Duke gallantly held Falcon until his crew was able to secure the couplings, then after being given an emergency supply of water from a nearby cottage he pulled Falcon back onto the rails. Falcon was grateful but perplexed at Duke's braveness, having insulted him previously. Duke modestly claimed he did not want Falcon's new paint to be spoilt.