Based on Ernest Haycox's novel, a trouble-shooter protects railroad building from his ex-army buddy and competes with him for the post-mistress.
Lincoln signs a bill for a railroad to the Pacific. Investor Asa M. Barrows (Henry Kolker) says the Central Pacific will get to Ogden first, and he hires Sid Campeau (Brian Donlevy) to distract men with drink and gambling to delay the Union Pacific. In 1868 post-mistress Molly Monahan (Barbara Stanwyck) goes on the train of her father (J. M. Kerrigan) to Cheyenne. Dick Allen (Robert Preston) asks her to marry. Trouble-shooter Jeff Butler (Joel McCrea) says he made peace with Red Cloud and gets Fiesta (Akim Tamiroff) and Leach Overman (Lynne Overman) as bodyguards. Jeff knew Dick in the army but has to control Campeau. A man shoots an Indian, and Jeff throws him off the moving train. In Cheyenne Paddy (Regis Toomey) says Jack Cordray (Anthony Quinn) cheated, and Jack shoots him. Molly comforts Paddy as he dies and then complains. Jeff claims the pot for Paddy's widow and warns Jack to leave town. Jack draws his gun, but Jeff kills him. Jeff lures workers by saying gold is at the end of track. Dick offers Molly a ring, but she has her eye on Jeff and flirts with him.
Men lay track. Jeff learns that Duke Ring (Robert Barrat) killed the foreman and sees him break tools. Molly has Jeff remove his gun; but he hits Ring with a shovel, and men go back to work. General Grant gets Barrows to loan Ames a $1,000,000 for the Union Pacific. Barrows tells Campeau to steal his $200,000 shipment, and Campeau sends Dick. Jeff and his men chase the robbers. Dick protects his back with the money-bag and throws it to Molly. Jeff joins them. Dick pulls a gun, and Molly accepts his ring so Jeff can go. Molly tells Dick to return the money, and they give it to General Casement (Stanley Ridges). Jeff has men with axes and questions Campeau, who admits Dick stole. Men smash the saloon. Dick and Molly are wed. Jeff comes for Dick and tells Molly a guard was killed; but she helps Dick escape. General Casement fires Molly.
From below Dick climbs into Molly's car. She admits she loves Jeff, but Dick knows it. Indians attack the train and wreck it with the water tower. As the Indians loot, Jeff crawls under the train and joins Dick and Molly, who uses a wire to call for help. When they are seen, the shooting starts. Monahan brings a train of soldiers across a burning bridge. Only Jeff has three bullets left for themselves. Molly prays, and the soldiers arrive. Molly is shot, and wounded Jeff tells Dick to flee. Jeff brings Dick a horse. Dick tells Jeff that Barrows is behind Campeau and goes to the Central Pacific. Jeff says to lay track on snow; Monahan's engine crashes, and he dies. To avoid delay Jeff sends Fiesta and Leach to abduct Barrows to fix the track. Jeff kisses Molly good-bye. The track meets west of Ogden. Barrows says he lost millions but pounds the golden spike. Dick greets Molly and goes to protect Jeff but is shot by Campeau. Dying Dick warns Jeff, and Leach shoots Campeau. Jeff tells Molly about Dick.
Director Cecil DeMille created an adventure out of the
historic competition between two railroad companies. Much trouble
is caused because of unscrupulous manipulation by a greedy investor.