In 1865, a former Confederate soldier, Cullen Bohannon (Anson Mount) journeys to the Union Pacific Railroad's westward construction of the first tra
nscontinental railroad to seek work and vengeance on the Union soldiers that have killed his wife. Thomas "Doc" Durant (Colm Meaney) begins his "mad, noble quest" to expand his railroad westward. Lily Bell (Dominique McElligott), accompanies her ailing husband Robert (Robert Moloney) as he surveys the landscape for the Union Pacific. Their camp is attacked by Cheyenne braves and all are killed except Lily, who flees into the wilderness with maps that are essential to Durant's success. Reverend Nathaniel Cole (Tom Noonan) baptizes Joseph Black Moon (Eddie Spears), a Cheyenne, in the Missouri River. The two later arrive at Hell on Wheels, the name for the mobile camp that follows the railroad westward.