Based on a true story, a railroad engineer has his train stolen by Union spies and manages to get it back, rescue his girlfriend, and help win a battle.
Johnny Gray (Buster Keaton) in Georgia loves his locomotive and Annabelle Lee (Marion Mack). When the Civil War begins, her brother goes to enlist. Johnny tries to enlist but is rejected because he is an engineer. Annabelle asks why he did not enlist, and she rejects him.
A year later Union General Thatcher (Jim Farley) sends Captain Anderson (Glen Cavender) as a spy to steal a train. Annabelle gets on Johnny's train. During a stop Anderson and his men steal the train, and they tie up Annabelle. They cut the telegraph wire. Johnny goes after them. Anderson puts on a gray uniform. Johnny says deserters stole his train, and he takes an engine but leaves behind the cars with soldiers. He loads a cannon that aims at the engine. Johnny removes obstacles from the track. His engine pushes a smoking car.
The Confederate army retreats as the Northern army advances. Anderson changes his uniform. Johnny chops wood. Anderson sees Johnny on a track below and sends men after him. Johnny leaves the engine and tries to hide. He sneaks into a house and under the table hears the Union generals plan to cross a bridge. Annabelle is held in a locked room. Johnny knocks out two guards and puts on a blue uniform. He wakes Annabelle, and they escape at night in the rain.
In the morning Johnny sees the train. He puts Annabelle in a sack and loads her on the train. He steals the engine and uses it to pull down a telegraph pole. Johnny gets Annabelle out of the bag and loads wood. He throws obstacles on the track behind him to slow down Anderson's train. Johnny gets water and drenches Annabelle. Soldiers board his train, but he leaves the car behind.
Johnny bends a switch and tries to catch up with Annabelle, who backs it up. Johnny stops the engine on a bridge, builds a fire, and falls into the river. A gray soldier shoots at Johnny, who changes uniforms. He gets the Confederate forces moving. The switch is repaired, and the train tries to cross the burning bridge, which collapses.
A battle rages at the river. Johnny finds a sword and points it like a general. After the battle he captures General Thatcher on the train. A Confederate general orders Johnny to take off the uniform and makes him a lieutenant. Johnny kisses Annabelle and salutes the soldiers.
This comedy adventure combines humor with an exciting
story that reflects the desire to be heroic and win the girl.