Written by: Tony Gayton and Joe Gayton
Directed by: David Von Ancken

Previous episode: Next episode:
none Immoral Mathematics


(ON SCREEN “Washington, D.C. 1865 The war is over, Lincoln is dead. The nation is an open wound.”)

(EXT–Street in Washington, D.C.)

(A UNION SOLDIER walks down the street. Church bells RING. He looks up at the church and enters the building)

(CUT TO: INT Church confessional box)

(The soldier is confessing to a PRIEST, who is off-screen.)

PRIEST (slight Irish accent) Unburden yourself, my son

SOLDIER I was with General Sherman on his march south. What we did…evil, unspeakable things.

PRIEST You were a soldier. You were following orders.

SOLDIER No. No, not just orders. We opened a dark door and the Devil stepped in.

PRIEST The only way to cast out the Devil is to confess to God.

SOLDIER No. No, I can’t, Father.

PRIEST (Southern accent) Tell me about Meridian.

SOLDIER How do you know about Meridian?

(The priest, who is actually CULLEN BOHANNON, slides open the screen and aims a revolver at the soldier. Bohannon shoots the soldier in the face. He slumps over and falls out of the confessional. People in the church scream. Bohannon exits the confessional and aims his revolver at the soldier, ensuring he is dead. He looks up a huge crucifix and then walks out of the church. A bell TOLLS.)

Act IEdit

(INT Fancy parlor – Day)

(A sign reads “The Union Pacific Railroad. Investment Offering. Join us as we construct this glorious road from sea to shining sea.”)

(THOMAS DURANT, a middle-aged, well-dressed man, is making a speech to potential investors for the Union Pacific Railroad.)

DURANT A nation, which nearly destroyed itself by civil war between North and South, can only be healed by the binding together of East and West. Mark my words, gentlemen, it will be built. The only question that remains is which one of you will join me in this mad, noble quest? Who among you will have to say in years hence that he stood idly by as this nation became an empire? And who among you will be able say he lent a hand in making manifest our destiny as a great nation?

(The investors burst into applause.)


(CUT TO: Sen. JORDAN CRANE, also a well-dressed, middle-aged man, who is smiling at Durant)

CRANE Bravo!

(CUT TO: INT Fancy parlor – Later)

(It is after the investment offering and only Durant and Crane remain in the parlor. Crane is seated at a table.)

DURANT It’s all horse crap. The faster I shovel, the faster they eat it up.

CRANE But it was truly inspirational speech.

DURANT Twaddle and shite I say.

CRANE Then why am I here?

DURANT You are here to play your part.

(Crane reads stock certificate)

CRANE (pronouncing incorrectly) Credit Mobilier

DURANT Crédit Mobilier will be awarded all major construction contracts on the Union Pacific Railroad. I own it and I’m giving you the chance to get in on the ground floor.

CRANE So, you’ll be paying yourself to build a railroad using government subsidies?

DURANT Now that, my friend, is inspirational.

CRANE Yes it is, but I can’t afford these on a senator’s salary

DURANT As head of the congressional oversight committee on railroads, I’m sure you will find a way to pay for them over and over and over again

CRANE Might I ask how many shares are here?

DURANT Two hundred. I think you’ll find that’s fair.

CRANE Four hundred sounds fairer

DURANT (surprised) Are you trying to renegotiate a bribe?

CRANE (smiling) Oh, bribe, such a dirty word. Hmm? Why don’t you think on it, Doc? Hmm? (stands to leave) We’ve got a vote before the committee next Tuesday. (turns away towards door))

DURANT Good luck with your land speculation in Nebraska.

(Crane stops and stares at Durant)

DURANT Fifty thousand acres bought on the cheap, hmm?

(Crane walks back to the table slowly, swallowing nervously)

DURANT What would happen to the value of that land if I decided to route the railroad around it? (gestures to map behind him)

(Crane frowns and sits down)

DURANT Take the stocks, Jordan.

(A moment passes before Crane reaches for the stocks. Durant slams his hand down on the pile.)

DURANT But I’ve decided to renegotiate. (peels off many of the stock certificates, leaving a smaller pile) One hundred shares. (smiles)

(EXT Rail line – Day)

(A train rolls along the track, silhouetted against the sun.)

(CUT TO: INT Train car)

(Two men, SEAN and MICKEY McGINNES, sit on a bench on the train. Mickey is attempting to read the newspaper aloud but is struggling.)

MICKEY He was gun-gunned down while he, while he p-p-pr

SEAN Prayed.

MICKEY I-I was getting it. Prayed.

(A man sits in across from Sean and Mickey, his head tilted down, obscuring his face.)

MICKEY In the con…



SEAN (with certainty) Conference

MICKEY (skeptical) "Prayed in the conference"?

(Man raises his head, revealing he is Bohannon.)

BOHANNON Confessional.

MICKEY Someone killed the poor beggar whilst he was confessing. What is the world coming to?

SEAN Well, I suppose the only consolation is he got to heaven that much faster

BOHANNON (puzzled) How’d you come by that conclusion?

SEAN Well, he confessed his sins. He died in Grace.

BOHANNON So…(pushes his hat back from his forehead) God just up and punches his ticket to heaven, huh?

MICKEY Well, yeah.

BOHANNON (shakes head) If that’s how God goes about his business, you can keep him.

SEAN Keep God?

MICKEY Do you know believe in a higher power?

BOHANNON Yes, sir. I wear it on my hip.

(He pulls back coat revealing his pistol strapped to his hip.)

SEAN Are you a gunslinger, then?

BOHANNON (smiles) No. I’m just heading out West looking for work on the railroad.

MICKEY So are we.

SEAN To seek our fortune, as it were.

MICKEY I’m Mickey and this here’s Sean.

BOHANNON Cullen Bohannon.

SEAN Mickey has twelve toes

MICKEY And Sean but eight

SEAN Individually, were freaks

MICKEY But together we’re whole.

(EXT Hell on Wheels – Day)

(ON SCREEN – “Council Bluffs, Iowa”)

(“So Far from Your Weapon” by the Dead Weather plays in the background)

(Train brakes near rail’s end. Workers hammer spikes and lay rails. Bohannon leans from the end of the rail car. The train pulls to a full stop. Explosions are going off ahead of rail’s end. Bohannon hops down from the train, saddlebag over his shoulder, and he walks in the direction of the engine. Several Negro workers file out of a boxcar. Pigs are being herded out of another boxcar that also has served as a carrier for more Negro workers. Bohannon ducks under gangplank on the pig car, holding his hat. Men toss luggage from the train and more workers pile off the flat bed car.)

(Bohannon walks toward office tent. More explosions go off, startling horses and men alike. Men look for cover. Only Bohannon remains standing upright.)

(CUT TO: EXT Outside office tent)

(DANIEL JOHNSON sits at a desk in front of the office tent, taking down names in a ledger. He drinks a shot of whiskey.)

JOHNSON Next. (Bohannon steps forward) Name?

BOHANNON Cullen Bohannon.

JOHNSON Railroad experience?

BOHANNON (shakes his head) None.

JOHNSON (looks up and sighs) Why should I hire you?

BOHANNON I’m willing to do just about anything.

JOHNSON (skeptical) Uh-huh. You and a thousand others.

BOHANNON (humbly) I ain’t got no other place else to go, sir.

JOHNSON Save it. Will you work a cut crew?



BOHANNON (sheepishly) What’s a cut crew?

JOHNSON Oh, it’s brutal work. It is not for the faint of heart. It gets hotter than a whore house on nickel night out there. (takes a drink)

BOHANNON I ain’t afraid of hard work.

JOHNSON You’re a Johnny Reb aren’t you?

BOHANNON Yes, sir.

JOHNSON I could tell by that Griswold you’re carrying. Was a Griswold like that that took off my hand. (moves left hand over the stump on his right arm)

(BOHANNON pulls his coat over his gun.)

JOHNSON Well, we’ve all paid a price, Mr. Bohannon. I imagine you bear your own scars. I was a Copperhead before the war so I bear no hard feelings towards you Gray Backs; you did what you had to do. It’s the Darkies I blame. They way I see it, they only fire more than just a hand. Say, did you own slaves, Mr. Bohannon?

BOHANNON (hesitantly) I did.

JOHNSON Well, then I imagine you know your way around a nigger.

(CUT TO: EXT The cut)

(Johnson rides his horse while Bohannon walks ahead of him. Several Negro workers are digging the cut. Some of the men, including ELAM FERGUSON, a tall, muscular man. He stops working for a moment, looking at the newcomer and Johnson.)

JOHNSON This is Mr. Bohannon, your walking boss. You can address him as boss or boss man or walking boss. Mr. Bohannon is a former master of slaves.

ELAM (to other men; shakes head) Some things don’t never change.

JOHNSON So, he’s up to your tricks. He’s gonna work the blue out of your gums, boys. Any coffee boilers and otherwise slack work ethic will be dealt with severely. Now, dig me a cut!

(EXT River near Hell on Wheels – Same day)

(A congregation stands on the bank of the river singing “Pass Me Not, O Gentle Savior”, accompanied by a small barrel organ being cranked by one of the members of the congregation. Rev. NATHANIEL COLE, a tall, white-haired man with a beard, stands waist-deep in the river with a young Cheyenne man, JOSEPH BLACK MOON.)

CONGREGATION (singing) Pass me not, O gentle Savior

COLE Jesus Christ, accept this humble servant into Your heart.

CONGREGATION (singing) Hear my humble cry
While on others Thou art calling

COLE Be reborn in the glory of Jesus.

(Cole dunks Joseph in the river. Joseph keeps his eyes open.)

CONGREGATION (singing) Do not pass me by

(CUT TO Joseph’s perspective: Cole stands over him smiling as an eagle soars in the background)

(CUT TO normal perspective: Cole pulls Joseph from water and gives him a kiss on the cheek.)

COLE Brother Joseph, your sins are washed away.

CONGREGATION (singing) Savior, Savior
Hear my humble cry

(Both men stand in the river smiling.)

(EXT Hell on Wheels – Day)

(A sign reads “Hell on Wheels. Population: One less every day”. “Twelve Gates to the City” by Ralph Stanley plays in the background. The camera pans over the denizens of Hell on Wheels: an impoverished mother and her children, men on horseback, wheelwrights and butchers plying their trade. Cole and Joseph ride up in a buckboard wagon, a steeple topped with a cross is in the back.)

COLE Woah, woah. (pulls horses to a stop)

(Cole hands over the reigns and stands. He holds out his hands.)

COLE Right here. Unload the tent. Raise the church in this den of thieves. I shall build a house of the Lord.

(Several prostitutes wander towards COLE in various states of undress. One PROSTITUTE walks up and smirks.)

PROSTITUTE You’re putting up a church here?

(Cole hops down from wagon and walks to the Prostitute. He straightens his coat before reaching out and touching her hair, letting it drop back down.)

COLE What better place to convert the wicked, sister?

PROSTITUTE Well, you better keep an eye on your flock, Reverend. We do our own share of converting ‘round here. (spits at his feet and smiles, her teeth in horrible condition)

(INT Durant’s rail car – Day)

(CLOSE UP of a map)

(DURANT stands over the map, frowning. The OLDER ENGINEER and the young engineer stand nearby.)

DURANT Why have you made my road so…straight?

OLDER ENGINEER Are we not in a race with the Central Pacific?

DURANT The Central Pacific? Those imbeciles will never make it out of Sacramento. They’re so desperate that I hear they’re hiring chinks. What I was thinking was something more like…this. (he draws an imaginary wavy line across the map with a stick)

OLDER ENGINEER But we’re building over flat land. Why wouldn’t we make it straight?

DURANT “Why wouldn’t we make it straight”, he asks. (looks at the ceiling in desperation) Take a closer look.

(Older Engineer leans over to study map. Durant slams his face into the map.)

DURANT (angrily) Let me elucidate. In case you haven’t heard, this undertaking is being subsidized by the enormous teat of the Federal Government.

(The young engineer looks on, nervously.)

DURANT This never-ending, money-gushing nipple pays me $16,000 per mile, yet you…build…my…road…straight! You’re fired. Get out.

(Older Engineer smiles, looking puzzled)

DURANT (yelling) I said, get out!

(Older Engineer walks away from table.)

DURANT (to younger engineer) You look like a bright young man.

(The train charges onward down the track)

Act IIEdit

(ON SCREEN – “Nebraska Territory”)

(EXT Rolling hills in Nebraska – Day)

(CUT TO: ROBERT BELL’s perspective through the surveying transit)

(A beautiful, blond woman, LILY BELL, is holding a survey marker. She smiles.)

(CUT TO: normal perspective)

(Robert, her husband, stands back from the transit and puts his hands on his hips, smiling. He goes back to work, adjusting dials on the transit.)

(CUT TO: A hill, later)

(Lily is sitting in the grass while Robert is higher up the hill in a chair, drafting a map.)

LILY This land…it’s bewitching.

ROBERT It hasn’t changed since Lewis and Clark first saw it sixty years ago.

LILY Do you ever wonder if our work here will be the ruin of all of this?

ROBERT Progress comes with a cost, Lily.

LILY I just think it’s so much more beautiful without people.

ROBERT Don’t fool yourself. There are plenty of people here. We’re entering Cheyenne territory. You do remember our agreement?

LILY (she turns to look at him over her shoulder) You mean our agreement about me not leaving your side while you’re ill?

ROBERT (coughs) No. I mean your agreement that you should go back to Chicago once we entered hostile Indian territory. (he walks down the hill to join Lily in the grass)

LILY (holding his hand) Yes, my dear, but that was before you took ill. I believe our second agreement supersedes our first.

ROBERT Dear God, now you sound like a lawyer.

LILY If you want me to go to Chicago, lead the way. I’m not leaving without you, Robert.

ROBERT Don’t tempt me Lily. I just might do it.

LILY (she grabs him by the chin and shakes his head playfully) Now, you play me for dumb. You’ve worked at this for too long to go back now.

ROBERT We’ve worked at this. (scoots closer to Lily and puts his arms around her waist) This. This would mean nothing to me if you weren’t here to share it.

LILY Robert Bell, are you hiding something in your trousers?

ROBERT It must be all this fresh air.

LILY Breathe deeply. (laughs)

(They kiss. Robert breaks off and presses his lips to her forehead. He begins to cough.)

(EXT Hell on Wheels – Night)

(The moon is full and orange. The men in town are entering and exiting the bath house. A few prostitutes loiter outside, looking for customers. Two signs read “hot water and soap: 25 cents” and “bucket of water 3¢”.)

(CUT TO: INT Starlight Saloon)

(Bohannon is playing a game of cards with Johnson and two other men.)

CARD PLAYER So, uh, how many slaves did you own?

BOHANNON Five in all. Had me a small tobacco farm.

JOHNSON Any women?


CARD PLAYER You ever, uh, sample the goods?

(Bohannon looks at the Card Player long and hard, exhaling smoke from his cigar.)

BOHANNON No, it wasn’t like that. (clink of poker chip) Call.

CARD PLAYER You, uh…bitter you had to give up your slaves?

BOHANNON (shakes head and downs a shot of whiskey) I gave them their freedom a year before the war started.

JOHNSON (looks horrified) Are you serious?

BOHANNON I kept them on at wages.

JOHNSON (laughs and pours another drink for himself) You are an odd duck, Bohannon.

BOHANNON I married a Northerner. She convinced me of the evils of slavery.

JOHNSON So, you released your slaves yet you still fought in the war. Why?


(Johnson laughs and Bohannon smiles.)

JOHNSON (pours BOHANNON a drink) The Southerner and his honor. Where is your wife now?

BOHANNON (long pause; smile gone) She’s dead.

JOHNSON Did the war take her?

(Johnson's eyes dart from the table to Bohannon and back down. Bohannon hasn’t dropped his gaze at all.)

BOHANNON Something like that.

(EXT Establishing shot of surveying camp in Nebraska – Same night)

(The sounds of someone in camp having sex can be heard.)

ROBERT (off camera) Sh sh!

(CUT TO: INT The Bells’ tent)

(Lily and Robert have just finished.)

ROBERT Think they heard us?

LILY Who cares? (laughs)

ROBERT I don’t want to torment the poor bastards alone in the middle of nowhere.

LILY They have their hands.

(Robert begins to cough. Lily soothes him, rubbing his chest.)

ROBERT I feel this cough is going to be the death of me.

LILY Nonsense. Nonsense.

ROBERT Lily, if I were to die…(he strokes her hair)

LILY Robert, please. Please, don’t talk like that. Don’t talk like that.

(Lily hums “Believe Me, If All Those Endearing Young Charms”)

(CUT TO: EXT The survey camp)

(EXT Woods outside the survey camp – The following morning)

(Several Indian warriors are sneaking through the underbrush near the camp. One warrior spots one of the men working with the survey crew, who is unbuttoning his fly near a wagon. An arrow flies by the surveyor and sticks in the side of the wagon. The surveyor, startled, looks at the arrow and holds his belly. He looks down and sees blood gushing out. He looks again at the arrow in the wagon. He looks up just in time to a warrior with a bow. The warrior shoots the surveyor in the throat. He gags and grasps the site of the wound before falling to the ground. Three warriors, including the one with the bow, walk out of the woods.)

(CUT TO: INT The Bells’ tent)

(Robert looks out of his tent)

(CUT TO: EXT The survey camp)

(War whoops and sounds of battle can be heard. One man exits his tent and clobbers a warrior with a shovel before being killed by another with a spear.)

(CUT TO: INT Robert is wide-eyed with fear. He lets the tent flap fall and moves for his desk.)

ROBERT The maps. (rolls up a map) We have to save the work.

(Lily moves to the opening of the tent and looks out.)


(Indians and surveyors are fighting. One man is scalped by a brave.)


(Lily closes the tent flap. Robert grabs Lily around the waist.)

ROBERT Run for the trees. Don’t look back.


(Lily and Robert run from their tent.)

(CUT TO: One brave, holding a scalp, whoops. Another shoots one of the surveyors.)

(CUT TO: LILY and ROBERT run through the trees, ROBERT carrying a leather case of maps and charts and a satchel.)

(A brave, Sun Bear, nears the tree line. Half his face is painted a dark blue and the other half white. The eye on the white side is damaged and opaque and a long scar runs from his eye socket to his lip. He stops and listens before continuing into the woods.)

(Lily and Robert continue to run.)

(Sun Bear stalks the Bells.)

(The Bells hide behind a stand of trees but Robert begins to cough.)

(Sun Bear hears the coughing and moves towards the sound.)

(Sun Bear finds the Bells and clubs Robert, knocking him to the ground. Lily crawls backwards towards a tree. Sun Bear raises his bow and nocks an arrow. Lily puts up her hands in a defensive posture.)

LILY No, please no!

(Sun Bear shoots, the arrow going through Lily’s right hand and into her left shoulder. She cries out as it hits. He nocks another arrow and smiles. Robert tackles him from behind before he can shoot again. As they grapple, Lily pulls the arrow from her wounds, yelling in pain. Robert wraps his arm around Sun Bear’s throat, attempting to choke him out. Sun Bear pulls a knife from his belt. Lily sees this.)

LILY Robert!

(Sun Bear sticks the knife into Robert’s gut. Robert lies on the ground, clutching at the knife while Sun Bear staggers and coughs. Lily charges towards Sun Bear and pushes him to the ground. Using the arrow from her shoulder, she sticks him under his chin. He attempts to choke her but she continues to push, screaming. He trembles and dies. Lily rolls off and crawls to ROBERT, who is barely alive and covered in blood. She strokes his cheek and presses her face close to his. He moves her hand to the maps case and dies. She lies weeping over him but hears gunshots. She kisses him and rises, taking the maps with her into the woods, away from camp.)

Act IIIEdit

(EXT Hell on Wheels – The next morning)

(The sun rises over town and people are slowly waking up. One man relieves himself outside his tent while other men, clearly hung over sit around a campfire holding their heads.)

(CUT TO: INT Starlight Saloon)

(Johnson pulls out the cork from a bottle of whiskey with his teeth. He spits out the cork, pours a shot, and downs it. He walks to Bohannon, who is sleeping with his head on a saloon table. JOHNSON places a shot of whiskey next to Bohannon.)

JOHNSON Rise and shine, Bohannon.

(Bohannon, startled, looks up at Johnson. He sees the shot of whiskey and knocks it to the floor. Drool runs from his bottom lip.)

JOHNSON It’s another beautiful day on the railroad.

(Bohannon coughs and groan before putting his head back down on the table. Johnson exits the saloon, whipping a man who passed out near the entrance of the Starlight the night previous. He swings his whip back and forth as he shouts.)

JOHNSON Get up. Get up! Come on! (calls out to no one in particular) My horse! My kingdom for a horse

(Bohannon stumbles to his feet, knocking a bottle from the table. It smashes on the ground.)

(EXT The cut – Later)

(The freemen cut crew are working with pick axes and shovels. Bohannon walks along the top of the cut.)

BOHANNON Hold that line. (puffs on his cigar) Half-hour to lunch. Half-hour.

(Bohannon passes by Elam and WILLY, a young, slim man in a bowler hat.)

ELAM (to himself) Peckerwood.

(Willy stops for a moment.)

WILLY He ain’t so bad.

ELAM Shut your dumb black ass up. I don’t need no slave boss motivating me.

WILLY Uh-huh.

ELAM (to Willy) Help me out here. (singing) All them pretty girls gon’ be there.

WILLY (singing in response) Shuck that corn before you eat.

ELAM (to other cut crewmen) Come on! Come on! (singing) I say, all them pretty girls.

(Bohannon stops, watching)

CREWMEN (singing) Shuck that corn before you eat.

ELAM (singing) They gon’ fix it for us rare.

CREWMEN (singing) Shuck that corn before you eat.

ELAM (singing) I know that supper going to big.

CREWMEN (singing) Shuck that corn before you eat.

ELAM (singing) I think I smell a fine roast pig.

(Bohannon jumps down into the cut. Elam stops and the two stare each other down.)

CREWMAN (singing) Shuck that corn before you eat.

WILLY Keep it going.

(Elam picks up his tool and continues.)

ELAM (singing) I hope they got some whiskey there.

CREWMEN (singing) Shuck…

(EXT Somewhere outside Hell on Wheels, train track – Day)

(Durant’s train has stopped. The engineer puffs on a cigar and looks out the window. The sound of a telegraph tapping is heard and soon the TELEGRAPH OPERATOR can be seen through the train car window. He has a gray beard and wears a visor and sleeve protectors. He writes down a message fervently.)

TELEGRAPH OPERATOR You might want to take a look at this, sir.

(Durant is reading papers at his desk and doesn’t look up.)

DURANT Put it in the pile.

TELEGRAPH OPERATOR No, sir. (rises and hands telegram to Durant) You really need to look at this.

(Durant looks at him, puzzled. He takes the telegram and sighs. He reads it.)

DURANT Dear God. Robert Bell is dead.

(He puts his hand to his brow.)

DURANT Is this entire message?


DURANT Nothing about maps being found?

TELEGRAPH OPERATOR (shakes head) No, sir.

(Durant puts the telegram face-down on his desk.)

DURANT One last telegram

(Durant rises and crosses to telegraph. The Telegraph Operator sits down and takes down the message as Durant speaks.)

DURANT (pacing) To the Union Pacific Board of Directors: Change of plans. Stop. Heading for Hell on Wheels immediately. Stop. Send it.

(EXT The cut – Same day)

(It is hot and the cut crew is working hard. Willy leans over, nearly falling. Elam looks at him.)

ELAM You need some water

WILLY No, It ain’t, it ain’t break time yet.

(Willy starts to cough and Elam puts down his pickaxe.)

ELAM Come on. You need some water. Come on.

(He pulls Willy up onto the dirt embankment. Willy stumbles and falls several times and Elam has to help him.)

ELAM Come on.

(They reach the water bucket and Willy takes a drink, gasping afterwards. Bohannon walks up angrily.)

BOHANNON I thought I told you dump that dirt on the other side


WILLY Shut your mouth.

(Willy grabs at Elam’s wrist to restrain him but he shakes him off. Bohannon takes off his hat.)

ELAM I told him to do it. We fitting to fill in that dip over yonder next. I figure we might as well use some field dirt nearby.

BOHANNON You talk to me before any decisions are made.

(Bohannon puts on his hat and turns to walk away.)

ELAM (sarcastically) Yes, sir, master

BOHANNON (turns back to Elam) What you say?

(Johnson rides up, his horse whinnying.)

JOHNSON Bohannon! What the hell is going on here? You drink when I tell you to drink!

(Johnson raises his whip and strikes Willy and he falls to the ground. An explosion goes off in the distance. Johnson’s horse rears and comes down hard, striking Willy in the head as he is rising to his feet. He falls again. ELAM takes the horse by the bridle and backs him off Willy.)

ELAM Get up! Move!

(Elam runs to Willy, whose face is covered in blood.)

ELAM Willy! Willy! Willy! Willy!

(Elam shakes him but Willy doesn’t respond. He cradles his head in his hands. Willy trembles in his arms but does not open his eyes or speak.)

JOHNSON This is what happens when you break my rules.

(Elam stares up at Johnson.)

(INT Elam and Willy’s tent – That night)

(Outside it is raining. Bohannon enters and removes his hat. He is puffing on a cigar but drops it and puts it out with his boot. ELAM sits whetting his knife. Bohannon sits on ELAM’s cot but ELAM doesn’t look up at him. Bohannon notices Willy lying on his cot, dead and almost completely covered by a bloody sheet. Bohannon picks up the dipper from the water bucket. ELAM stares at him and Bohannon freezes before tipping out the water and letting the dipper back down into the bucket. He sighs and watches Elam whetting the knife.)

BOHANNON Now, what you planning on doing with that Arkansas Toothpick, huh?

(Elam doesn’t respond.)

BOHANNON Don’t do it.

ELAM We ain’t on no plantation no more, walking boss.

(He spits on the whet stone.)

BOHANNON Ain’t nothing good gonna come from this.

(Elam sets down the whet stone and picks up a clipping from a newspaper.)

ELAM Well, ain’t nothing good come from this either.

(CLOSE UP: Paper reads “Emancipation Proclamation”.)

ELAM That dumb nigger thought this gonna change a thing. (looks at Willy) Look what that got him. Might as well wipe my ass wit’ it.

(He tosses down the paper and grabs the whet stone again.)

BOHANNON You kill him…you will hang.

ELAM How they gonna hang me if there ain’t witnesses?

BOHANNON You come at me with a knife, son, you better be ready to use it.

(Elam tests the edge of the blade with his thumb. He stares down Bohannon for several moments before he smiles.)

BOHANNON Yeah. You got to let go of the past.

(He rises to leave.)

ELAM Have you let it go?

(Bohannon stops and turns, staring at ELAM before putting on his hat and leaving. ELAM continues to sharpen his knife.)

Act IVEdit

(EXT Outside McGinnis Brothers’ Magic Lantern Show tent – That night)

(Bohannon walks up to a table outside the tent and pays his fee to the doorman before entering.)

(CUT TO: INT McGinnis Brothers’ Magic Lantern Show tent)

(Bohannon approaches Sean, who is running the magic lantern. Flute music can be heard in the background.)

BOHANNON You doing quite a trade here

SEAN Not bad for a couple of Irish bumpkins.

BOHANNON Where’s Mickey?

SEAN He’s preparing for the grand finale.

(Mickey stands next to the screen, the image of a little girl in a bonnet projected behind him.)

MICKEY (singing) A stór mo chroí when you're far away Far from the land you'll be leaving

(Mickey continues in the background.)

MICKEY (singing) It's many a time by night and by day That your heart will be sorely grieving

SEAN Do you not pine for your own homeland, Mr. Bohannon?


SEAN Why not?

BOHANNON It’s gone.

(Focus returns to Mickey. The image behind him is now of a married couple.)

MICKEY (singing) For the stranger's land may be bright and fair And rich in its treasures golden

(Bohannon stares off into space and Mickey’s voice is replaced by Maura O’Connell singing the last lines.)

MAURA O'CONNELL (singing) A ruin, a ruin, oh won't you come back soon. Love you.

(INT Starlight Saloon – Later)

(Bohannon and Johnson are drinking together. Bohannon pours another drink for Johnson.)

JOHNSON So, tell me, Bohannon, did you see the elephant during the war?

BOHANNON Yeah, I saw my share of action.

JOHNSON (nods) Where?

BOHANNON I–I don’t like to talk about it.

JOHNSON (sighs) I loved the war. (to the rest of the patrons in the saloon) I loved the war! (turns back and drinks) The best thing that ever happened to me.

BOHANNON I thought you said you were against it.

JOHNSON Oh yeah, I was. That doesn’t mean I didn’t enjoy myself once pressed into service.

BOHANNON (to bartender) Hey!

JOHNSON Oh hey, I’m-I’m skimped.

BOHANNON No, no. This one’s on me.

(The bartender brings a bottle and leaves.)

JOHNSON Well, thank you.

(Bohannon pours.)

JOHNSON Most men shrink when they see the elephant up close.

BOHANNON (a little too interested) Oh, yeah?

JOHNSON But I...I blossomed.

(He drinks and Bohannon pours another.)

JOHNSON Thank you. Though I…I must admit there were certain lines that I crossed, lines of morality I didn’t think myself capable of crossing. (stares at Bohannon and then drinks) But that’s what men do in war.

BOHANNON Moral men don’t.

JOHNSON So, you did nothing that you were ashamed of?

BOHANNON (nods) I did plenty I was ashamed of.

(He leans back in his chair and stares at Johnson.)

BOHANNON You ever been to Meridian, Mississippi, Mr. Johnson?

(Johnson cocks back the hammer of his gun under the table.)

JOHNSON That is my Remington pointed at your gut. So, let’s take a walk out back.

(Bohannon looks around but no has noticed the altercation.)

(CUT TO: EXT Outside the Starlight Saloon)

(Bohannon walks in front of Johnson, who has his gun pushed between Bohannon’s shoulder blades.)

JOHNSON I know about the two men you killed in Maryland. Then I read about Prescott getting killed in that church by a Griswold. (chuckles) But I’ll be damned if you didn’t walk up a few days later with a Griswold strapped to your hip as plain as day. And then you ask me about Meridian? That cinched it.

(He pushes Bohannon forward, keeping the gun trained on him.)

JOHNSON I am not proud of what happened to your wife, Bohannon.

BOHANNON Didn’t happen to her. You did it to her.

JOHNSON Yes, we did it to her. I did it to her. Your wife was in the wrong place at the wrong time.

(Bohannon turns to face Johnson. He has slide a knife out and holds it against his forearm, out of Johnson’s sight.)

JOHNSON I want you to know it wasn’t my idea to kill her.

BOHANNON (confused) She hung herself.

JOHNSON No, she didn’t. The Sergeant strangled her and strung her up.

BOHANNON Sergeant? What sergeant?

JOHNSON Well, he’s out here too. I figured you were saving him for last. Oh, you didn’t know about it.

BOHANNON You tell me who he is.

JOHNSON Well, it hardly matters now.

(Elam sneaks up behind JOHNSON. Bohannon sees him.)


(Elam slices Johnson’s throat from behind. Johnson falls and clutches his throat, blood pouring between his fingers. ELAM catches him and lays him on the ground. He looks at Bohannon. Bohannon kneels and grips Johnson by the lapels.)

BOHANNON Tell me his name.

(Johnson gasps and gurgles but does not give Bohannon a name.)

BOHANNON Tell me his name.

(Johnson dies.)

Act VEdit

(EXT Establishing shot of train – Day)

(CUT TO: INT Durant’s railcar)

(Durant sits in a chair drinking a whiskey. It is not clear if he is speaking to himself or someone else.)

DURANT Is it a villain you want? I’ll play the part. (sips his whiskey) After all, what is a drama without a villain? What is the building of this grand road if not a drama? This business is not for the weak of heart.

(CUT TO: EXT Massacre site)

(Joseph rides alone through the remains of the camp, surveying the damage. Corpses lay scattered around campfires and tents.)

DURANT (voice over) It’s a thorny, brutal affair that rewards the lion for his ferocity.

(Joseph looks examines and arrow, looking grave.)

DURANT (voice over) What of the zebra? What of the poor zebra?

(CUT TO: Durant’s railcar)

DURANT Well, the zebra’s eaten as the zebra should be.

(CUT TO: EXT Near the massacre site)

(Lily staggers through a meadow, the map case tucked under her arm.)

DURANT (voice over) Make no mistake, blood will be spilled. Lives will be lost. Fortunes will be made. Men will be ruined. There will be betrayal and scandal. A perfidy of epic proportions.

(CUT TO: Durant’s railcar)

DURANT But…the lion shall prevail.

(CUT TO: EXT Former Hell on Wheels site)

(A wagon rolls over the Hell on Wheels sign. The smoldering remains of the camp are left behind. Dogs pick at anything left behind.)

DURANT (voice over) You see, the secret I know is this: all of the history is made by the lion. We drag the poor zebra, kicking and braying, staining the earth with his cheap blood. History doesn’t remember us fondly but then history is written by the zebra for the zebra.

(CUT TO: Durant’s railcar)

DURANT (takes a deep breath) One hundred years hence, when this railroad spans the continent…

(CUT TO: EXT Outside Hell on Wheels)

(Elam walks along the top of a hill. The town moves towards its new location as the sun sets.)

DURANT (voice over) And America rises to be the greatest power the world has seen, I will be remembers as a caitiff, malefactor, who only operated out of greed for personal gain.

(CUT TO: Durant’s railcar)

DURANT All true. All true. But remember this:

(CUT TO: EXT The cut – Sometime later)

(Two men ride up at a gallop. One wears a Union jacket. Elam looks up from the cut, first at the men and then at Bohannon.)

DURANT (voice over) Without me, and men like me your glorious railroad would never be built.

(Bohannon, rests his hand on the grip of his gun and walks forward as the men get closer.)

Transcribed by Defenderofmen (talk)

Ad blocker interference detected!

Wikia is a free-to-use site that makes money from advertising. We have a modified experience for viewers using ad blockers

Wikia is not accessible if you’ve made further modifications. Remove the custom ad blocker rule(s) and the page will load as expected.