The Iron Horse is the story of the winning of the West through the linking of the Atlantic and Pacific coasts by rail. It contains a powerful theme of historical value as the basis around which a romance has been woven that ties the leading characters to the history of the building of the first transcontinental railway.
There are comedy, tragedy and a love theme, Indians and soldiers, hordes of construction gangs, camp followers, both men and women, gamblers and dance hall girls, shooting and riding, a tremendous cattle drive, the fording of a river by a herd of beeves.
John Ford, who directs, puts his story over on the screen with a lot of punch. His handling of the trio of ex-soldiers of the Civil War who as the three musketeers of America battled through the building of the great Union Pacific railroad is exceedingly clever. They lend a touch of comedy as did Ernest Torrence and Tully Marshall in The Covered Wagon.
Francis Powers, J. Farrell MacDonald and James Welch enact the roles and Ford touches them with just a bit of pathos in the end that makes them stand out as real humans and not as out-and-out buffoons just created for a laugh.
The love interest is carried on by George O’Brien and Madge Bellamy. O’Brien gives a corking performance as the youthful scout and lover and Bellamy shines as his beloved. Kohler’s characterization is a piece of classic work.