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In the late 1880s, American Robert Adamson, an engineer for the Mombassa Railroad Company, travels to Africa to help complete the railroad across the African Veldt to Lake Victoria. On board Robert's ship headed for Mombassa are fellow passengers Jane Carlton, who is going to Africa to search for her missing father and her fiancé Sexton, engineers for the railroad who disappeared while working in the veldt; and Pasha, a young Arab boy who is returning home from his studies in England. Jane and Robert are met at the docks by the genial "Hooky" Hook, the sole remaining employee in the company's Mombassa office. At the office, Hooky points to a map of the railway's incomplete route and explains that Sexton and Carlton disappeared on the outskirts of the territory inhabited by the hostile Warush tribe. When Hooky suggests that Arab slavers, led by Ben Ahmed, might be responsible, Robert goes to see Ben Ahmed. He is met at the gate by Pasha, who reveals that Ben Ahmed is his father and offers to arrange an introduction for Robert. Robert is greeted by Ben Ahmed and Gunther, who is building a rival railway to transport slaves across Africa to the coast. Robert asks Ben Ahmed to help him recruit porters for the dangerous trek into Warush country, but Ben Ahmed refuses and suggests that Robert instead hire on with him and Gunther. Bristling at the idea of working for slavers, Robert rejects their offer and leaves. Afterward, Ben Ahmed assures Gunther that he will "persuade" Robert to abandon his project. On the way back to the hotel, Robert and Hooky are accosted in an alley by Ben Ahmed's men, but Robert drives them away. Unable to find any porters, Robert decides to hire prisoners, so Hooky introduces him to the local jailor, Mustaph, who admires the railway's efforts to open up a trade route through Africa. At the jail, Robert hires Ali and several other prisoners, but refuses to give them guns. Upon returning to the hotel, Robert informs Jane that the trip is too dangerous for her to accompany them, but she insists on going anyway. The next morning, as they load their supplies onto railroad cars, they are attacked by a group of tribesmen who claim to be looking for someone. After Robert and the others push the tribesmen off the train and head out, the tribesmen shoot Mustaph. Once Robert and Ali leave the city, they discover that Pasha has stowed away on board and realize that the tribesmen were looking for him. Pasha admits that he ran away from home because he opposes his father's trading in slaves and fears that he will be pressed to take over the family business. The train is brought to an abrupt halt by an explosion on the tracks just ahead, forcing the group to continue on foot. When they camp for the night, a lion attacks and kills one of the porters, after which Robert shoots the beast. The next day, they reach the spot where Carlton and Sexton disappeared and find a marked grave. After a passing native tells them that his tribe found a white man and took him to their village, Robert and the others hurry to the village where they find a disheveled and deranged Sexton, who fails to recognize Jane. When Sexton begins to rave that he will die if he leaves the village, Robert decides it is best to leave him behind. They continue on, and upon entering Warush country, are surrounded by Warush tribesmen, who escort them to their village. In the confusion, Ali takes cover, then flees. Upon reaching the village, Pasha translates for Robert, who tells the Chief that the railroad will bring prosperity to the people of Africa by opening up trade. When the Chief demands that Robert prove his power by performing a miracle, Robert says he will "kill" the witch doctor and then bring him back to life. Robert performs his feat by drugging the witch doctor with chloroform, making the Chief think that he is dead, then brings the witch doctor back to life by dousing him with water. Next, the Chief tests Robert's courage by ordering one of his warriors to hurl spears at him. Robert passes the test by not flinching as the spears whiz past him. Impressed, the Chief gives Robert ten warriors to accompany him. Meanwhile, Gunther has also ventured into the veldt to continue work on his railroad. When Ben Ahmed arrives one day to tell him that Robert has made it through Warush country, Gunther leaves with his men to ambush Robert and his group. Ben Ahmed stays at the camp, and soon after, his men find Ali in the brush, near death from thirst. After Ali tells Ben Ahmed that Pasha is with Robert, Ben Ahmed has Ali killed, then hurries to reach Gunther before Pasha can be harmed. Their water supply nearly exhausted, Robert and the others reach a watering hole and after quenching their thirst, Robert and Jane kiss and dream of building a house in the veldt together. Continuing on at daybreak, they reach the area where Gunther and his men are laying in wait. When Gunther and his men open fire on them, Robert and his party take cover. After starting a fire as subterfuge, Robert heads out to overtake Gunther. Just then, Ben Ahmed arrives and orders Gunther to call off the attack, but Gunther shoots him. After one of Ben Ahmed's men kills Gunther in retaliation, a battle ensues in which Gunther's men are defeated. Robert then takes Pasha to see his dying father, who with his last words, admits that he was wrong and entrusts the boy to Robert's care, counseling him to follow Robert's teachings.