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In the 1880's, as the Santa Fe rail line expands westward into the American frontier, Harvey House restaurants open one after another at train stops along the way. Hoping to find work at Harvey's newest restaurant in Sand Rock, New Mexico, young women from all over the country board trains for the small Western town. With few exceptions, most of the young women traveling to Sand Rock are going there to work for the Harvey House. Susan Bradley, however, is going there to meet H. H. Hartsey, an eloquent letter-writer whom she has never met, but has consented to marry. En route to Sand Rock, Susan befriends some of the waitresses. Soon after arriving in Sand Rock, Susan meets the roughhewn Hartsey, but they both immediately agree that they are mismatched and call off the wedding. When Hartsey tells Susan that his letters were written by Ned Trent, co-owner of the Alhambra Saloon, she marches over there and calls Ned a "yellow dog." Trent tries to make amends with Susan by offering to pay her way back to Ohio, but she refuses to take his money and promises to run him and his disreputable saloon out of town. Soon after taking a job at the Harvey House, Susan proves her resolve to get tough with the Alhambra when she bursts into the saloon with two six-shooters, and demands the return of meat stolen from the Harvey House.
One night, when Alhambra men fire a shot into the Harvey Girls' dormitory, Susan and other waitresses declare that the feud between the two establishments has officially begun. Susan sets out to find the culprit, and at the Alhambra, she is confronted by Em, a sharp-witted, jealous barmaid who is in love with Ned. Susan later finds Ned alone in a remote valley, and the two spark a romance. They seal their love with a kiss and return to town, where Ned, hearing screams coming from the Harvey House, shoots a rattlesnake that was placed there by his nefarious business partner, Judge Sam Purvis. Ned warns Purvis to stop harassing the Harvey Girls, but when plans are announced to move the Alhambra to Flagstaff, Arizona, Purvis sets fire to the restaurant. The Harvey Girls lose their restaurant in the blaze, but Ned sees to it that they are able to reopen it in the Alhambra saloon. As the employees of the Alhambra prepare to leave Sand Rock for Flagstaff, both Susan and Ned decide at the last minute to leave their work and start a new life together. In the confusion of the train station, however, Susan and Ned nearly miss each other. Em, who has a change of heart, reunites the couple by pulling the emergency brake cord to stop the train.