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Thomas Durant Season 5
Thomas "Doc" Durant
Status: Alive
Occupation: Vice President of Credit Mobilier
President of Union Pacific Railroad
Marital status: Divorced
Relatives: Hannah Durant - Wife (Divorced)

William Durant - Son (Deceased)

Relationships: Hannah Durant - Ex Wife (Divorced)

Lily Bell - Former Lover (Deceased) Maggie Palmer - Lover (Deceased)

Behind the scenes
Portrayed by: Colm Meaney
Seasons: 1, 2, 3, 4 5
First episode: "Pilot"
Last episode: "Done"
Appearances: 54 episodes (see below)
Thomas "Doc" Durant is the Vice-President of the Union Pacific Railroad and board member of Credit Moblier of America.


Background information[]

Durant was born February 6, 1820 in Lee, Massachusetts. He studied medicine at Albany Medical College where, in 1840, earning him the nickname "Doc". After he retired from this field, he became a director of his uncle's grain exporting company: Durant, Lathrop and Company in New York City.

While working with the prairie wheat trade, Durant discovered the need for improved inland transportation, a discovery that led him to the railroad industry. Durant got his start in the railroad industry working as a broker for the Chicago and Rock Island Railroad.

In 1853 Durant and his associate Farnam were given the commission of raising capital and managing construction for the newly chartered Mississippi and Missouri Railroad (M&M). The M&M Railroad acquired major land grants to build Iowa's first railroad. The centerpiece of the M&M was a wooden railroad bridge, which, in 1856 when completed, was the first bridge to cross the Mississippi River. In 1862 President Lincoln selected Durant's new company, the Union Pacific Railroad, and its operation center in Council Bluffs, Iowa as the starting point of the First Transcontinental Railroad.

Durant was married to Hannah Heloise Trimble. They had a son William, who died of unknown circumstances (in real history the couple had two children, William and Héloïse Durant who both survived to adulthood). Durant died in Warren County, New York on October 5, 1885.

Season 1[]

Main article: Season 1

Durant attempts to raise more capital for the railroad, citing that it was the only way to heal the nation after the Civil War. He attempts to get the head of the congressional railroad commission, Senator Jordan Crane, to award all major railroad building contracts to Durant's construction company, Crédit Mobilier. In exchange, he promises two hundred shares in the company. When Crane balks at the low price, Durant tells him he will route the railroad around Nebraska, if necessary, which would be detrimental to Crane as he just purchased significant land holdings there, knowing they would increase in value as soon as they became accessible to the railway. Crane agrees to take the bribe but Durant lowers the price to one hundred shares out of spite.

As Durant travels by rail, he berates his lead Engineer for planning a railroad that is too straight. The surveyor protests that the surrounding land is flat and no detours are necessary. Durant, however, wants the rail to detour as much as possible because he is paid by the mile. He fires the lead surveyor and promotes a Young Engineer to the position.

On his train, Durant receives word that her surveyor Robert Bell is dead and that no maps were found at the scene. ( Durant struggles with a workforce that is terrified of Indian attack, due to the exaggerated stories he has fed the papers in order to get troops sent to protect the railroad. Durant is also deterred by the still missing maps, as Mrs. Lily Bell has yet to be located. Durant sends a telegram to Crane asking for troops, in hopes that the work will be able to continue on if the Indians are removed from the scenario; however, Durant's hopes are not realized and instead receives a reply from Crane, who is "very concerned regarding lack of progress".

Attempting to clear his head with a stroll through town, he meets Sean and Mickey McGinnes. They describe the freedom of riding the railroad in Ireland, boosting Durant's spirits. Later, at the memorial service for those who were killed in the Cheyenne attack on the surveyor's camp, Durant takes over Reverend Nathaniel Cole's sermon and turns it into a motivational speech, attempting to rally the workers to continue work on the railroad and that the Indians will be dealt with if they do not conform to white ways. ()

Season 2[]

At the railway office, Lily tells Durant that railroad construction has been slow and complains about the foreman. Elam informs Durant that the payroll train was robbed again. Outside, Durant speaks with the Swede, who is tending his wagon. The Swede offers to help restore order in town, but Durant thinks he should continue his new jobs as undertaker and custodian, having been tarred and feathered by the citizens of Hell on Wheels when he was in charge of security.

Later, during their lunch, a man informs Durant of a prostitute who was murdered by her (unknown) client. Durant then tells Lily about the murdered woman, a first for Hell on Wheels, and Lily insists they find and punish the killer, but Durant doesn't care, as she was a whore.

Elam informs Durant of his encounter with Bohannon as the robber of the trains. Durant chastises Elam for letting Cullen live, but Elam points out he was hired to only protect the payroll. He then offers to help get Hell on Wheels back on track, but Durant hesitates, on account of Elam's race, but says he will consider it. While discussing the future path of the railroad, Lily tells Durant that the Sioux tribe considers the land on the other side of the river sacred and her husband Robert wanted to avoid it. Durant disregards her, says the Sioux will be the least of their troubles if they do not get the railroad under control.

The swede delivers Durant a telegram informing him of the Indian raid on the Durant, Nebraska settlement, the previous site of Hell on Wheels camp. When Durant, Joseph, and others travel to the settlement to help the survivors, a band of Sioux Indians appear in the distance. Joseph sees that they are from the Sioux Nation and are sending Durant a message that he is now at war with them. As Bohannon is about to be shot for sedition and armed robbery, his execution is stayed by Durant. In the barn, still tied at the hands, Durant approaches Bohannon with an offer. He produces two documents: a warrant for Cullen's execution and a pardon. He claims that Cullen has "unfinished business" and then asks him to choose life or death.

Bohannon chooses to work-life, thus choosing to work for Durant once more, and Bohannon is brought to Durant's train and shackled to a bench. Durant punches Cullen for robbing his railroad and they both later wonder if they have made the right decision. When Durant gets too close, Cullen wraps the chain around his neck, challenging him to ask for his own stay of execution. Durant holds out, but Cullen releases him. Durant says that sometimes one has to make a deal with the devil. Cullen asks who the devil is in this deal. Durant tosses him the key to his shackles and exits the train car. When Bohannon and Durant arrive at Hell on Wheels, Durant says that he trusts Bohannon's word that he will not leave town, acknowledging an approaching Elam and saying he could always get Elam to shoot him. Not fully trusting Bohannon, Durant asks a hungover Elam at the saloon to monitor Cullen.

Later, after a railroad worker is abducted and tortured to death by the Sioux Indians, the other workers and freedmen strike and refuse to work without better protection. In the railway office, Lily recommends to Durant that they reroute the railroad to bypass Sioux sacred land. Bohannon takes the opposite opinion, claiming the Sioux will always be a threat and that it's better to fight them now rather than later. The next day, the town burns an effigy of Durant in the street. Durant orders Bohannon to resolve the situation, giving him complete authority. During the wake for the murdered worker at the saloon, Bohannon attempts to convince the strike to end and go back to work, stating the road will get built "with or without them". The freedman enter the saloon and offer to protect the workers while they lay track if they arm them. The workers anger to this and Bohannon states Durant would never allow an army of freedman to be armed.

Bohannon telegraphs a message to Council Bluffs, Iowa requesting 200 replacement workers. This causes the striked workers to fight off their replacements, and thus gather the motivation to get back to work Bohannon arms the freedman who now watch other the white workers as they continue work on the railroad.

Bohannon's previous robbery crew come to Hell on Wheels with plans to steal the payroll directly from the safe. Elam, who recognized the bandit’s Griswold pistol, tells Durant of the coincidence that the payroll arrives the same day the strangers do, as well as two Rebels buying a black man a drink. Durant tells him to arm every man in town and send for Bohannon. At the railway office, the robbers crew leader, Hawkins, and his cohorts order Lily to open the safe. Durant shoots a bandit, and Hawkins shoots Durant in the gut. Bohannon arrives to find the town under siege, while Hawkins holds Lily at gunpoint as she opens the safe. Eva help Lily tend to Durant's gunshot wound while Bohannon travels to the bandit camp and orders their Doc to follow him back to town. They arrive at the railway office, where Doc tries to extract the bullet as Durant screams in pain. Later In town, Doc tells a semi-conscious Durant that the bullet is lodged in his spine, and then tells Lily he thinks Durant might be strong enough to risk a train ride to Chicago for a surgeon to remove the bullet.

While the train to Chicago is being prepared, Durant hallucinates about his son. Lily informs him that she has telegraphed his wife, who will meet him when he arrives. He begs her to stay with him, but she insists on remaining behind to oversee railroad business. Eva tells Elam that Durant has hired her to attend to him during the train ride and his recovery in Chicago. As their train travels to Chicago a track explosion halts the train and a band of armed Sioux board, followed by a sword-wielding, Bible-quoting Cole, who orders Durant to publish his manifesto on the front page of the New-York Tribune or else all hostages will die. A reluctant Durant agrees. However Durant actually has the manifesto telegraphed back to the railway office at Hell on Wheels to alert Bohannon and Lily to their predicament. Later Joseph stabs Cole, ending the standoff and Durant's train continues on it's journey. Durant returns to town in "The Lord's Day". He is shown thanking Eva for all her help with a large envelope of bills and a promise to help her and her baby whenever she may need it. After she leaves he greedily drinks from an opiate bottle, as he is now addicted to the pain medication.

At the railway office Lily confronts The Swede who is reading Durant's personal ledges. When asked on who's authority he is reading them, Hannah Durant moves out from behind the door identifying herself. Feeling the effects of the opium as he walks to the office, Durant spies Lily and Hannah making (tense) plans for dinner and quickly hides to avoid them. Later, Durant orders Bohannon to join the dinner as Lily’s escort. Later, as they wait for Cullen and Lily to arrive, Durant and Hannah debate whether Lily has deciphered the fraudulent mileage but are interrupted by Lily and Cullen's arrival.

The next day, Durant and Hannah reprimand Bohannon for being behind schedule. They demand Bohannon finish the bridge in one week, half the time Bohannon estimated. Bohannon tersely remarks it isn't his fault that Durant oversold the railway's mileage to the board. This alert Durant not only to the fact that Lily does, in fact, know about the fraudulent mileage, but also that she is sleeping with Bohannon. Later, Lily tries to convince Durant of her importance to the railroad, stating she won't be pushed out. He cuts her off, pointedly and jealously asking how Bohannon knew about the mileage shortfall. He leaves her wordless.

Later presenting the deed to his riverfront property, Elam tells Durant that he’s quit the railroad. Durant tears up the deed and tells him the only to leave the railroad is to die or walk back through Indian territory. When Elam doesn’t back down, Durant invites him to take a seat, as he has a specific job for him in mind. Hannah shows up in Lily's train car, discussing Lily's future after the bridge completion. Citing Durant’s nightly discomfort, Hannah evicts Lily from her train car and takes it for herself. Days later, the townspeople gawk as Durant tears through the hospital tent in search of painkillers. He pries a bottle of Laudanum from a Amputee’s hands but is stopped by Eva, who gives him opium pills from her purse. Once calmer, Durant confesses his fear that his addiction will be the ruin of the railroad. Hannah Durant thanks Eva for taking care of Durant and promises to see that her husband, Gregory Toole gets a nice raise. Hannah suggests Durant return to the hospital in Chicago, but he insists on being present to explain the mileage situation to the board when they arrive. Hannah recommends offering Cullen a partnership if he will help handle the board.

Hannah detains Lily on her way to the bridge crossing. Hannah hands Lily a ticket to New York City and promises to write out a check and introduce her to a family in need of a governess. This causes Lily to break into the railway office and steals Durant’s ledger from the safe. At the bridge, Durant asks Bohannon to help appease the board in exchange for partnership in the railroad and forgiveness of his debts. Bohannon turns him down. Later, at the office, Hannah stands over Durant's shoulder as he grudgingly writes a check to Lily. He insists she won't leave the railroad, even for money. He insists that if she doesn't take the check that he be able to handle things "his way". Hannah agrees so long as there is no mess.

Later Thomas Durant reminds Elam Ferguson that his job was due once the bridge was completed. It is insinuated that this job is to murder Lily Bell. Elam enters Lily Bell's train car and reveals that Durant has hired him to kill her in exchange for his house by the river. He decides not to in an agreement with Lily to help betray Durant.

Lily later confronts Durant about Elam. Listing the trials she's endured for the railroad, including his bed. Durant states that simply makes her a whore, and she retorts that his precious railroad is ripped from his thick and grasping fingers, that he'd been undone by a whore. Durant panics, asking what she's done but she simply walks away while he has a bout of pain. Durant then anxiously searches the safe and discovers his ledger is gone.

That night the Sioux attack, and Durant protects Hannah in the railway office as Indians raid the buildings, setting them on fire. Flashing forward to the town after the destruction Bohannon is being interrogated by Senator Howard, who informs him that Durant is in custody. Howard tells Bohannon that the President has ordered railroad construction to continue and asks if Bohannon would take over Durant's position and finish this road. The season ends not fully stating if he agreed to take the position or not.

Main article: Season 2

Season 3[]

Main article: Season 3

Bohannon has the railroad representative who meets him at the train take him to see Durant, who currently resides in Hudson Prison. Bohannon asks Durant to vouch for him to Crédit Mobilier, as he tries to vie for the job he was originally offered but is now being given to someone else. Durant refuses and states they won't listen to him as Cullen is not a Yankee.

At the Credit Mobilier office, Congressman Ames tells Bohannon the job belongs to Senator Metcalf's son-in-law. A determined Bohannon presents the board with detailed plans and designs. He is awarded the job with Union Pacific stock as payment. In his cell, Durant criticizes Senator Metcalf for failure to oust Bohannon. He warns the senator that his fall will be greater if Durant is not returned to the railroad.

Later at the new site of Hell on Wheels, Sean McGinnes the railroad's new bookkeeper, tells Bohannon that Durant has cancelled the livestock contracts and cornered the market. An angry Bohannon says he should have killed Durant long ago.

In Omaha, Nebraska, Durant dines with some ranchers, one of which is a woman whom he proposes building a commercial railroad terminus on her land. As a representative of Crédit Mobilier, he offers $100 per acre to prevent the railroad from claiming eminent domain. At the bar, he is joined by Sean, who slips him an envelope stuffed with money and the Union Pacific telegraph routing code. Durant can now eavesdrop on Cullen. Sensing Sean's unease, Durant assures him that he's not doing anything wrong.

Bohannon and Elam find a horse that's been painted — not dyed — and realize that their cattle were not stolen by Indians, but white men. From a hill, they watch a group of drunk and sleeping rustlers camped by the river. Bohannon tells Elam to not kill them all. They rush the campsite, shooting all the men but one. He tells Bohannon that he doesn't know where the cattle are, but the plan was to get paid out of Omaha. Bohannon suspects Durant is behind all this.

Bohannon shows up at the diner Durant is eating in with a dead man who helped rob the railway of their cattle. The sheriff shows up but can't believe Bohannon's claims that Durant orchestrated the rustling as he has been in town for days and the only witness is a dead man. Walking through a field, Durant and Maggie discuss plans for their railroad city.

Thomas Durant arrives at Hell on Wheels while Bohannon is out of town to tell Louise Ellison, a reporter covering the railroad expansion, of Cullen Bohannon's murderous past. He also drops in on Eva to give her a newspaper article that is supposedly about her. He encourages her as she starts to feel down on herself as a mother and woman, listing everything she has done for him through all his troubles. He gives her some stock in his company, Crédit Mobilier and asks that she not cash it unless she absolutely has to.

"Big Bad Wolf"

Season 4[]

Main article: Season 4

In Cheyenne, Wyoming, Thomas Durant tries to maintain control of both the town and the railroad after a disaster occurs. He also awaits the arrival of the newly appointed governor, John Campbell. After Ezra Dutson sets some horses free, Durant scares him by giving him a train pass to Council Bluffs, Iowa, where Durant says Ezra will be placed in an orphanage, fed bread, and beaten daily. However, Durant tells Ruth to be loving to the boy, and she later tears up the train pass.

After Cullen and his family arrive in town once again, Cullen asks Durant for his former chief engineer job, but is denied when Durant states that Cullen is undependable. Durant decides to tunnel through a hill that impedes the railroad's progress. He debates the use of another hill with Campbell, who says it will be the future site of the statehouse, unless Durant establishes a structure on it within 24 hours, so Durant has Delaney erect chicken coops on it.

Campbell's men claim eminent domain over the saloon, causing proprietor Mickey McGinnes to put up a fight and land in jail, and Durant refuses to help. After Jessup insults Mickey in the bar, Mickey later strangles him in an alley. Heckard, hinting to Durant that he and Jessup were lovers and believing Durant is Jessup's killer, attacks Durant viciously in the latter's railcar.

Cullen stitches a laceration on Durant's head, then manages to get his signature on a blank railroad letterhead. Cullen advises Durant to not seek revenge for the beating. Durant meets with Campbell, who denies ordering Heckard's attack but says he will put Heckard on the next train out of town. On the train, Durant sees Abby, who is returning to Boston because she still grieves for her father, Senator Metcalf. Durant lies to her, saying that he caused her father to commit suicide when Metcalf invested all his money in Durant's railroad. Heckard, who was thrown off the train, ostensibly on Durant's orders, is bludgeoned to death by Durant near the side of the tracks.

Later Campbell arrests all the freedman and railroad workers who were released on bond as Durant has not paid them in years. He also arrests Durant for not paying their bonds in years. Campbell says the prisoners should be taken by train to the jurisdictions where their crimes were committed, and Durant will be sent to Omaha to face a judge. Mickey manages to get himself arrested and lies to Sydney, saying the plan will occur as the men are being loaded onto the train. Instead, Cullen later unhooks the railcar with the prisoners, as they use a key he gave Mickey to escape their shackles. Meanwhile, Delaney arrives from the other end on a train with a Gatling gun and rifles for the prisoners. After a shootout, Sidney escapes. Cullen returns to Cheyenne with Durant, Mickey, and the freedmen. The workers take refuge in the church, while Durant and Cullen make compromises with Campbell about the railroad construction and upholding the law.

Later Cullen enlists Durant and Eva's help to save Sydney's life, whatever the cost, in order to keep Ruth from being hanged for his death, even going so far as to have Durant saw off his leg. Despite all efforts to save Sydney, he dies.

At the end of the season, the steam shovel Cullen invented gets tested and works. Durant tells Cullen to wire General Grant that the summit will be reached by month's end, however Cullen quits the railroad to be with his family. Durant tells him if he leaves he will never take him back. As Durant and his crew reach the summit, and Durant telegraphs Huntington in California, to gloat, Cullen arrives at Huntington's version of Hell on Wheels and accepts Huntington's offer of working with the Central Pacific railroad, at least until Cullen's family is found.


Season 1 appearances
"Pilot" "Immoral Mathematics" "A New Birth of Freedom" "Jamais Je Ne T'oublierai" "Bread and Circuses"
"Pride, Pomp and Circumstance" "Revelations" "Derailed" "Timshel" "God of Chaos"
Season 2 appearances
"Viva La Mexico" "Durant, Nebraska" "Slaughterhouse" "Scabs" "The Railroad Job"
"Purged Away with Blood" "The White Spirit" "The Lord's Day" "Blood Moon" "Blood Moon Rising"
Season 3 appearances
"Big Bad Wolf" "Eminent Domain" "Range War" "The Game" "Searchers"
"One Less Mule" "Cholera" "It Happened in Boston" "Fathers and Sins" "Get Behind the Mule"
Season 4 appearances
"The Elusive Eden" "Escape from the Garden" "Chicken Hill" "Reckoning" "Life's a Mystery"
"Bear Man" "Elam Ferguson (Episode)" "Under Color of Law" "Two Trains" "Return to Hell"
"Bleeding Kansas" "Thirteen Steps" "Further West"
Season 5 appearances
"Chinatown" "Mei Mei" "White Justice" "Struck" "Elixir of Life"
"Hungry Ghosts" "False Prophets" "Two Soldiers" "Return to the Garden" "61 Degrees"
"Gambit" "Any Sum Within Reason" "Railroad Men" "Done"


Durant: Why do you want to shit on my railroad?

Behind the Scenes[]

Thomas "Doc" Durant is loosely based on the historical figure, Thomas C. Durant, who was vice president of Union Pacific Railroad in 1869 when it met with the Central Pacific Railroad. The real Durant was not born into poverty in New York's Hell's Kitchen, but was born in upstate New York to a relatively well-off family. This difference aside, he was "associated with virtually every accusation of bribery, fraud, and scandal during and after construction", much like the fictional Durant[1].