Industrious Carrie and carefree May must venture into the world to find work and lodging when their Leeds pub is sold out from under them to make way for the coming of the railway. Eventually driven apart by misunderstanding, May’s fate is a high-class brothel from which her escape leads only to hunger in the slums of Paris while Carrie becomes a virtual slave to the vicious hostess of a filthy boarding house. Alex Sinclair, a bold and warm-spirited Scot, has eschewed the wishes of his father to become a railway engineer. His companion, Charles Hammond is the dissolute heir to a vast fortune, withheld from him by an overbearing mother and grasping stepfather. The futures of both men will become bound up with those of the two sisters. As time passes the sisters overcome their adversities, though there seems little hope of reconciliation or of either of them finding love and lasting happiness. But this is 1848, the Year of Revolutions. The streets of Paris erupt in bloody insurrection—while Alex Sinclair is commissioned to bring the railway to Harrogate.