The film opens with an overhead shot of a sprawling railroad yard in the morning, where all the trains are "fast asleep". The shot begins to focus on a single train, Casey's, which is "slow asleep", and eventually cuts to a closeup of the cab window, where Jones is revealed to be sleeping in his engine cab.
Doffing his bedclothes (he is fully dressed in blue overalls and a stereotypical engineer's cap underneath), he checks his watch and realizing that he is behind schedule, hurriedly readies the engine to depart. Mail is loaded aboard the train and with a toot on the whistle, Casey sets off at a dangerously high speed through the maze of switches and sidings, nearly t-boning two other trains in the process before making it safely out of the yard (much to the switchman's relief).
At first, the trip is uneventful and we see Casey relaxing in a rocking chair in front of the open firedoor, casually stoking it one piece of coal at a time as if it were a parlour stove. Further on, however, the weather turns nasty, flooding the tracks like "the bed of a creek" and all but swamping the train. Eight hours late, but none the less undaunted, Casey climbs up on the cab roof and uses his coal shovel as a paddle. Before long, he has cleared the flood and is on his way again.
No sooner is the train back up to full speed, though, then Casey is forced to bring it screeching to a hault: standing in the middle of the tracks grazing, is a large brown cow which finally moves aside after much shouting and whistle blowing on Casey's part.
But now, a new problem presents itself. A stereotypical villain with a black handlebar mustache has tied a lady to the tracks in front of Casey's train! Unwilling to waste anymore time stopping, Casey rushes forward and stands on the locomotive's cowcatcher, scooping the terrified woman up just seconds before the train would have run her over. He is in such a hurry now, that he doesn't even stop to let her off, depositing her (rope and all) in the arms of a pleasantly surprised station master as he rushes past the next platform at full speed.
Hours later, night has fallen and we find Casey's engine steaming full-bore through a narrow, snow-covered mountain pass. As the train passes over a high trestle spanning a gorge however, another stereotypical villain who is "not on the level" nearly brings things to an explosive end. Once again undaunted by a seemingly impassable obstacle, Casey's engine struggles, huffing and puffing, up the side of the gorge and continues on its way.
A short while later, the camera focuses on a backside shot of a group of armed men on horseback as they watch the train from up on a hillside. Casey is about to be attacked by train robbers! The next shot finds the whole gang inside the cab, brandishing their guns and knives menacingly. At first, Casey is so caught up in stoking the boiler, that he is oblivious to their presence. It is only after he inadvertently picks up one of the robbers along with a shovel-full of coal that he finally notices the uninvited company. Even then, Jones is more annoyed by the distraction than anything else and begins to fight the robbers, hitting them repeatedly with his coal shovel while continuing to stoke the boiler.
After quickly throwing the last of the would-be thieves off the train, Casey checks his watch and is horrified to discover that the robbers have put him behind schedule once again. Determined to make up for lost time whatever the cost, he opens the throttle so wide that he actually rips the handle from its mount and throws it away.
The scenery outside quickly becomes a blur as the train travels faster and faster. He adds more coal to the furnace, and, when running out, he also uses his shovel and rocking chair, until the ribbing on the locomotive's boiler exterior is forced off. Casey gives the locomotive some running repairs while the train roars down a hill.
Just a bit away a double headed slow freight train is chugging towards Casey, but he's too busy fixing the dome to noticed. The brakeman runs up to the locomotive and warns Casey, but is misunderstood, and jumps from the train. The crews of the double header approaching and, just as Casey notices, the two trains collide.
Afterwards, we are taken to a station, presumably the one Casey was meant to terminate at, and, Casey being late, the Porter fears the worst. Then, much to his joy and surprise, Casey rolls down the hill in the remains of his locomotive carrying a bag of mail.
A beaten up Casey then shows his watch with pride, it stating he is 'ON TIME-ALMOST'.
Like many classic cartoons produced by Disney and other studios, The Brave Engineer has recently been subject to censorship editing in a controversial attempt to make it more "politically correct". In this case, a brief scene depicting train robbers brandishing knives and guns has been edited out.
Distributed by Buena Vista Distribution Co., Inc.
Color by Technicolor.
Release Date: March 3, 1950
Director: Jack Kinney.
Animators: Milt Kahl, Fred Moore, Al Bertino, Ward Kimball.
Effects Animation: Andy Engman.
Layout: Don DaGradi.
Backgrounds: Ray Huffine.
Writers: Dick Kinney, Dick Shaw.
Musical Score: Ken Darby.
Based on "The Ballad of Casey Jones" by Eddie Newton, T. Lawrence Seibert.
Vocals: The King's Men.
Running Time: 7 min. 38 sec. (un-edited)