The Orphan Train Movement was a supervised welfare program that transported orphaned and homeless children from crowded Eastern cities of the United States to foster homes located largely in rural areas of the Midwest. The orphan trains operated between 1853 and 1929, relocating about 250,000 orphaned, abandoned, or homeless children. Two charitable institutions, the Children’s Aid Society and later, the Catholic New York Foundling Hospital, endeavored to help these children. The two institutions developed a program that placed homeless, orphaned, and abandoned city children, who numbered an estimated 30,000 in New York City alone in the 1850s, in foster homes throughout the country. The children were transported to their new homes on trains that were labeled “orphan trains” or “baby trains”. This relocation of children ended in the 1920s with the beginning of organized foster care in America.
Almost-18 year old Molly Ayer doesn’t have the most awesome life. She’s been bounced around the foster system for years and her latest placement is falling apart. A stolen book might be the end of everything. In need of community service to avoid juvie, she finds herself in an attic.
91 year old Vivian Daly has hung on to much of her life, boxing things up and storing them away. Coaxed into helping a needy kid, and not knowing that this is community service for a stolen book, she lets Molly into her home. Molly dreads spending time with the old woman, although does like the idea of organizing and purging decades of memories.
As they go through each box and Molly tries to create some sort of system, it’s clear that Vi has no intention of throwing anything away. Molly slowly gets Vi to talk about her things, and as the two begin to get comfortable with each other, Vi opens up about her past.