It is 1911, and the Harris family live in Crewe, a large railway manufacturing city in Cheshire, England. Three family members work for the London and North West Railway Company (LNWR), and live in a company house.
Tragedy strikes when two family members, Bill (the father), and James (the brother), are killed in an LNWR industrial accident. Soon after, Isobel (the mother), dies through shock and illness. For a short while, the remaining family must separate due to an eviction notice: Alice and baby George to the workhouse; John (as a railway navvy), to parts of England; and Jane to board, near her work.
Eventually they reunite, then learn of a scheme for assisted passage to Australia. Could this venture offer a better life? Their application accepted, they travel as emigrants to Melbourne, Victoria, along with Jane's new husband, Jimmy.
Once in Australia, the family splits - John to work for the Melbourne rail service, the others to live with and work for the Sherwin's, using their skills as market gardeners. They settle into an agricultural life, helping to run an ever-growing orchard at Red Hill on the Mornington Peninsula. John's promotion to Station Master, sees him living close by, in Tyabb.