Rena (Aaltje Schreyg) comes from a lower middle-class household, her father being an alcoholic, her mother taking the abuse - however, much of it still filters down to Rena, who hides the signs with makeup.
One night in the summer, she decides to run away, fourteen years old and with a backpack full of clothing and other essentials. She takes a bus to her destination, a village a bit outside of her hometown, and its abandoned railway station, at the end of a defunct line. The first days and nights are horrible, with a draft almost making her sick, but Rena manages. Stealing plywood plates from an abandoned construction site, she manages to 'renovate' one of the rooms a bit, so that the draft vanishes, lives from canned food (bought) and washes herself and her clothes in a nearby creek.
Residents ignore the newfound activity at the abandoned railway station, figuring that it was "yet another Runaway", who would soon realize, that it was futile and hopeless. Yet, the railway station also has a regular visitor, Onkel Rainer (Bertram Onekel), a widowed, old train guard, who had often worked at this station and still frequently comes to visit the station. He picks up the trash, both the one left by Rena and by other sources, keeping the station halfway clean, which is not easy, because while he is hale, he is also old.
Rena, watching him from the shadows, is confused by the tender care, with which the old man goes about this task. The next day, she begins to keep more order around the station, which surprises Onkel Rainer at the end of the week. He sits down on one of the remaining benches and smiles, which, for some reason, warms Rena's heart. He even begins to sing the Eisenbahnballade, an old song of railway conductors and train guards.
Another week passes, a storm comes in and almost shatters Rena's little room, but she survives and rebuilds. Around that time, a social worker by the name of Efe Mohn comes to town and checks up on a few social cases, Onkel Rainer among them. He tells the younger man, that there's someone living in the old railway station, he thinks its a Runaway and a pretty girl - which leads to a short scene, where Onkel Rainer is surprised at Mohn not being interested in pretty girls, assuming, he is betting for the other team. Mohn manages to convince the older man otherwise and the two depart for the station.
Rena is currently washing clothes, so she is not at home, so the two leave her a short message to contact him, when she needs aid. She puts the message away.
Come the day of Onkel Rainer's weekly visit, he is again surprised to find his station in such a good condition and calls out to Rena to come out. He would not bite and he had chocolate. Rena is hesitant at first, but she comes out, sits down and the two talk, even share a chocolate bar. Rena has gone from the lower middle-class girl, her hair has gone from the soft, blonde locks, shining like the sun, to starting to get churlish, but the blue fire in her eyes is unbroken. Onkel Rainer tells her about his own kids and grandkids, all of which do not want anything to do with him ever since their mother/grandmother died and Rena tells him about her parents. Onkel Rainer is shocked, offers Rena to take her in, at least in stormy nights, and urges her to at least go to the local school, so that she could graduate and make an apprenticeship, which Rena refuses at first.
Days pass, another storm rolls in and catches Rena off-guard. Mohn, in the village again, goes with Onkel Rainer to the railway station, where they find that Rena has been hurt by a piece of the ceiling coming down. The two take her to the village's doctor and Mohn calls the child support service, who contact Rena's parents and the police. Things go from there, with her father incarcerated for home abuse, Rena returning to her mother.
Before she goes, she promises to visit Onkel Rainer as often as she can and thanks him for the kindness. She even kisses him onto the cheek, which he takes with a huge smile, hugging the young woman. Mohn drives her and her mother home.
Years later, Rena goes to the old Railway Station again, sits on the bench and remembers both Mohn and Onkel Rainer, with the former coming soon afterwards. It is revealed, that Onkel Rainer died a few weeks before, the two of them being there for his funeral. When Mohn asks Rena about whether or not the whole ordeal gave her something, she replies:
- Yes, Herr Mohn, there's something I learned... no matter how alone you are, you never are truly alone. There are always kind souls, who are willing to make the loneliness go away. One only needs to reach out.
- Aaltje Schreyg: Rena, the Bahnhofsmädchen.
- Otis Sassa: Efe Mohn, a social worker.
- Bertram Onekel: Onkel Rainer, a resident.
Rena's mother was actually supposed to be played by Schreyg's Mother, but as said woman is a self-defense teacher and, during the first time trying to film a scene from Rena's home, broke the arm of the actor of Rena's father by sheer muscle memory, that plan was dropped (no charges were raised, the incident labeled as a work accident).
The movie was critically acclaimed in Teressien and abroad, winning multiple awards.
In late 2018, Aaltje Schreyg founded a charity for street children and victims of home abuse.