Discover the Magic in Needham Town Forest: the Hidden Model Train of Martini Junction
We all need more treasure and magic in our lives. Treasure comes in all sorts of forms, shapes, and sizes. It can be tangible or intangible. It’s something so beautiful that you want to hold it tight. Magic is the same-- any moment that invisibly sparkles, leaving a lasting impression in your soul.
We must do our best to preserve each child’s short, fleeting childhood with treasure and magic. To me, that means making play a priority, providing time for wonder, and encouraging the excitement that comes with exploration and discovery.
It means protecting children from any horrors of the world for as long as possible while still letting them learn to take risks, handle challenges, solve problems, and navigate the wide range of emotions they will need in order to face the adult world and make it a more beautiful place.
It also means ice cream for dinner, jumping in muddy puddles, and leaving the house a mess in order to make memories happen.
If you’re someone who believes in the magic of childhood—either preserving it for your children or reigniting it for yourself-- and you find yourself in the greater Boston area, I encourage you to leave your messy house and embark on an adventure in Needham Town Forest.
In order to preserve some of the excitement of discovery for you, I’m not going to tell you all of the magic and treasure you will find in Needham Town Forest. My goal is to give you enough information to persuade you to go and then simply explain how to do so.
If I tell you everything and show you tons of photos, then you won’t feel the childlike wonder or the thrill of exploring someplace new. The internet can rob you of the beauty of first-hand experiences if you let it!
I learned about this model train in the woods as a wike suggestion from Sara at Blue Bunny Books and Toys, which donated prizes to the Wike Baby writing contest . Truth be told, I read all I could about the place before we arrived and still felt some of the magic once we were there. That’s how much magic and treasure it holds.
If you google the place (which I do not recommend--keep the magic, people!) you will learn that there is a 120 foot model train track called Martini Junction nestled in the woods of Needham Town Forest. The internet will tell you that Martini Junction was created in the early 2000s by Jim Metcalf, who thought the location would be perfect for enjoying a martini with his wife. Jim is apparently both whimsical and very skilled at building durable model trains, which you will find out for yourself.
When you visit with others, I recommend not sharing with them that the destination is a model train track. Instead, tell them that you heard there is treasure and magic in the forest. This way, you’ll inject some childlike excitement into their lives, whether they are children or adults.
Here's how to find the magic:
Download this map of Needham Town Forest.
Park at the end of Robinwood Avenue, Needham, MA. This is a residential street, so of course be very respectful not to disturb the peace or pull up on anyone’s beautiful lawn.
At the end of the street, you’ll find the trailhead. On the map, it is marker 12.
Take the far right trail, called Horsford Road for a bit, not far, perhaps 10 minutes (or 2 hours if you have toddlers who stop to pick up every rock).
Take the first trail to the right at trail marker 11, which will have a (very) small white birdhouse nailed to the tree. This is a trail marker. Follow these small white birdhouses. This trail is MUCH narrower than the Horsford Road trail, so be on the lookout and don't miss it.
You’ll come upon some small treasures along the trail. That’s how you know you’re on the right route.
The treasures will increase in complexity, along with your anticipation. You’ll FEEL that you’re close.
Then, there it is: Martini Junction, where fairy imagination dust has been sprinkled freely!
If the day is particularly lucky, you might happen upon Jim Metcalf himself, running the electric train. But if your day is just a regular-kind of lucky, you’ll find magic and treasure enough.
Pack a picnic or a snack; you’ll find an adorable place to eat, play, or read. If you have children, bring a toy train with you and some small figurines of anything you like—dinosaurs, ponies, fairies, elves, etc. There will be lots of ways to use them.
Treasure and magic aren’t just for children; enjoy this little showcase of fantasy and engineering. After you visit, report back in the comments below to tell us what you thought!