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In Needham’s forest, a secret miniature railroad set

Posted by Kathryn Eident  July 27, 2009 08:56 AM

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Deep in the heart of the Needham Town Forest, nestled among the trees and rising up beside a small creek, hikers with careful eyes can find one of the town’s best kept secrets.

For unsuspecting adventurers, a trail of miniature bird houses leads the way to this unlikely scene, while treasure seekers learn of its existence on the Internet and come from miles around to find it.

Everyone is rewarded with a remarkable site: a miniature rail road set, complete with hundreds of feet of track, a station, train bridge and passengers lies waiting to be discovered.

If you’re lucky, you may also find the conductor, and he may bring out the train engine, guiding it carefully from the station, around the twists and turns of the track and safely back again.

Look closely, for the set this train chugs along on has been lovingly hand-crafted with acute attention to even the minutest of details.

Holding the tracks above the contours of the land are trestles, each hand-measured and cut to fit. On the platform, a tiny band of figurines waits for the train’s arrival. Off to the side, another figurine, set to look like a carpenter in a shop, stands surrounded by scale models of the bird houses hikers find along the trail. There’s even a “harbor” with a tiny row boat moored in the near-by creek.

For weary travelers, benches and a table offer respite and a view of the entire, detailed scene.

This mysterious place has many names; some know it as the Depot, while others refer to it as Martini Junction. No matter what name it’s known by, this intricate world has a reputation all its own.

It all started over a decade ago, when the site’s conductor, a local resident and model enthusiast, wanted to create a relaxing spot by a waterfall he’d found in the Town Forest.

He made a bench for he and his wife to sit comfortably and sip their favorite cocktails—martinis—while enjoying the quiet surroundings. The one bench soon grew into two benches, and eventually a table was added.

One day, he had an idea. His daughter had recently given him a plastic train set, and it looked as if it could weather the elements. He brought it out to the site where he had built the table and benches so guests could watch the train while they sipped their martinis.

Over the years, the train set has grown, and so has its notoriety.

The site has become a favorite for geocachers—folks who use global positioning systems and web sites offering clues to hard-to-find locations with stashes of trinkets, log books and more.

“I knew this was to be a magical journey when I spotted the first little birdhouse,” one geocacher wrote on the web site, “I went on ahead and was treated to such a delightful sight…. Thank-you for sharing this magical place.”

People have added to the set too, making small contributions of figurines and other toys to enhance this little world.

And the 10 years of its existence, no one has ever vandalized the set; people have respected this special treasure in the woods.

So fill up a backpack and head out to the forest. Follow the birdhouses and you may just find Martini Junction. If you’re a geocacher, the lantern is the key.

And if you are fortunate enough to meet the conductor, he goes by the name of Jim.

For previous Boston Globe coverage of Martini Junction, click HERE.

To learn more about geocaching, visit:

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13 comments so far...
  1. Something tells me this won't be 'secret' much longer.

    Posted by Erik July 27, 09 05:40 PM
  1. FYI feature writer: "Notoriety," as you've used it here, is a bad thing. Look it up and use it properly.

    Posted by Oneofthosepeoplewhocomplainsaboutlanguage July 27, 09 06:01 PM
  1. Wow. I think it's great that no vandalism has occurred in this amount of time. Now that this story is out unfortunately some morons out there will want to be the first ones to create havoc at this neat spot. Good for Jim for making this enjoyable spot for so many people.

    Posted by toycannon July 27, 09 07:57 PM
  1. What a delight -- a sweetly goofy, modern-day adult escape -- and the "secret" won't be altogether ruined since it appears a mere 3 people were attracted to the headline since early this morning

    Posted by ally33 July 27, 09 07:57 PM
  1. I have been running through the Needham Town Forest for years, and one of the major reasons for doing so has been the train set. I have been careful not to divulge its location, or even its existence, for the very reasons your article's presence has probably caused. Have you thought of the quandary you have created with the local conservation and parks/recs commissions? Will they be forced to have the set taken down? Can they make this an exception? Will your article now be an invitation to the vandalism you note has yet to happen? I don't mind people using the forest, but it is not nor should it be a tourist site. As implied by the previous commentators, there are some stories that should simply not be published, and this is certainly one of them.

    Posted by David G. July 27, 09 08:09 PM
  1. Way to ruin a good thing. Can't some special and unknown places be left special and unknown. The place will be trashed in no time.

    Posted by Some_things_are_better_left_alone July 27, 09 09:12 PM
  1. We'll see, indeed, whether the renewed publicity ruins a good thing. It should be noted that references to this place have been been published previously (2006) by the Boston Globe, as well as others, without any reported vandalism taking place - so let's all think good thoughts.

    Posted by Chuck Staples July 27, 09 09:56 PM
  1. We all complain that the news reports too much on violence and the bad things..this is one of those good things that is nice to hear about. Perhaps people will take this for what it is and enjoy a visit with their families or young children who love surprises and hikes or trains and leave it just as they found it. Not everyone has bad intent when hearing about something special. Including this writer who found out about something nice and wanted to report some good news for once!

    Posted by kem July 27, 09 10:21 PM
  1. It has been there and known about for years. Well for one thing, its not that easy to find so "morons" will have quite a problem finding it. I used a GPS handheld and walked around with my wife and kids all afternoon and never found it. We saw numerous others who had not found it and the time I finally did find it there was a Minnesota couple wandering around the woods through the brush with their GPS units probably on their way to getting poison ivy. HAH!

    Posted by WeFoundTheTrain July 28, 09 09:45 AM
  1. the town forest has been deteriorating for years, there use be nice park benches , and a gazebo at the the ponds, even a summer camp, for kids, every year the forest seems to get smaller, and yuckier, it was a jem, back in the day

    Posted by greg k July 29, 09 10:27 PM
  1. FYI feature writer: "Notoriety," as you've used it here, is a bad thing. Look it up and use it properly.
    Posted by Oneofthosepeoplewhocomplainsaboutlanguage July 27, 09 06:01 PM

    Ermmmmmmm.........might wanta take your own advice there, wordnazi.

    Posted by Jay July 31, 09 06:20 AM
  1. WeFoundTheTrain-Us Minnesotans do know what poison ivy looks like-at least some of us-lol
    I've found that mischief makers usually stay out of the deep woods so hopefully the trains will be safe from train robbers.

    Posted by psychiclunchlady July 31, 09 11:54 AM
  1. Sounds like the writer stumbled upon some information from an insider who just couldn't keep it to themselves. Hopefully, it won't ruin the secret that has been around for over 10 years.
    Geocachers have known of this place for a long time and it hasn't gotten out of hand, so let's try to keep it that way please! Enjoy your time there...quietly.

    Posted by JaTeenet August 20, 09 09:12 AM