Imagine being in the woods, cautiously walking a path with no markers other than a small, white birdhouse here, a few hidden fairies there. Suddenly, in the middle of a dense forest appears a miniature railroad track, weaving in and out of the trees, around toy dinosaurs, over a myriad of rocks and miniature fairy houses.

Sounds simply magical, right? Like a child’s dream come to life? Well, it’s a real place hidden in the Needham Town Forest and its origin story is not what you’d expect.

Creator Jeff Metcalf used to walk in the town woods with his wife when they stumbled upon a waterfall. They were so entranced by the sounds of the falling water that they decided it should be the place where they would sit and stay while, possibly having martinis. And as the years went, the Metcalfs' magical date spot once intended for peaceful picnicking turned into the groundwork for a model train track system that would delight residents for the next 25 years.

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Needham’s fairytale landmark has transformed over the years, with small figurines added by visitors with each trip. Throughout the woods, tiny micro-scenes play out at the base of trees and near the water’s edge. There are model diners, train stations hidden throughout, and even a few small rope bridges that extend from tree to tree – sometimes with small swashbuckling pirates and sometimes with small rhinos crossing. You never know what you’ll find with so many different imaginations at play.

The Depot -
The Depot -

But the biggest thing, the railway that Jeff Metcalf built, only operates when Metcalf makes an appearance himself. While nothing is probably quite as exciting as watching the locomotive pull into the middle-of-nowhere station, it’s still a pretty thrilling site to find in the middle of nowhere.

Not everyone agrees with the idea of leaving things in the woods that don’t naturally belong there, and at the same time, not everyone is happy that the masses have learned about their secret railway. Yet anyone who has been to Martini Junction knows that the world still holds a tiny bit of magic, if you take the time to find it.

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