Last weekend we once again visited the Dampfbahn in our town of Münsingen. It is a small sized train that people can ride. Kind of like a cross between a model train and an actual train. It is run by a club of train enthusiasts, the Dampfbahn Aaretal, who are really serious about their trains. They have several real steam engines that require them to shovel small hunks of coal with a tiny shovel and to fill the tanks with water from the watering stations. The track is quite extensive, taking riders about a quarter mile from the main station, train sheds, and turn-table, around a playground, past switches, and through a tunnel. The kids love it, especially Henry. He waves at all the spectators along the way.
Some of the spectators here, however, are a little… different. See, the Dampfbahn is located on the campus of the PZM, or Psychiatriezentrum Münsingen, a huge psychiatric hospital located right in our town. It is actually a beautiful campus with nice architecture, a green house, a cafe, playground, mini golf, and of course the Dampfbahn. It is a popular place to hang out, especially for families. But, between the kids and parents sitting on the train, you will often see a patient riding on the handicapped train car. They wave from the steps of their buildings or from their wheelchairs as they are pushed around by nurses. Depending on their level of care, they also ride the buses in town going to and from the center.
The whole point is to integrate the center with the community as much as possible so it doesn’t become isolated. And, from what I can see, it has been highly successful. It reminds me a little of the St. Ann Center in Milwaukee where both Emily and James went to daycare a number of years ago. There was an adult daycare program for elderly and mentally handicapped people along with the children’s daycare. They got to interact with each other, which is wonderful for both groups. But, St. Ann’s didn’t have a Dampfbahn!
We have visited the PZM many times, even bringing some of our guests there. I put together a collection of pictures of the good times we’ve had at the PZM: