Sir Rod Stewart defends his love of model railways

The rocker has spent more than 20 years constructing an epic layout based on an American city in the 1940s.

Sir Rod Stewart
Sir Rod Stewart

Sir Rod Stewart has said he is “so proud” at the attention his model railroad has received, despite some people thinking it is a “silly hobby”.

The rock star spent more than 20 years painstakingly working on the model layout, which was unveiled for the first time on Wednesday.

The model railway, called Grand Street and Three Rivers City, is based on an American city in the 1940s and spans 1,500 square feet in his attic at his home in Los Angeles.

Sir Rod Stewart's scale model railroad
Sir Rod Stewart’s scale model layout (Steve Crise/Railway Modeller magazine/PA)

Sir Rod, 74, told BBC Radio 2’s Jeremy Vine of his joy at the widespread coverage his model railroad has received after it was shared by Railway Modeller magazine.

He said: “It’s really noisy because we have sound effects when the trains go through the city, there’s a city sound of New York, they go through the country, there’s birds singing, it is quite incredible, I am so proud of it and I’m so proud of the coverage it got today.

“A lot of people laugh at it being a silly hobby, but it’s a wonderful hobby.”

Sir Rod Stewart's scale model railroad
Sir Rod began the project in 1993 (Steve Crise/Railway Modeller magazine/PA)

He told Vine that he called his programme because the presenter had insinuated Sir Rod could not have built it all by himself.

But the music star said: “I would say 90% of it I built myself, the only thing I wasn’t very good at and still am not is the electricals, so I had someone else do that.”

He added: “They say model railroads are never finished, but this one is. There’s not much more I can do with it.

“I might upgrade a couple of buildings when I’m back in LA, but otherwise it’s finished. And now I’m going to try and bring it to England but it’s almost an impossibility.”

Sir Rod Stewart's scale model railroad
The singer said attention to detail was important (Steve Crise/Railway Modeller magazine/PA)

The sprawling depiction of a post-war, heavily industrialised city, based on both Chicago and New York City, was inspired by Sir Rod’s love of American railroads, and includes skyscrapers – some of which are 5ft tall – bridges, a rush hour traffic scene, “transition era” facilities for both steam and diesel traction, and a power station.

There is even a Celtic FC liveried bogie open coal wagon representing an American gondola, a nod to his beloved football team.

The display also includes a Great Caledonian Steel & Iron Co building in reference to his Scottish heritage, and a green backdrop of the leafy areas around the city.

Sir Rod Stewart's scale model railroad
Sir Rod Stewart’s scale model layout (Steve Crise/Railway Modeller magazine/PA)

Sir Rod, who has been a lover of model railways since childhood, started the project in 1993 at his home in Los Angeles, and over the years he would book an extra room in hotels when away on tour to work on his models.

On why he based his biggest model railway project on the American railroad rather than the British railways he grew up with, he told Railway Modeller magazine: “They’re bigger, the locos are bigger, but not any better, everything is just bigger.”

The Da Ya Think I’m Sexy? singer worked tirelessly to create “great depth” in his construction, with intricate details on the buildings, the trains and even the trees.

Sir Rod said: “It’s the landscape I like. Attention to detail, extreme detail, is paramount. There shouldn’t be any unsightly gaps, or pavements that are too clean.”

Sir Rod is celebrating his 50-year career with a new album, You’re In My Heart: Rod Stewart With The Royal Philharmonic Orchestra, released on November 22.

The December issue of Railway Modeller magazine is on sale on November 14.

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