He’s one of rock’s biggest stars, but Sir Rod Stewart has finally revealed the fruits of his other great passion – model railways.
In between making music and playing live, Sir Rod has been working on a massive, intricate model of a US city for the past 23 years.
He unveiled it as part of an interview with Railway Modeller magazine.
He then phoned in to Jeremy Vine’s BBC Radio 2 show to rebuff the host’s suggestion he had not built it himself.
“I would say 90% of it I built myself,” he insisted. “The only thing I wasn’t very good at and still am not is the electricals, so I had someone else do that.”
Sir Rod has released 13 studio albums and been on 19 tours during the time it took to build the city, which is modelled on both New York and Chicago around 1945.
“A lot of people laugh at it being a silly hobby, but it’s a wonderful hobby,” he said.
He told Railway Modeller he worked on the skyscrapers and other scenery while on tour, requesting an extra room for his constructions in his hotels.
“We would tell them in advance and they were really accommodating, taking out the beds and providing fans to improve air circulation and ventilation,” he said.
The scenery and structures are his forte, rather than the locomotives and tracks. “I find beauty in what everyone else sees as ugly – rugged skyscrapers, beaten-up warehouses, things that are very run down.”
Photos of the layout show dozens of highly detailed buildings plus bridges, ships, vegetation and streets teeming with vintage cars and taxis.
“When I take on something creative like this, I have to give it 110%,” he said. “For me it’s addictive. I started, so I just had to finish. I’m lucky I had the room. If I’d have realised at the start it would have taken so long, I’d have probably said, ‘No! No! Nah!'”
The 74-year-old singer, who once had a hit with a cover of Tom Waits’ song Downtown Train, put the model city together in an attic at his home in Los Angeles.
Describing the level of detail that went into the scenery, he told Vine that even the pavements had to be suitably grimy.
“You start off with a grey. And then you add a little concrete colour, so every paving stone is slightly different,” he explained. “And the cracks have to have some black chalk… and then you add a little bit of rubbish in the gutters, you add a little bit of rust here and there. I enjoyed the building more than I did the running.”
Fellow musician and model railway enthusiast Jools Holland also appeared on Vine’s show, telling him: “When you get these big scale ones like Sir Rod’s they are like a work of art. They’re like an amazing painting that’s been created in three dimensions.”
Two months ago, Sir Rod revealed he had been given the all-clear after being treated for prostate cancer.
On Wednesday, he announced he would perform at a “secret dinner party” organised by his wife Penny Lancaster in aid of the Teenage Cancer Trust, with the aim of raising £1 m.
How to build model railways: design & layout
Building a model railway has long been a hobby reserved for the true tinkerer. This fun and fascinating hobby takes planning, creativity and a little bit of technical know-how to build up models make them special, and are challenging personal projects as well as fun group activities to do with family and friends.
Model railways range in size and scale from small projects to large ones that stretch several hundred square feet, and many of the area’s keenest enthusiasts will spend years – even decades – designing their models. Whether you’re a beginner or a seasoned model railway enthusiast, getting involved is easy and before long you can master the basics and bring your imagination to life on the track.
Designing your railway
Before you can begin purchasing track and building your railroad you’ll need to spend some time thinking about design and track work.
Decide where you plan to build your model railway and what you intend to use it for – for example, if you are building a model railway for your grandchildren, you will want to spend less time on fine details and more time ensuring the construction can withstand playtime.
Your design should take several other important factors into account; make sure stations are well positioned and any tunnels are bridges are wide enough to fit your model train. Some trains will be too fast or bulky to operate smoothly – or safely – on a tight radius so carefully consider turns on your track.
The early stages are the best time to do your research, and online there’s a wealth of information that can help you out with everything from layout design to the tools you’ll need to get the job done.
As you get started, websites like New Railway Modellers and World’s Greatest Hobby will help you answer any questions you might be having.
Building your baseboard
Once you’ve established the general design you’d like to use you need to build your baseboard. Remember that the board you use will determine how big and intricate you can make your model, so the bigger the better. It’s also worth noting that your baseboard will get heavy quickly if you’re building a permanent model. Many enthusiasts choose an attic space for their models -wherever you decide to build yours, make sure there are plugs so you can power your railway when it’s ready to go. Once your baseboard is in place you can lay your ballast underlay or scatter – this will help set the scene for your railroad and also make sure it’s safe when your electric train is running.
Your track will be the backbone of your model railway so take some time to really focus on this step. Most track is made from brass, zinc-coated steel, steel, or nickel – some conduct electricity faster than others but also require more maintenance so ask for advice from your local model shop when choosing. The two most popular manufacturers of track are PECO and Hornby, and typically model railway enthusiasts stick to a particular brand for ease of assembly. There are also a number of great resources online to help you as you begin laying your track, like the National Model Railroad Association’s guide to basic trackwork.
Designing the scenery
After you have laid and tested your track the final step is to add the finishing touches on your railway. For many modellers, the technical side of building is the most exciting part – but decorating can still be worthwhile and rewarding. Get creative and look for ways you can build up landscapes and interesting scenes around the track by adding trees, as well as human and animal figurines for those final finishing touches.
See the world in miniature: 10 of the most incredible model railways
From the choo-choo that goes around the Christmas tree to fanciful displays and seasonal train rides like The Polar Express, trains have long been associated with the holidays. For the ultimate locomotive experience, visit these massive model railways, which wind along miles of track through miniature recreations of scenery from around the world.
1. Miniatur Wunderland, Hamburg, Germany
Billed as the world’s largest model railway, Miniatur Wunderland took 580,000 hours to construct and requires 300 staff members to maintain. Millions have visited the nearly 14,000-square-foot display, which contains hundreds of thousands of miniature cars, figures, ships and even aircraft taking off and landing in scenes from Hamburg, America and Switzerland. “Our idea was to create a world which likewise inspires men, women and kids to dream and marvel,” said Gerrit Braun, one of the founders.
2. LOXX Miniature Worlds Berlin
Skip the walking and see all of Berlin in one location at LOXX Miniature Worlds Berlin, a 30,000-square-foot recreation of the city. Visitors will see replicas of Berlin landmarks, including the Zoological Gardens, Bellevue Palace, the red and yellow S-Bahn trains, double-decker buses, Märchenpark and the airport, complete with Boeing 747’s. Keep an eye open for silly vignettes, storms and the change from day to night.
3. Northlandz, Flemington, N.J.
With eight miles of track and 100 trains, the 52,000-square-foot display over 16 acres at Northlandz is the Guinness Book of World Records’ largest model railroad. Even the walkway that takes visitors through the Great American Railway is a mile long. Highlights include a 30-foot mountain, bridges that span huge canyons and a replica 1890’s narrow steam gauge train. Tip: Bring binoculars so you don’t miss any of the amazing details.
4. Bekonscot Model Village and Railway, Beaconsfield, Great Britain
Picture yourself as Gulliver among the Lilliputians at Bekonscot Model Village and Railway, which has been open since 1929. The world’s oldest model village, Bekonscot is a recreation of six towns in 1930’s England. The 10 scale miles of model railway contain miniature houses, gardens, coal mines, a zoo, castles, windmills, wedding fox hunts and even escaped convicts. There are also more than 3000 shrubs and trees across the village’s gardens.
5. Adventure World Toggenburg, Lichtensteig, Switzerland
Take some time off from skiing to visit Adventure World Toggenburg, home of the biggest hobby model railway of Europe in track zero. The railway features several different train stations on 4,200 feet of track with a backdrop of snowy mountains. The attraction also houses vintage motorcycles, model steam engines and a variety of toys. There’s even a little bistro for drinks and snacks after your trip around pint-sized Europe.
6. Pasadena Model Railroad, Los Angeles
Take a journey through California’s railroad history at the Pasadena Model Railroad Club, which maintains this 5,000- square-foot HO scale model railroad. Open to the public twice a year, it features Sierra Pacific Line trains traversing bridges, tunnels and trestles, literally running from A (Alhambra) to Z (Zion). The train even passes by the notorious Los Angeles landmark, the Bates Motel.
7. San Diego Model Railway Museum
Located in Balboa Park in the heart of the city, the San Diego Model Railway Museum is dedicated to preserving the heritage of railroading. It offers scale replicas of many California railroads and contains one of the largest indoor HO model railroad displays. The museum has a special holiday display through Jan. 10 with Department 56 holiday collectables alongside vintage trains. It’s free for children 14 and younger, so be sure to stop in the interactive Toy Train Gallery, where kids can help operate trains at their eye level.
8. Jingle Rails, Eiteljorg Museum, Indianapolis
Visitors to the Eiteljorg Museum of American Indians and Western Art can watch seven model trains navigate through the great American West every holiday season at the Great Western Adventure Art’s Jingle Rails display. It features trestles, bridges and tunnels that cross through detailed replicas of national icons, including Mount Rushmore, Hoover Dam, the Grand Canyon and Old Faithful. All of the displays are made from natural materials, including twigs, moss and nuts.
9. Gainsborough Model Railway, Gainsborough Lincolnshire
Venture from London’s iconic King’s Cross Station through the English countryside to Leeds Central via the East Coast Main Line at the Gainsborough Model Railway Society. Volunteers designed this O gauge model railway with exceptional detail to resemble England during the 1940’s. The railway, which covers 2,500 square feet and requires 10 operators, features replicas of famous locomotives, including Papyrus, Flying Scotsman and Mallard. It’s open to the public on select dates, which are published online.
10. Misty Mountain Railroad, Blairsville, Ga.
This train travels through the American South and the Appalachian Mountains, passing by Biltmore Estate, Georgia’s Capitol dome, the former Atlanta Railroad Station and even Tara from Gone With the Wind. The private owner who designed the O gauge line for his family found visitors flocking to see his imaginative creation. Now named the Misty Mountain Railroad and open to the public several days a week, the railway has become the largest privately owned display of its type. The 4,000- square-foot model railroad has 14 trains chugging along a mile-long track.
(Article source: Various)