Singer-songwriter Sir Rod Stewart is one of the bestselling musicians in history. Over the course of his 57-year career, the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame inductee has sold some 120 million records worldwide; in his native UK, he’s had nine #1 albums and 62 hit singles. And now he’s on the cover of…Railway Modeller magazine?
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Stewart, as it turns out, is actually a kick-ass modelmaker. In an interview with Railway Modeller, he revealed that for the past 23 years, he’s been working on a gigantic and incredibly intricate model of 1945 New-York-mixed-with-Chicago as the backdrop for a model railway set-up, housed in the attic of his home in L.A. And the level of detail is jaw-dropping.
After the story broke, BBC Radio 2 host Jeremy Vine suggested there’s no way Stewart built it himself. Stewart then called in to the show: “I would say 90% of it I built myself,” he asserted, pointing out that “The only thing I wasn’t very good at and still am not is the electricals, so I had someone else do that.”
According to the BBC, the bulk of his interest is with the cityscape, as opposed to the trains:
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.
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.”
The hobby was so consuming that over the past couple of decades, Stewart has brought elements of the set (like a skyscraper) with him on tour, to work on in his hotel room. Or more specifically, in the extra hotel room he’d rent next door to his, to use the space as a temporary studio. “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.
I’d have to think a carefully-packaged case containing a 1940s American skyscraper might be one of the more unusual things a roadie has ever carried.