SIR Rod Stewart has always had a thing for models – and not just the blonde variety.
As The Sun told yesterday, for decades the singer has pursued a more mundane hobby than the usual sex and drugs of the rock world — building model railways.
Now his masterpiece, a 1,500 sq ft replica of postwar Chicago and Manhattan landscapes, has been splashed all over the pages of a specialist magazine.
A 23-year labour of love, the 1:87-scale creation takes up most of the third floor of his Beverly Hills mansion.
It includes incredibly detailed 5ft skyscrapers, 100ft of track, period locomotives and tiny passengers in period clobber.
Yesterday Sir Rod rang Jeremy Vine’s Radio 2 show after the presenter had insinuated that he couldn’t have built the intricate model alone and told listeners: “A lot of people laugh at it being a silly hobby but it’s a wonderful hobby.”
And he added: “I would say 90 per cent 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.”
Pictures of his beloved 23ft by 124ft creation appear in this month’s Railway Modeller magazine and yesterday The Sun featured the story.
Rod told Jeremy: “I am so proud of it and I’m so proud of the coverage it got today.” He added: “It’s really noisy because we have sound effects. When the trains go through the city, there’s a city sound of New York.
“When they go through the country, there’s birds singing. It is quite incredible.” But the rock veteran has not always been so forthcoming about his hobby.
He once banned a documentary crew from filming his railway room and has said of his beloved creation: “Don’t say it’s a train set. It is a scale-model railway.”
Rod, 74, told Railway Modeller how he had combined his hobby with life on the road, requesting an extra hotel room to work on skyscrapers and other scenery.
Photos of his model show a hugely detailed industrial landscape dotted with forests and jagged cliffs. He said: “I find beauty in what everyone else sees as ugly — rugged skyscrapers, beaten-up warehouses, things that are very run down.”
And Rod is not the only rocker who lets off steam by modelling railways. Roger Daltrey, Phil Collins, Neil Young and Jools Holland also enjoy the hobby.
Pianist and presenter Jools also contributed to Jeremy’s radio show and said: “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.”
Rod’s model habit dates from childhood. But decades ago when he asked his dad for a gift to help his hobby, the result changed the direction of his life.
He said: “I actually wanted a railway station for my model. I was 13 or 14 maybe at the time. He bought me a guitar — and the rest is history.”
In May this year Rod donated £10,000 to the Market Deeping model railway club in Lincolnshire after vandals smashed up their scale reproduction.
He said: “It took me 23 years to build my model railway, so I feel their pain.”
He reckons his own vast model is finally complete and said: “Now I’m going to try and bring it to England but it’s almost an impossibility.
“They say model railroads are never finished, but this one is. There’s not much more I can do with it.”