Model railways don’t exactly scream rock’n’roll, says Dave Simpson in The Guardian. But the list of toy train-obsessed crooners is surprisingly lengthy. Bruce Springsteen, Eric Clapton, Phil Collins and Ringo Starr all have “private passions for tiny engines”. Elton John is thought to have a track running through his garden, Neil Young had to build a huge barn to house his 750ft line, and Frank Sinatra was said to own $1m worth of model trains and replicas of his native Hoboken, New Jersey.
Rod Stewart is the king. The 77-year-old’s “stunningly realistic” depiction of a mid 20th-century city is a whopping 1,500 sq ft. It includes skyscrapers up to 5ft tall, warehouses, bridges, people, and even rush-hour traffic. “It took me 23 years to build,” Stewart said last year. It’s “bigger than most people’s houses”. Stewart is so well respected in the toy-train world that he once graced the cover of Railway Modeller magazine. It was, he said, “better than being on the cover of Rolling Stone”.
“I’m sure a psychologist would have a field day with us,” says fellow model railway enthusiast Pete Waterman, the producer behind Kylie Minogue. But he says building miniature landscapes isn’t that different from making music. “Instead of wondering where I should put a cymbal, I’m thinking: ‘Does that tree work there? Is that house too close to the railway line?’ It ticks exactly the same boxes.”