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October 26, 2007 12:24 AM   Subscribe

"It means more to me to be on the cover of Model Railroader than to be on the cover of Rolling Stone." Rod Stewart has spent 12 years, and thousands of dollars, working on his model train hobby. Via.

Learn more about model railroading here and here. See pictures of model railroads here, and a previous model railroad post on Metafilter here.
posted by amyms (72 comments total) 4 users marked this as a favorite

 
Neil Young has owned a share in Lionel trains since the 90s. I wonder if Rod and Neil are friends? I mean, train friends.
posted by BClady at 12:48 AM on October 26, 2007 [1 favorite]


My Grandpa had a big model train set. It took up the basement of his home and included 4 different tracks, a small mountain range, a old Western style town and one very awesome train depot. Is the model train the grown-up male version of doll houses?
posted by heatherbeth at 12:53 AM on October 26, 2007


Model railroading has gone the route of certain websites. At first, the field was wide open - as open as an aged man's gotse - but now all these noobs're talking over valuable real estate. For instance, just the other day I was planning a nice quiet afternoon with me ladyfriend on Rod the Mod's third floor retreat in LA. Instead we got city noise, pollution from unrefined miniature factories, and angry little people punching, shoving, and cursing their way all 'bout us.

Well, we were having non of it and at once proclaimed that we were just in it for a bit of r'n'r - rest and relaxation, not rock and roll. We proved to be able to cause quite a scene in the hallway that feeds into the train room, setting small fires and preparing our ether for the anal absorption that we'd been planning for what seems like forever.

Anyway, Roddy came bustling in, 'Wots all this, then?' he says. 'Y'not playing the RIGHT BLOODY way! Y'playin' loke some kind o' damn fool, an olt time throwback to th' days of Kings Row an' frilly shirts.'

We were speachless. We had all the proper papers to allow us access to the third floor retreat. Why did Roddy treat us such?
posted by item at 1:08 AM on October 26, 2007 [4 favorites]


Neil Young has owned a share in Lionel trains since the 90s.

Cool fact, BClady... Neil Young's Wikipedia page says that he's listed as the co-inventor of seven U.S. patents related to model trains.

Is the model train the grown-up male version of doll houses?

That's an interesting analogy, heatherbeth. My great-uncle had a model train set that took up half of his basement. He delighted in showing it off. His whole demeanor changed when he was wearing his engineer's cap and working the controls. He looked like a little kid trapped in an old man's body.
posted by amyms at 1:13 AM on October 26, 2007


Better still, Rod was mumbling bitterly about an event that happened 7 years prior: his performance on Southpark getting lost in translation. Note that this like goes to the Spanish version of the clip. Roddy's really pushing Spanish TV a lot these days. I'm not sure why he does it, but HE'S OUR ROD!
posted by item at 1:14 AM on October 26, 2007


When I think of Rod toying with his model trains, I hear "Forever Young" playing in the background.
posted by amyms at 1:17 AM on October 26, 2007


Rod's been known to dress up in a giant rubber Gamera suit and destroy thousands of dollars worth of models in an afternoon. He's been doing so more frequently lately, too, and he's started taking out sneak attacks on others setups. It's all starting to get a little weird.
posted by item at 1:22 AM on October 26, 2007 [3 favorites]


I just worry that when he runs out of models, he'll hit the local primary schools with that Gamera suit offering adequate protection from the kicks and bites of southern California youngsters.

I'm starting to think that maybe we, as a people, need to set up a committee to put together a fact finding mission and then, by god, get to the bottom of this Rod the Mod madness before it's too late.
posted by item at 1:26 AM on October 26, 2007


The realization that Rod Stewart's creative energies are focused primarily on model trains really helps explain all that crappy music he's made.
posted by bluejayk at 1:36 AM on October 26, 2007 [6 favorites]


And I thought his hobby was collecting blond bimbos...
posted by fearfulsymmetry at 1:54 AM on October 26, 2007


(... and the article makes that joke, damn)

What his latest is up to at the moment.
posted by fearfulsymmetry at 2:01 AM on October 26, 2007


Rod's got HO's. In different area codes.
posted by sourwookie at 2:13 AM on October 26, 2007 [10 favorites]


"Will I see you tonight? On the downtown train?"

Sorry, Tom Waits.
posted by sourwookie at 2:16 AM on October 26, 2007


For some reason, I keep thinking of the beyond cheesy cover of the old blues standard "People Get Ready" that he did with Jeff Beck in the early 90s. Ugh.

The realization that Rod Stewart's creative energies are focused primarily on model trains really helps explain all that crappy music he's made.

No kidding. It must have been something. I was listening to some old Faces records earlier in the year, and I could not believe how outrageously good they were. A powerful, brief shining moment, as Stewart has now sucked ass for coming up on 40 years.
posted by psmealey at 2:56 AM on October 26, 2007


The village in which I was born lay between mountains that reached into the heavens. Taped to the windows of the barbershop were faded pictures of America, torn from the pages of a magazine. Every day I looked upon them, dreaming of traveling to this magic land to make my fortune and become a respected man. Then, on the night I turned 12, an aged man with hair like the Jungle Albino Needle Pig came to our village. When we saw his giant wife, and lay our eyes upon her breasts that could suckle a blind hag back to sweet youth, we decided he must be a God. He called himself Mr. Rod Stewart, and told us that he needed the strongest men to come with him to America to help him build a railroad. Fourteen of us went, first paddling four days to reach the mouth of the river, then from there taking a JetBlue charter to Oklahoma City. There we were loaded onto a truck carrying boxes of feminine hygiene products and shaving cream, and told to stay quiet. We traveled for a day and two nights. Tomaso complained of stomach pains that first night. I think it was the airport food with Golden Archway. Three days later we said our prayers and they carried him away.

Sometimes we heard music and laughter on the floors above us. It reminded us of the land we'd left behind. The only light that reached us came through a crack in the wall and bounced off the golden discs that had been tossed into a box in the corner. Because I was the youngest I was spared the heaviest jobs, planting plastic hedges and trees rather than laying track and putting up buildings like the other men did. Filipho and Johan met their deaths when a stack of one-sixteenth scale styrofoam bricks toppled over and lodged in their airways. Late at night, when we'd finished our beans and toast and finally lay down to rest, Mr. Rod Stewart would come down the stairs in his striped overalls and red cap, and wake us all again with his orgasmic cries of "Toot-toot".

I am the last one left here. I've written this message on the eastern wall of a model of Grand Central Station of New York, America. I can only hope a dedicated reader of Model Railroader looks close enough at the photograph. I would like to return to my village so that I can let the men's families know that they were loved, to say the last words that I have been entrusted with, and let all my countryfolk know that America is an empty promise.
posted by TimTypeZed at 3:06 AM on October 26, 2007 [32 favorites]


Think of all the handbags and the gladrags that your poor old grandad had to sweat to buy ya...
posted by zemblamatic at 3:46 AM on October 26, 2007


My mother remembers jumping up and down on Rod's bed when they were young children in Highgate. Thought I'd share that with you...
posted by le morte de bea arthur at 3:49 AM on October 26, 2007


"She said of Celtic-daft Rod..."

Celtic-daft? Can any of you U.K. MeFites explain this expression to me?
posted by zardoz at 3:54 AM on October 26, 2007


You know, I like it when a famous celebrity (or formerly famous one) turns out to have a slightly geeky and completely unironic hobby. Like if you were to learn that Glenn Close was heavily into collecting license plates or Brad Pitt scratch-built elaborate doll houses which he gave away anonymously when he was done with each one.
posted by maxwelton at 4:06 AM on October 26, 2007 [4 favorites]


> Celtic-daft? Can any of you U.K. MeFites explain this expression to me?

It's a professional football team
posted by jfuller at 4:10 AM on October 26, 2007


TimTypeZed, you were lied to. There are no 1/16th-scale bricks on Stewart's HO layout. It must have been an impostor.
posted by Kirth Gerson at 4:39 AM on October 26, 2007


Soccer player, rock star, model builder, OMG, Renaissance man. ;)
posted by caddis at 4:50 AM on October 26, 2007


First decent track he's laid down in years.
posted by Abiezer at 5:00 AM on October 26, 2007 [21 favorites]


A powerful, brief shining moment, as Stewart has now sucked ass for coming up on 40 years.

Rod's solo work and his work with The Faces between 1971 and 1972 is as good as anything on vinyl. How he went from that to sucking as bad as he does is a complete mystery, but I suspect the move to the USA had something to do with it.
posted by PeterMcDermott at 5:09 AM on October 26, 2007


Oh, and People Get Ready isn't actually an old blues song. It's a Curtis Mayfield/Impressions song from 1965 -- which might seem like old blues, I suppose, depending on how old you are. It was a hit pop/soul song in the days when Rod/Jeff's were just young mods, starting out in the game.

/pedant off
posted by PeterMcDermott at 5:15 AM on October 26, 2007


I actually respect Rod Stewart a lot more for being on the cover of Model Railroader than for being on Rolling Stone.

Any jackass can get on Rolling Stone. But Model Railroader has standards.
posted by Kadin2048 at 5:28 AM on October 26, 2007 [3 favorites]


Heh. I started to read this thinking Rod Stewart likes trains like Patrick Swayzie [sic] and Sebastian Bach like trains.

My mother remembers jumping up and down on Rod's bed when they were young children in Highgate

Hmmm. Where did the cockney accent come from? Scots-via-Highgate does not a cockney make, by any stretch of the imagination.
posted by goo at 5:34 AM on October 26, 2007


I can't believe I'm the first to mention Sebastian Bach and Patrick Swayze when it comes to celebrity model railroaders.
posted by greasepig at 5:34 AM on October 26, 2007


Being on the cover of "Model Railroader" is quite the accomplishment, but he's always trying to distance himself being on the cover of "The Stomach Pumped Review", which is no easy feat.
posted by phirleh at 5:37 AM on October 26, 2007


Is the model train the grown-up male version of doll houses?

Funny you should ask. There was a piece in the Financial Times just the other day (sorry, no citation- read and ran that morning) on how Maerklin thought they might be short changing the child market. Stay tuned....
posted by IndigoJones at 5:48 AM on October 26, 2007


Oh, and People Get Ready isn't actually an old blues song.

Fair enough. I remember the Curtis Mayfield version, I was just under the impression that he had adapted it from a old standard.
posted by psmealey at 5:55 AM on October 26, 2007


And I agree that the Faces stuff from that time, as well as his work on Jeff Beck's "Truth" is some of the finest rock 'n' roll ever recorded.
posted by psmealey at 5:56 AM on October 26, 2007


Good post, but the second-to-last link was made by a link-farming robot. One that apparently also enjoys model railroading.
posted by M.C. Lo-Carb! at 5:56 AM on October 26, 2007


And I agree that the Faces stuff from that time, as well as his work on Jeff Beck's "Truth" is some of the finest rock 'n' roll ever recorded.
posted by psmealey at 8:56 AM


Seconded. Rod's work on "Truth" has forced me to forgive many of sins. I'm glad he made the cover of Model Railroader.
posted by marxchivist at 6:00 AM on October 26, 2007


drat, forgive many of HIS sins
posted by marxchivist at 6:00 AM on October 26, 2007


Abiezer wins.
posted by sfts2 at 6:10 AM on October 26, 2007


...we are railing, we are railing...
posted by the_very_hungry_caterpillar at 6:40 AM on October 26, 2007


So when Rod told me he was going to "play with this trains," it wasn't a sleazy euphemism?
posted by jonp72 at 6:43 AM on October 26, 2007


I guess I was right.
posted by drezdn at 6:49 AM on October 26, 2007


I don't do it, but model railroading does fascinate me, the idea of making your own perfect little version of the world.

A few years ago, while looking for jobs, I tried to get a job at a model railroad magazine and studied the hobby a lot. One of the stranger/more interesting things I didn't know was the fact that many model railroaders essentially follow rules for passing off cars from one train to another, literally running little railroads in every aspect.
posted by drezdn at 6:51 AM on October 26, 2007


Lest We Forget, Neil Young holds seven U.S. Patents related to model trains: Nos. 7,264,208; 7,211,976; 6,765,356; 5,749,547; 5,555,815; 5,441,223; and 5,251,856.
posted by wallstreet1929 at 7:11 AM on October 26, 2007


I've read about some model setups that so slavishly built for accuracy, that their owners will actually get together and run several trains on the lines according to actual timetables (adjusted for scale). Each train has its own operator, there's someone in charge of the yard, etc. The aim is to recreate one particular day in the rail's history, down to the stops for water and such. Amazing.
posted by jquinby at 7:13 AM on October 26, 2007


Yeah, it's great to know there's at least one thing Rod Stewart does well, but it would mean much more to me to see some pictures of that layout than never to hear any of his music again.
posted by Laotic at 7:19 AM on October 26, 2007


"First decent track he's laid down in years."

Windex and a shitload of paper towels. My place in an hour. Be there, dammit!
posted by Mike D at 7:36 AM on October 26, 2007


Rod's got HO's.

Yeah, I was gonna say that people who run HO and people who run Lionel can't be assumed to be buddies. They can't even trade gear - different scale. It's not quite a Mac/PC relationship, but they're not quite the same animal. Model train folks are, however, united in their disdain for people who are fullsize rail geeks - the ones who hang out by the tracks with GPS - deriding them as "rail sniffers."

I grew up with model trains - my dad is an HO modeler. Most family vacations included at least an hour or two visiting a model-train-layout tourist attraction such as Northlandz, and plenty of hours kicking about the hobby store in town.

Perhaps because I associate them with a happy dad tinkering with toys, I have always felt great about model trains. It's a gentle, optimistic pastime that can incoporate quite a bit of creativity. People take it in a variety of directions, as it can variously call on artistic skills in painting and landscaping, research skills required to re-create a historic setting, nostalgia (some people build their own hometowns), imagination (fictional places), and mechanical problem-solving ability. I mean, here's Rod with a model of 1940s Grand Central station - that's awesome!

My dad took such great pleasure in creating a small and beautifully functioning system in which every detail was carefully thought out, including HO people walking HO dogs and HO storekeepers sweeping their streetfronts. When he was running trains the happy clicking and smell of smoke drops was very cheerful and soothing. I liked putting my head at eye level to the table to make the perspective look real.

I saw a show on local cable recently about a guy who installs model train layouts for peole who are rich and busy. They're mostly outdoor garden trains - but he charges tens to hundreds of thousands of dollars for the service. He does everything - landscaping and grading, blasting to create mountain cuts, track design and laying, trestle building, and installing the model elements. He would add things like chairlifts and roundhouses. They were extremely impressive, but I was more amazed that here's yet another way that people are selling rich people a product, where the actual point of train modeling, in the eyes of most modelers, is the process. You can buy a train layout, but not the satisfaction of designing and building one that runs beautifully. Still, this guy was making an insanely good living selling train layouts and gets to do it for his job.

It is interesting to me that, in a world in which highly gendered activities always attract at least some members of the other gender - knitting, say, or hunting - I have never in my life met a female railroad modeler, unless she was in a longtime marriage to a male modeler and had gotten into it through him. Never have I encountered a woman who runs trains on her own as an independent hobby. Though I have some theories as to why that is (the majority of modelers seem toi come from professional backgrounds which included things like engineering, machining, carpentry and construction, wiring, and other mechanical work which was not commonly entered by women in the past...) it still kind of makes me want to have a layout someday. Maybe I can work it into a museum exhibit sometime...
posted by Miko at 7:45 AM on October 26, 2007 [4 favorites]


When I try and tell people - even people with a fairly good knowledge of rock music - that Rod Stewart's first few solo albums are really fucking good, a lot of them just cannot accept it. It's like I'm trying to convince them that Hitler had his good points, or that eating raw lard helps you lose weight. But they are, and the great thing is they sold well enough that you can pick them up at garage sales and thrift stores for next to nothing, which I heartily recommend you do.
posted by The Card Cheat at 7:52 AM on October 26, 2007


What The Card Cheat says is absolutely true. How I wish he'd kept going in that same vein.
posted by Miko at 7:54 AM on October 26, 2007


The Card Cheat: "When I try and tell people - even people with a fairly good knowledge of rock music - that Rod Stewart's first few solo albums are really fucking good, a lot of them just cannot accept it. It's like I'm trying to convince them that Hitler had his good points, or that eating raw lard helps you lose weight. But they are, and the great thing is they sold well enough that you can pick them up at garage sales and thrift stores for next to nothing, which I heartily recommend you do."

Sometimes, a musician does things that can convince us that everything that they did before, which we might have thought was actually good, was really crap. See, for example, REM.

Personally, I once liked those albums, but now, listening to them, he just sounds like a pretentious asshole to me, no matter how good the music sounds. Probably always will. I miss the Faces when they were still Small.
posted by koeselitz at 8:08 AM on October 26, 2007


Rod Stewart has massive rock talent which he essentially wasted in the pursuit of blow and babes.
posted by caddis at 8:16 AM on October 26, 2007


"Rod Stewart has massive rock talent which he essentially wasted in the pursuit of blow and babes."

Reminds me of the famous George Best "where did it all go wrong?" story!!
posted by the_very_hungry_caterpillar at 8:19 AM on October 26, 2007


From the third FPP link: The singer had spent 12 years making his special railway, which measures 124ft by 23ft... Rod spent thousands of hours - and dollars - putting it together... which takes up 1500sq ft of the third floor of Rod's home... based on a fictional 1940s city, complete with 5ft 4in skyscrapers and more than 9000 feet of train track. Each miniature train takes more than half an hour to do a full circuit.

Amazing, yes. When you've got unlimited space and resources, how can it not be impressive?

But even when you don't, sheer craftsmanship can make up the difference: see Don's Dream World, a jewel-like portable tabletop layout built in N scale (in his small Japanese home) by Donald Agne. Here's his photo gallery.
posted by cenoxo at 8:25 AM on October 26, 2007


Wake up Maggie, I think I got some some railroad tracks to lay-ee,
It's late September and I need to find my modelin' tools....
I really love your caboose
But I feel it's wheels are loose
Oh Maggie, I couldn't have tightened them any more...

posted by Skygazer at 9:03 AM on October 26, 2007 [1 favorite]


Another surprising thing I recently learned about Rod Stewart are his two albums covering old jazz standards ("As Time Goes By: The Great American Songbook"). When I first heard these, softly playing in a hotel restaurant in Europe, I thought it was Billie Holiday.
posted by exogenous at 9:05 AM on October 26, 2007


I don't know much about Rod Stewart and his train hobby, but wallstreet1929's first link above tells you more about Neil Young than about trains or rockstar conspicuous consumption: Neil's train stuff is mostly about creating a world that his profoundly disabled son can have some control over, and his inventions have been devices that help disabled people interact with train sets.

Read that link and tell me that guy's not a hell of a father, regardless of what you think of his music.
posted by stupidsexyFlanders at 9:07 AM on October 26, 2007


Learn how rock 'n; roller Rod Stewart builds this city.

Well that's just silly. Everyone knows that it was Starship that built this city (on rock and roll).
posted by quin at 9:31 AM on October 26, 2007


I think I could only get into this if I were doing SFnal layouts. Create a cutaway Moonbase Alpha, with working Moon Train Things and an elevator that lifts Eagles up and down. Or a gigantic layout of a Gernsbackian city with lucite roads and propeller-driven monorails and a zeppelin mounted from ceiling rails that carries serious, short-haired white men in togas between the various skyscrapers.
posted by ROU_Xenophobe at 9:34 AM on October 26, 2007


Ooo! Or the command trains! With a tiny little Xoxarle!
posted by ROU_Xenophobe at 9:34 AM on October 26, 2007


By the way he is Scottish, or faux Scottish at least
posted by A189Nut at 10:03 AM on October 26, 2007


You know who else was into model trains?
That's right, Walt Disney, who built a 1/8 scale model steam railroad in his backyard. With a trestle and tunnel.

Model trains are awesome. My gramps had an HO railway that he set up in his garage. I wish I knew what happened to it.
posted by oneirodynia at 10:25 AM on October 26, 2007


I'm just glad Bubbles has something new to swipe after getting the Swayze Express.
posted by hell toupee at 10:25 AM on October 26, 2007


FWIW I kind wish he only ever showed up on Model Railroader and never on Rolling Stone, there is even odds he may have some real talent with Railroads.
posted by edgeways at 10:30 AM on October 26, 2007


caddis: "Rod Stewart has massive rock talent which he essentially wasted in the pursuit of blow and babes."

I know. Which is why this story is so interesting. Now we know what happens when one has one's fill of blow and babes. I haven't been able to test this yet, but Rod here has. In one's later years, when the tail has flowed like water through a tunnel for more years than you can count, when drugs that can bend one's psyche in any direction desired have been taken advantage of in every conceivable way, when all the joy of absolute hedonism has run its course, one's thoughts turn to... model trains.
posted by koeselitz at 10:39 AM on October 26, 2007 [2 favorites]


I've read about some model setups that so slavishly built for accuracy, that their owners will actually get together and run several trains on the lines according to actual timetables (adjusted for scale). Each train has its own operator, there's someone in charge of the yard, etc. The aim is to recreate one particular day in the rail's history, down to the stops for water and such. Amazing.

Apropos of nothing, the airplane junkies do the same thing with Flight Simulator. They have entire virtual airlines with big rosters of "hired" pilots from all over the place who run flights on schedule, and even guys who spend their evenings sitting at their computers with specialized software and VOIP headsets doing virtual air traffic control - which always kind of amazed me because real ATC is supposed to be one of those things that burns you out and drives you to suicide. But yeah, very cool in an obsessed fan kind of way.
posted by Naberius at 10:41 AM on October 26, 2007


There is the San Diego Model Railroad Museum in Balboa park (San Diego, California) . It's well worth the visit. There are huge layouts, model trains, toy trains, railroad memorabilia, and a train-themed play room for kids.
posted by webnrrd2k at 10:42 AM on October 26, 2007


I've always thought of Rod Stewart's albums as being train wrecks. Now I know where he does his research.
posted by dances_with_sneetches at 10:56 AM on October 26, 2007


Small enough to fit in any cubicle — or under any Xmas tree — the world's smallest train layouts (4" x 4" and 4" x 7").
posted by cenoxo at 10:59 AM on October 26, 2007


maxwelton writes "You know, I like it when a famous celebrity (or formerly famous one) turns out to have a slightly geeky and completely unironic hobby."

Robin Williams plays WarHammer 40K which struck me as the wierdest thing when I heard about it.
posted by Mitheral at 11:17 AM on October 26, 2007


"You know, I like it when a famous celebrity (or formerly famous one) turns out to have a slightly geeky and completely unironic hobby."

Oh, indeed
posted by IndigoJones at 12:08 PM on October 26, 2007


Robin Williams also likes sniping people online in Battlefield 2. No word on whether or not he's gone to 2142, but one would presume.
posted by barc0001 at 12:25 PM on October 26, 2007 [1 favorite]


Robin Williams plays WarHammer 40K which struck me as the wierdest thing when I heard about it.

In the grim darkness of the far future there is only MRS. DOUBTFIRE!
posted by vorfeed at 12:43 PM on October 26, 2007


Another surprising thing I recently learned about Rod Stewart are his two albums covering old jazz standards ("As Time Goes By: The Great American Songbook"). When I first heard these, softly playing in a hotel restaurant in Europe, I thought it was Billie Holiday.

You should be shot for that.

posted by miss lynnster at 1:27 PM on October 26, 2007


Shot? Kindly note two two crucial terms "first heard" and "playing softly"... I did figure it wasn't Billie after a bit but we were eating at a table of ten and it was hard to hear.
posted by exogenous at 1:43 PM on November 1, 2007


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