Andrew Martin: Hats off to Rod, who has success and a model railway

Share

When I read in the papers that Rod Stewart had achieved his lifetime's ambition by having his model railway layout showing Grand Central Station featured on the cover of Model Railroader, I recalled a few articles of my own.

I thought of a piece I wrote about the late Roye England, who always wore a mac, a beret and shorts, who went to church every day, lived on Crunchies and black bananas and who, along with the men who were his disciples, created the beautiful model railway layout at the Pendon Museum in Long Wittenham, Oxfordshire. I thought of the men I'd interviewed who'd set records for visiting every station on the London Underground within one 24-hour period, and I recalled the arcania of the rules they'd followed: it was permissible to proceed at street level between termini, but it was specified that you couldn't run, use a car or a bike – or a Spacehopper.

I thought of the men who take an interest in the movement of extra-large pieces of freight on Britain's roads and buy videos called things like Superhaul Volume 1, grainy productions featuring no commentary but every so often a mesmerisingly dour caption: "M62 Jct 37, crossing over to use 'on slip'."

I remembered the men who lie flat, and completely concealed, in coffin-like model battleships fitted with pyrotechnics in order to conduct mock naval battles on the boating lake at Peasholm Park, Scarborough; and the men at a mouse show in Cleckheaton who boasted of having bred a blue mouse, and whom I offended when I said I thought it was more grey than blue.

The key word here, of course, is "men". It is mainly men who have strange-seeming hobbies – it is mainly men who have hobbies full stop. Women are too sensible, unfortunately for them.

The appeal of many hobbies is in the creation or the mastery of a small, limited world. It is possible to own a copy of every record made by George Formby. It is possible to visit every Football League ground in the country, and to visit all the non-League ones when you've done that, and because it gives satisfaction to attain a finite end some men do these things.

But such activities serve no apparent procreative or social purpose, and so are thought of as representing the unsavoury side of the male character. As our society has become more sexualised, the male hobbyist has suffered. He is an anorak, a nerd; he probably can't get a girlfriend. Railway hobbyists are particularly castigated, and the staff of a railway bookshop in central London are under orders not to reveal the names of their better known customers, who include (since I'm under no such constraint) the Duke of Kent and Peter Gabriel.

I wouldn't be surprised if Rod himself hadn't been in there a few times, and he is quite obviously not into model railways because he can't get a girlfriend. He proves that building a model railway is not some grotesque displacement activity. As Rod is so successful on all fronts, his urge to re-create Grand Central Station at 187th of the scale transcends the stigma, and looks admirably cavalier and maverick. But those are the qualities of most hobbyists, if you ask me.

Men's peculiar pursuits stem from a capacity for dreaminess and self-absorption perhaps not found to the same degree in women. This is not women's fault. They have not historically had the freedom or free time of men, and their emancipation will be complete only when as many of them aspire to be modellers as models.

Andrew Martin's latest railway novel is 'Murder at Deviation Junction' (Faber and Faber)

React Now

Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
SPONSORED FEATURES
iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Recruitment Genius: Systems and Network Support Analyst

£26000 - £32000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: Our client is a rapidly expandi...

Recruitment Genius: IT Systems Support Analyst

£20000 - £26000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: Our client is a rapidly expandi...

Recruitment Genius: Business Travel Consultant

£20000 - £26000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: With offices in London, Manches...

Recruitment Genius: Stock Broker / Trainee Broker / Closer - OTE £250,000

£30000 - £250000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: Stock Broker/ Trainee FX, Stoc...

Day In a Page

Read Next
 

I'm pansexual – here are the five biggest misconceptions about my sexuality

Farhana Khan
 

Daniel Craig needs to get over himself – there's a reason 007 isn't a right-on geography teacher

Jane Merrick
Migrant crisis: UN official Philippe Douste-Blazy reveals the harrowing sights he encountered among refugees arriving on Lampedusa

‘Can we really just turn away?’

Dead bodies, men drowning, women miscarrying – a senior UN figure on the horrors he has witnessed among migrants arriving on Lampedusa, and urges politicians not to underestimate our caring nature
Nine of Syria and Iraq's 10 world heritage sites are in danger as Isis ravages centuries of history

Nine of Syria and Iraq's 10 world heritage sites are in danger...

... and not just because of Isis vandalism
Girl on a Plane: An exclusive extract of the novelisation inspired by the 1970 Palestinian fighters hijack

Girl on a Plane

An exclusive extract of the novelisation inspired by the 1970 Palestinian fighters hijack
Why Frederick Forsyth's spying days could spell disaster for today's journalists

Why Frederick Forsyth's spying days could spell disaster for today's journalists

The author of 'The Day of the Jackal' has revealed he spied for MI6 while a foreign correspondent
Markus Persson: If being that rich is so bad, why not just give it all away?

That's a bit rich

The billionaire inventor of computer game Minecraft says he is bored, lonely and isolated by his vast wealth. If it’s that bad, says Simon Kelner, why not just give it all away?
Euro 2016: Chris Coleman on course to end half a century of hurt for Wales

Coleman on course to end half a century of hurt for Wales

Wales last qualified for major tournament in 1958 but after several near misses the current crop can book place at Euro 2016 and end all the indifference
Rugby World Cup 2015: The tournament's forgotten XV

Forgotten XV of the rugby World Cup

Now the squads are out, Chris Hewett picks a side of stars who missed the cut
A groundbreaking study of 'Britain's Atlantis' long buried at the bottom of the North Sea could revolutionise how we see our prehistoric past

Britain's Atlantis

Scientific study beneath North Sea could revolutionise how we see the past
The Queen has 'done and said nothing that anybody will remember,' says Starkey

The Queen has 'done and said nothing that anybody will remember'

David Starkey's assessment
Oliver Sacks said his life has been 'an enormous privilege and adventure'

'An enormous privilege and adventure'

Oliver Sacks writing about his life
'Gibraltar is British, and it is going to stay British forever'

'Gibraltar is British, and it is going to stay British forever'

The Rock's Chief Minister hits back at Spanish government's 'lies'
Britain is still addicted to 'dirty coal'

Britain still addicted to 'dirty' coal

Biggest energy suppliers are more dependent on fossil fuel than a decade ago
Orthorexia nervosa: How becoming obsessed with healthy eating can lead to malnutrition

Orthorexia nervosa

How becoming obsessed with healthy eating can lead to malnutrition
Lady Chatterley is not obscene, says TV director

Lady Chatterley’s Lover

Director Jed Mercurio on why DH Lawrence's novel 'is not an obscene story'
Farmers in tropical forests are training ants to kill off bigger pests

Set a pest to catch a pest

Farmers in tropical forests are training ants to kill off bigger pests