Rod Stewart phoned Jeremy Vine on the radio yesterday to deny the presenter's claim that he could not have built his huge model railway by himself.
The singer surprised Vine by contacting his BBC Radio 2 show over his comments about the 124ft long by 23ft wide model, which depicts an American city and its industrial hinterland in the 1940s.
Vine had introduced the show by saying: "Has Rod Stewart got the best model railway in the world or does it not count if you've brought in other people to build it? A smaller one could be better."
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Sir Rod, whose stunning layout was featured in yesterday's Daily Mail after his interview with Railway Modeller magazine, said his wife Penny Lancaster had called him to say Vine was "insinuating that you didn't build it all yourself".
Vine replied: "I was worried about that. The reason I insinuated that is because it's so enormous I didn't believe you could have built it single-handedly."
Life-long model railway enthusiast Sir Rod, who spent 23 years on his pet project, said: "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."
He added that he was "so proud" of the media coverage his railway had received "because a lot of people laugh at it as being a silly hobby, but it's a wonderful hobby."
The defence of model railways then built up an even bigger head of steam as fellow enthusiast and musician Jools Holland also rang in to Vine's show. After thanking Sir Rod for some Great Western Railway logos that he had sent him, boogie-woogie pianist Holland, 61, told how they had forged a friendship after talking about model railway gauges.
He said: "When I first met Sir Rod I was talking to him about it [railway modelling] and he was a little suspicious at first, as we all are, because you think, 'Is it just somebody trying to take the mickey out of us?' But once I'd chatted about gauges, he realised I was sincere."
He also gave me two pieces of really great advice — one, it's the time you spend in there that is the great part of it, engaging with it; and two, you can never have a space that's big enough because you just go on and on, forever making another world."
When Sir Rod said he would fly Holland over to Los Angeles in a private jet to see his layout, Holland joked: "Would that be an 00 gauge scale private jet?" Vine asked if he could come too, but did not receive a reply from Sir Rod.
Holland has built in his attic a 100ft long layout portraying parts of northern Europe, including a KGB headquarters in a Sixties rendition of Cold War Berlin, as well as more familiar representations of London through the ages. It featured in Railway Modeller earlier this year, as the Mail has previously reported.