Simon George, 53, funded the 200-foot-long project by selling his share in a supercar driving experience company and created an incredible replica of a train line, set in 1980s Yorkshire, England.
The colossal train set accurately depicts a 1.5-mile stretch of real track at Heaton Lodge Junction, Mirfield, West Yorkshire, from 1983.
“It used to be with lots of coal trains before the miners’ strikes,” Simon said.
The project was born of the nostalgic moment of his childhood when he used to watch the locomotives passing through the busy stretch of line.
“It all started because I used to spend a lot of time at Heaton Lodge as a 12-year-old kid watching the trains go by,” Simon said. “I had happy memories of it all. I wasn’t even into railway models—it could have easily been a park or a corner shop I had memories of.”
To get the detail just right, Simon collected around 500 photos of the track area from 1983, so he could re-create every bush, hedgerow, and patch of grass. He even found one photo of him as a youngster leaning over a fence watching a freight train pass through, which he has re-created on the model.
There are also fly-tipped sofas on the bank, while tiny Tesco carrier bags with an authentic 1983 design can be found snagged on branches and railway sleepers along the stretch.
“It’s like it’s captured in time,” Simon said. “It’s a really accurate map of where everything was, even down to the graffiti and the hedges. It’s as far from a Hornby model railway as you can get.”
Simon hid the entire project from his partner, Marie, for the first six months of his relationship.
“I met Marie about two years ago and when we started dating, I led her to believe I was a wine merchant,” Simon said. He feared that his girlfriend would dump him if she learned about his “dull” hobby.
However, one day when Marie visited the old mill—that he told her he’d rented to store and sell wine—she discovered there was no wine in the basement.
“She came down to the cellar one day and said: ‘Where’s all the wine?'” Simon recalled. “I told her the truth and she was like ‘ok’. But she has an art degree so she appreciated the level of detail and work that went into it. We’re now engaged.”
Simon said he began to believe during the lockdown that he might be able to turn his passion into a business venture.
“About halfway through, I thought, ‘I could make a business of this.’ During [the] lockdown, I spent my days down here on my own,” Simon said. “It took eight years to build but with Covid and the lockdowns, I’ve really been able to speed it up over the last couple of years.”
When it came time to open his train track to the public, music mogul and model railway enthusiast Pete Waterman agreed to open it.
“He has a big interest in model railways and got in touch,” Simon said. “He has got a passion and wants to bring his passion to a more mainstream public, so he offered to help.”
Waterman, Simon said, had one on display at Chester Cathedral which had 44,000 visitors. However, the model is not as big as Simon’s.
Simon’s massive model railway has been on display at Wakefield’s Market Hall, Yorkshire, and will be up until Dec. 21. He also hopes to tour it around the country next year.
Epoch Times Staff contributed to this report.