Addictive, engaging, and exotic hobbies

Railroad tracks run through the area behind  Josh Rendez’s house.  The wooden tracks are not part of an actual rail line, but a scaled down layout which runs through his backyard.  

Measuring 55 feet long, the miniature railroad can fit several hand powered vehicles and cars, which are specifically designed to ride on it.  The most remarkable part, however, is that everything has been built from scratch by 17-year-old Rendez himself.

The common image of a teenager issomeone who spends all their free time buried in their phone, but many ARHS students have found far more creative things to do.  

The hobbies that students busy themselves with are as diverse as the student body itself.  Many hobbies would most likely be unheard of by the casual observer.

Take Rendez, for example.  He’s been working on his backyard railroad for about one and a quarter years, but has been doing similar projects in his home country of Germany since 2012.  

Rendez has always had a passion for railroading, but “was too young to drive and work on full size railroad equipment.”  

So he decided to build his own.  His collection of scratch-built equipment currently includes a couple passenger cars, as well as an operational crank car and velocipede, both of which can be driven using hand power.

Rendez’s project has not come without its challenges. One of the biggest was preventing the vehicles from derailing from the 14 inch gauge track.  “That took me the better part of two years,” he said.

He also had difficulty in making the system sturdy enough to be ridden on, due to the primarily wooden construction. Most of the materials Rendez uses are pretty cheap however, which helps to offset the challenges.

There are other exotic hobbies within ARHS which are much less involved than Rendez’s.  Senior Will Budington  represents this with his practice of the Kendama, a traditional Japanese toy.  He describes it as “a more complicated yoyo,” with three cups, a ball and a spike.

Budington estimates there are around 100 different tricks which can be done using the Kendama, although he is far from mastering them all.  Budington got hooked about two years ago when he tried one out at his summer camp.  “It’s addictive,” he said. “Once you pick it up, you can’t put it down.”

He is also somewhat knowledgeable about the cult community built around it. Budington spoke of big Kendama tournaments, though he himself has not participated in any.  “It’s kinda like a skater west coast hacky sack thing,” he said.

Sophomore Patrick Matias has also become involved in a hobby which is a foreign import from Japan. His hobby is a considerably more modern one, though.  Matias is experienced in building mecha robot model kits known as Gundam and Gunpla.  

The intricate, fully posable models are assembled from plastic sprues like the average kit, but they build fictional robots from popular animes and mangas, as opposed to cars and planes.  

Matias started building beginner kits around two and a half years ago, although he has since moved on to primarily advanced kits, which are larger and have more complex inner frames.

Matias may have to put money towards the Gundam  kits themselves (prices range from around $10 into the hundreds), but very few additional materials are required.  

His standard arsenal includes a pair of wire cutters or plastic clippers to remove pieces, and sometimes some glue for assembling certain parts.  He also likes to use markers and alcohol or color thinner to add detail, “to give the piece more realism than a piece of plastic on a shelf.”

All three students were very eager to share their diverse hobbies, and they each had some helpful advice if someone were looking to try one out.

Rendez recommended trying to get in touch with other people who do similar projects.  “I think if I had talked to people from the beginning, I might not have had as much frustration getting it to work,” he said. He also suggested setting reasonable goals and milestones, so you can be happy with the results.

Budington recommended to just be persistent, saying, “It’s really hard at first, but the more I did it… it just got easier.”

Matias suggested to start with a cheap beginner kit, “Ten dollars or below price range, which is a half hour tops to put together.”  He then added, “You have to have a passion for doing it.  You have to put time into it.  It has to be something that you really love.”

These students represent only a fraction of the recreational pastimes of our school’s student body.  There’s a lot that can be learned about someone through their hobbies, and it’s fascinating to find out how diverse ARHS students’ interests are.