On Track for Christmas

Local resident uses recyclables to create a Christmas-themed train.

By Trinity Mai


Photos | Trinity Mai

San Leandro resident Antonio Cardenas began engaging in creating holiday-themed displays 14 years ago, primarily with recycled materials. Initially, Cardenas had started creating the designs and placing images of them on his website to attract customers to his business. However, after creating his first creation of a pirate ship, he decided to continue balancing the time between managing his business and constructing the displays after realizing that he enjoys the process of planning and constructing because he perceived it as another way of celebrating the holidays with his friends and family.


“It’s sort of part of my job because I actually have a business website, so when people go to look at how I made it, so people will take a look at the house[s] I have for sale. A lot of vehicles I have done, but I’ve never had a train. It was a fun one because there were a lot of things I could put in the train,” Cardenas said.






















In October, he designed and built a ghost train filled with skeletons to celebrate Halloween. The display mainly consists of several wooden palettes, chicken wire, and approximately 1,000 recycled plastic water bottles which he had gathered. As the winter holiday season approached, he replaced the skeletons from the ghost train with teddy bears to create a Santa train, a concept that he had been planning since early 2019.


“Designing everything with seeing everything around the house that is recyclable began with saving a bunch of  empty water bottles...We used wooden palettes to put it all together,” Cardenas said. “The main goal is to not spend any money on new materials but to use whatever we already have and see if there is a way to incorporate it into your design... That is the main challenge: can you get something done with what you have?”






















Like Cardenas, Bohannon Middle School yearbook and art teacher Mimi Dean also uses recyclables such as cardboard and cereal boxes. In her most recent recyclables fashion show, Dean in particular used plastic water bottles. With a specialization in environmental art, she hopes that others can also reuse items to oppose the corporations behind them.


“I don’t think people should be supporting all the corporations. Basically, get the water for next to nothing and drain local aquifers and sell it back to the people. I’m totally against it,” Dean said. “But since there are so many water bottles around, I do use them and I do teach my students about how these days corporations like Netflix buy stuff. Like they get the water for very, very cheap and sell it back to you for a dollar a bottle. So it’s really bad.”


While Cardenas has no particular goals in mind, he hopes to continue creating new content during the holidays to showcase to his clients and neighbors to lift up the holiday spirit.


“They like it. There’s a lot of people stopping by and making sure the holidays are shown properly,” Cardenas said. “It’s [also] for myself.” •