NORFOLK, Va. — Luke Reynolds and Johnny Rothfus from Virginia made every coaster enthusiast’s dream a reality with an epic recreation of Cedar Point’s Magnum XL 200.
“Obviously in 2020 everyone is stuck at home, so we had the idea for several months before we actually did anything,” Reynolds said. “We both had our own, separate roller coasters we were helping each other out with. Once those were done, we were like ‘okay, we can collaborate and do something big.”
The two became friends through an American Coaster Enthusiasts event and teamed up to build a 10-foot replica of the roller coaster.
“I didn’t grow up in the states, but I’ve always liked roller coasters. So, when I came back, I started getting involved in the niche roller coaster enthusiast industry,” Rothfus said. “The first event I went to, I met Luke and we found out that we lived in the same town and had the same passion.
Construction on the model has taken the better part of the last two months. Reynolds and Rothfus have been documenting their progress by posting videos of the coaster on the YouTube channel: CoasterWriter.
“I think about all the roller coasters that myself and most other people will never get to ride, but we do get to live vicariously through Youtube and the internet through POV’s,” Reynolds said. “And on that token, this rollercoaster is just as real to half the world.”
The replica is aptly named Magnum XL 300, from the model’s height of 300 centimeters and pays homage to Magnum XL 200s name for being the first roller coaster to break the 200-foot barrier.
“I feel like of like traitor. I grew up in California. The coaster wars it was always Cedar Point in Ohio vs. Magic Mountain in California,” Reynolds said. “So I was always rooting for Magic Mountain and here I am repping Cedar Point.”
The track is made from more than 2,000 pieces of K’nex roller coaster track. To get Magnum’s signature red, Reynolds needed to dye parts of his set as well as purchase extra supplies.
“It took about 15 minutes per 100 cross ties, and there’s thousands of cross ties,” Reynolds said. “I had to order different pieces probably five different times because I kept running out.
The replica is stunningly accurate and incredibly detailed down to the 3-D printed replicas of the Magnum XL 200’s distinct trains.
“You’ve got to make it look from the 80s or 90s with like the spaceship windshield and everything,” said Rothfus.
When Magnum XL 200 opened back in 1989, it was the tallest and fastest coaster in the world.
“It’s one of those rides when you’re going along the triangle hills, it’s the kind of airtime where you’re flying out of your seat that enthusiasts love,” Reynolds said. “It feels like it wasn’t planned to be that extreme, which makes it that much better.”
Dubbed the first hypercoaster, it’s credited with starting the roller coaster wars where theme parks around the world aspired to build record-setting thrill rides year after year to attract visitors.
“Aero is like this classic, legacy roller coaster manufacturer,” Reynolds said. “So, we all have this love and appreciation for this company. Magnum XL-200 was one of Aero’s crowing jewels at the time.”
But if you ask Reynolds, he wasn’t as easily won over by Magnum as most coaster enthusiasts.
“I went to Cedar Point when I was about 13-years-old, and I rode Magnum and I hated it,” he said. “And everyone said, ‘you’ve got to ride Magnum in the Magic Seat.’’
The magic seat is the third row in the front car and provides a drastically different riding experience than the rest of the cars on the train.
“The first time I rode in that seat I was like, ‘okay I understand the hype now,’” Reynolds said.
Rothfus was more easily swayed.
“I thought it was great, it was a great experience,” he said.
Magnum XL-300 snakes its way through Reynolds’ backyard.
A mechanical lift takes the trains up the signature first drop. A pretzel-like twist, tunnels and camel-back hills return the train back to a replica station complete with a Magnum XL-300 sign.
“We had a storm one night and the main lift hill kind of leaned on the pergola,” he said. “K’nex, unlike Legos, just kind of bend.”
Like many other Americans, Reynolds and Rothfus are chomping at the bit to get back to riding rides in a post-pandemic world and plan on making a return trip to Cedar Point as soon as they can.
“I’m anxious for the roller coasters and the community,” Reynolds said. “It’s really cool to be at these events where there’s a whole bunch of enthusiasts. We’re used to being the only ones in our group of friends that likes roller coasters.”
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