Coaster enthusiast takes his hobby to the next level

Cedar Point officially opened for the season Saturday -- and many thrill-seekers headed straight for the Gatekeeper, at the front of the park.

But for one coaster fan, just riding Gatekeeper wasn't quite enough, so he built one for himself.

Paul Berzins is the ultimate Roller Coaster Enthusiast.

"It's just the thrill of being high up in the air travelling at high speeds doing twists and turns that you normally can't do any way else unless you're a fighter pilot," he says.


Every weekend throughout the summer, you can find Paul at Cedar Point.

"Cedar Point is my home away from home," he says.

"Basically, I get early entry the first hour there's not too much crowds in the park, and we hit the key coasters, you know, Millenium Force, Gatekeeper, Raptor, Top Thrill Dragster, Maverick," he says.

When Cedar Point announced in 2012 the plans for Gatekeeper, it more than piqued his interest.

"I was, of course, absolutely blown away by what they were doing, how it was going to transform the look of the park, the entrance," he says.

Using the Coaster Dynamics model system, he has built models of Raptor and Maverick, even helping create a launching system for the models.

"I kind of pioneered the actual launching systems for Coaster Dynamics that nobody really else have came out with an actual working unit with that system," he says.

"Being a roller coaster model builder I've alway wanted to have a signature model," he says.

He decided Gatekeeper would be that signature and he began his quest.

But had no designs and no working coaster to copy, so it was all up to him.

"So I had to get a hold of a lot of construction diagrams, pictures off the Internet and of course several trips out to Cedar Point in the dead of winter just to get pictures taken of the ride being built," he says.

"When I start building my models I start from the highest point and then work my way down cause that way I make sure it's going to clear each element," he says.

He spent hundreds of hours and many late nights building.

"This it took me about a month to build it, a rough layout of the coaster, the workings," he says.

"Then after that, then I go back, what takes a lot longer is doing the actual tweaking of the track -- getting all the elements to look proportional," he says.

And it's designed to be an exact replica.

"The actual paint job on this coaster is pretty much exactly like the real Gatekeeper. It's got the two-tone track," he says.

Berzins' Gatekeeper is still a work in progress. He's hoping to add lighting, landscaping and even a little Cedar Point beach sand to give it that truly authentic Cedar Point look.

Cedar Point's been following this project closely. A lot of people want to see it possibly in a museum at some point for everyone to enjoy,


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