Some background...

The Free Heaven Harbor Terminal Railroad was constructed in 18 months by a group of four French lovers of American trains, starting in 1994.
The purpose of this layout was to make French people discover the capability of N scale and to make them use the existing track, equipment and scenery materials in order to build their "dream" layout.

The FHHT layout has been developed, based on NMRA standards. These fine line standards have been choosen in order to offer a quality scene to viewers and convince them to adopt a hobby that can be practiced in the family, or between friends, just like it is in the US.

All people who participated in this layout are members of the AFAN (Association Française des amis du N - or "French Association of N Scale Friends")

Unfortunately, this layout had to be dismantled lately (early 2011) due to the lack of storage space. All structures and rolling stock have been saved for use on other layouts.

Some facts about the layout

Authors Gerard Rodriguez
Marcel Jeanson
Alain Joigneau
Jean Soukiassian
Scale N (1/160th)
Size 4.2 x 3.0 meters (14x10 ft.)
Structure L-Girder, sectionable
Track and switches Code 40 Micro Engineeering track with handlaid turnouts
Minimum radius 50cm (20 in.)
Maximum grade 0%
Layout control Conventional blocked DC control.

The layout Click to enlarge

(Clicking on the track plan will display an enlarged version [96 kb] in a separate window).

At right is shown a simplified track plan of the layout which is a switching layout set in a harbour scenery.

The harbour is composed of many complex industries. Storing, loading and handling facilities have needed a lot of research and are, for most of them, reproduction of actual industries. Some other are purely free-lanced but based on the reality.

For the ocean ships, nothing exists in N scale as commercial vessels. Only a few war ships can be found in this scale. So the whole fleet was scratchbuilt, using sheet styrene, according to scale plans. The masterpiece is a 3' 8" tanker, the "Exxon Rodriguez", an exact N scale replica of an actual ship.
This vessel is shown below and no, this is not a naval model, but just an N scale model railroad set in a harbour.

The layout is sectionable for easy transportation, since it has to be moved to many exhibitions. The connection between sections is made using wood dowels for alignment and regular machine screws for rigidity. This proved to be a good solution, even with the small track gauge used (code 40).

There are many plans for the future. Tracks will be improved. The "hidden" yard will be scenicked, although visitors will not see it, but operators will benefit of it. Street and building lighting will be put in place, More ships will be build and, maybe, the central part of the layout will see the addition of a small module with an operating bascule bridge.

Some pictures.

(Click on the photos to see them full size and click on the full size photo to close it).

1. Harbour scenes

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Photo #1 (65 Kb)

«Free Heaven Terminal»

The long «Free Heaven Terminal» warehouse hosts liberty ship ´┐ŻOradour´┐Ż from France; on the wharf, dockers are busy unloading it.

Photo #2 (49 Kb)

The oil terminal

Close view of the «Exxon Rodriguez» at the oil terminal. In the back is the huge Continental Grain Co. elevator, connected to the grain wharves by means of a series of gangways meandering among fuel tanks.

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Click to enlarge

Photo #3 (52 Kb)

«Oradour» Liberty Ship

Time is precious, so the «Oradour» crew is busy unloading the cargo on the wharf.

Photo #4 (46 Kb)

«Exxon Rodriguez»

This impressing tanker is berthing at the oil wharf, pouring its cargo into the oil terminal tanks.

Cliquer pour agrandir

2. The car float

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Photo #5 (73 Kb)


Everything is quiet at the ferry slip. The next car float from Midland is expected soon.

Photo #6 (57 Kb)

The car float from Midland

Tug boat «Patricia» just brought the car float from Midland and is still maintaining the barge in position in the ferry slip, while the terminal crew is mooring it.

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3. Sand & gravel

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Photo #7 (75 Kb)

«Nordson Co.»

«Nordson Co.» is a large sand, gravel and concrete company. It is supplied by overhead conveyors from barges at the nearby wharf.

Photo #8 (64 Kb)

The sand wharf

A crane is busy unloading a sand barge. «Nordson Co.» is supplied from here by means of overhead conveyors crossing the FHHT tracks.

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Click to enlarge

Photo #9 (70 Kb)

The sand wharf

Sand barges follow each others at the sand wharf. This one is waiting to be unloaded in the next cut of empty hopper cars.

Photo #10 (80 Kb)

«Nordson Co.»

A lot of activities are taking place at the «Nordson Co.» concrete mixing plant.

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Click to enlarge

Photo #11 (66 Kb)

«Nordson Co.»

Heavy truck traffic is everyday life at «Nordson Co.».

4. Street scenes

Photo #12 (58 Kb)

Break time

In the industrial area, this bar is a haven for workers on a break.

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Click to enlarge

Photo #13 (51 Kb)

East Free Heaven

Among pylons and oil tanks, the truckers move their cargo between the terminal and the outside world.

Photo #14 (61 Kb)

Back street

At night, it's better not to hang around these streets, as strange individuals have their quarters here. During the day, and with the help of the local police, it's a rather quiet area.

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Click to enlarge

Photo #15 (51 Kb)

A typical day at Free Heaven

A moving van has pulled aside to get out of the way of the local switch job bringing a string of empty covered hoppers to the grain elevator.

Photo #16 (61 Kb)

Hobo camp

Hobos have found a shelter in these used containers, temporarily giving up their train travels.

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5. The intermodal yard

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Photo #17 (67 Kb)

The «Kalmar container lift»

In the intermodal yard, small 20 ft. containers are handled by a «Kalmar container lift».
In the back is the Wabco company.

Photo #18 (63 Kb)

The «Mi-Jack straddle crane»

The «Mi-Jack» loads and unloads dozens of large containers, every day.

Click to enlarge
Click to enlarge

Photo #19 (59 Kb)

Yard office

The container yard office manages all inbound and outbound traffic in the yard.

Photo #20 (60 Kb)

Trailer storage

Along the tracks, the «skeleton» trailers are waiting for their next assignment..

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6. Industries

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Photo #21 (68 Kb)

The oil terminal

Employees at the oil terminal are getting ready to fill up those empty tank cars. Meanwhile, a pair of FHHT switchers is idling because of a badly parked car. Looks like the police will be soon on site.

Photo #22 (67 Kb)

Roads and rails

Road traffic and rail traffic keep close to each other in Free Heaven industrial area.

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Click to enlarge

Photo #23 (75 Kb)

Yard office

The yard office manages all freight car moves in the yard.

Photo #24 (69 Kb)


The layout of the industrial area dictates special trackwork and street running to reach all industries, as shown in this photo.

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Click to enlarge

Photo #25 (56 Kb)

The grain wharf

After the departure of «Lake Anna», the grain wharf looks abandoned. Until the arrival of the next bulk carrier...

Photo #26 (47 Kb)


The «Garvey» company dominates the FHHT main yard.

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7. Sea and ships

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Photo #27 (51 Kb)

«Lake Anna»

«Lake Anna», a bulk carrier just left the grain wharf for a distant destination.

Photo #28 (71 Kb)


The big derrick barge has been called to rescue a pair of F's which slid from the car float. The A unit needs a good cleaning. The B unit is being fished out with the help of a team of scuba divers.

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Click to enlarge

Photo #29 (48 Kb)

The Terminal wharf

Along the wharf, goods are piling up as they are unloaded from the «Oradour» freighter.

Hope you enjoyed your visit.

A video of the FHHT :

Walden Leadville & Southwestern RR Devil's Creek Co.

Page created by Gerard Rodriguez
Photos by Serge Lepaire (#14,15) and
Jean-Louis Simonet (other photos)
Logo design by Christophe Le Corre
Last update : 08/18/2011
© 2000-2011, Gerard Rodriguez, Serge Lepaire,
Jean-Louis Simonet, Christophe Le Corre