Track plan copyright Model Railroader magazine, used with permission
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Schoof's layout packs a lot into 10X11 feet in HO, albeit with the use of some pretty tight curves. A decent-sized yard offers some room to work, and a variety of industries and terminals provide reasonable destinations for a good mix of freight cars. Some industries are larger, with realistic multiple tracks. Separate inbound- and outbound freight houses are a rarity on other model railroad track plans, but were common in real life during the less-than-carload (LCL) era. The published plan also has some secluded staging below, reached by a John Armstrong-style "vertical turnout" at the left of the diagram.
There are a few shortcomings that I would try to correct if adapting Schoof's Free Haven Terminal plan for my own use. I might opt for staging behind the backdrop on the same level ("surround staging") with a lift-gate across the room entrance to allow a continuous-path option. With that change in staging, the way the track goes off-scene through the walls of one of the freight houses could be reworked to be a little less contrived. Some of the industries are a bit generic, so choosing signature industries that would add more port-side personality would help. A dedicated yard lead would be a help with multiple crews working. And certainly there would be room to work in a car float, one of my favorite rail-marine features, to add an element of interchange. There are a few other quibbles, but the overall concept is very sound.
I'm apparently not the only one who has been inspired by this design. A group of four French modelers has built a very fine N scale sectional layout called the Free Heaven Harbor Terminal that shares many features of Schoof's Free Haven Terminal design, even the passage through the freight house to staging. Here's their track plan and a scene from their former website. (Their former address has been taken over by a malware site, so don't look for it.) The layout was also featured in a french-language magazine.
Another element that makes Model Railroader's article on Schoof's Free Haven Terminal article so inspiring to me is the inclusion of suggestions for operation and some of the neat "artist's conception" perspective line illustrations that were often featured in MR articles of the era. These provide a hint of what the final layout might be like and add to the rail-marine atmosphere (even though some of the views are admittedly from angles that might not actually be possible on the layout).
Like many of my inspirational layouts, the Free Haven Terminal seems of an eminently "do-able" scope. I've been impressed and educated by dozens of other layouts in person and in the press, many of them large, decades-long efforts. But this handful of mostly more modest inspirational layouts still excites and motivates me personally to get off my duff and build something. I hope they've done a bit of the same for you.
Read the entire Inspirational Layouts series