Introducing FRN

Despite my health issues, I’ve been working on a new project this week. It’s now ready enough that I can formally tell you about it, though links to it have been turning up in sidebars and footers on this site already.

Announcing FRN, a blog about trains and the people crazy about them.

I’ve been meaning to launch a train blog for about a year (typical for me: I tend to run about a year behind schedule on capital projects), and have had the concept of blogging about trains in all their forms (railroad industry news, model railroading, rail travel) for some time: it’s essentially the let’s-blog-about-something-to-learn-more model that I’ve been using on The Map Room for the past 3½ years.

Two thing were holding me back: a concern that adding another blog to my workload would overwhelm me, and that I didn’t have a catchy title that wasn’t already in use somewhere else. My workflow has been steadily improving to the point where I’m no longer worried about the former; as for the latter, inspiration struck on Sunday, and I began work on the project immediately.

“FRN” is railroader’s slang for the crazy people who hang out along rail lines snapping photos, argue over railroad operations with those in the know, and are just generally obsessive about trains. It stands for “fuckin’ railroad nut.” Yes, it’s another blog named after an acronym with the F-bomb in it. (“Foamer” is another term used, but it’s more ambiguous; even “trainspotter” has been appropriated to mean obsessives of any sort. It says something that train nuts are considered the archetypes for that.)

So. There it is. I’ll be blogging about this subject with a bit more confidence than I do about maps, since I essentially grew up exposed to the hobby. I’ll be a bit more opinionated, a bit more argumentative, than I have been elsewhere. I’ve got some thoughts about the hobby, for one thing. (CN is probably in trouble too.)

Now for a word about my business plan. Since The Map Room took off a couple of years ago, I’ve been performing a balancing act between maintaining my major source of income (it’s about 75-80 per cent of total web site revenues) and coming up with a second or third project of equal success to supplement it. Certainly I can’t live on The Map Room alone: the audience/market isn’t big enough for that. So I’ve been starting other projects as well, and seeing if they’ll take off — an approach my father thinks is entrepreneurial. My strategy is cumulative: a little of this, a little of that; combined, a living.

So far my modus operandi has been to serve niches: do web sites that are intensely interesting to very small audiences. (The potential audience for blogs about maps and trains is too small for Gawker or Weblogs, Inc. to bother with.) has earned some modest success since its launch two years ago; Ankylose This! hasn’t really taken off in the same time period; Snakes on Film, which launched last month, is still just getting started. With any luck, FRN will work out.