Monday, March 30, 2009

A Grey Day on the Darby - Spring Break 2009 - Day 2

Photos By Justin Franz

Here are a few quick images from todays chase of Montana Rail Link's Darby local.

Lolo, Montana
Switching Lakeland Feed, Hamilton, Montana

Lakeland Feed, Hamilton, Montana

Sunday, March 29, 2009

Grunge - Spring Break 2009 - Day One

Photos By Justin Franz

Grunge. That is the only word to describe the weather in Montana today, March 28, the first day of my Spring Break. While a lot of students try and head south to the beach, I'm staying in Montana in hopes of doing some railfanning in the northwest over the next week (I'm not the only one staying around, seems that most of UMs students stick to the Rockies during Spring Break, and who could blame you when you live here!).

I'm hoping to update this blog regularly during the next week with a daily look at railfanning and photography. However I don't have much to start off with. With clouds overhead there wasn't a lot of reason to get up early and I don't think I left the pillow till 10Am. With a quick check of the line-up I headed down to the Missoula Yard to find the one train I'd shoot this day - A westbound BNSF freight with two fresh GE's on the point (With the lousy economy BNSF and UP have started putting older units aside, one positive however is that most the power running around is new and looks presentable.)

Following the train west in the rain I shot it at Desmet, just west of town, where I also got this artsy fartsy reflection shot.

Desmet, Montana. March 28, 2009

The next location was 30 miles west of town at Lothrop, Montana, where I left the westbound in the rain and did a little exploring, looking for some new angles (I found one, and it's a killer shot for sure, but you'll have to wait to see that one)

Lothrop, Montana. March 28, 2009

And that was it for the days photography. After that I headed back to Missoula and hung out with friends around a grill in the rain watching dinner cook. Tomorrow morning MRL is dispatching a Darby local and snow is forcasted for the Bitteroots. That 5AM call time comes early so that's all for now.

Friday, March 27, 2009

More from the Mason Jennings concert - March 26, 2009

Photos By Justin Franz
As promised, here are a few more views from the Mason Jennings concert at the Wilma on March 26. Also included are a few shots from the opening act, The Shook Twins, of Sandpoint, Idaho.

Justin Franz - Copyright 2009

Mason Jennings Live in Missoula

Photos By Justin Franz
This is a first edit of some shots from tonights Mason Jennings concert at the Wilma in Missoula. I'm hoping to go back and re-edit this with more images in the near future. For more information on Mason Jennings go to

Justin Franz - Copyright 2009

Tuesday, March 24, 2009

Riding The Last Alcos

It seems like it has been sometime since I've updated this site, but in the last week I've put up two stories so that has to be something!

Anyway, I just want to plug Jim Redmond's awesome Riding The Last Alcos site. Since 2000 the website has been THE source for information on this remote and stunning railroad in eastern Quebec. Every image you've seen of the Cartier in the last decade was most likely taken by a photographer helped by Jim and without question we owe him a big thanks.

Just recently the site changed to a new format, so check it out!

Monday, March 23, 2009

The Bonner Local - Spring 2008

The Last Spring: MRL's Bonner Local Serving the Stimson Lumber Co. April 2008

Photos and Story By Justin Franz

Railroads Illustrated Magazine, Montana Rail Link News, June 2008.
"On Tuesday, March 18, officials of Stimson Lumber Co. notified employees at its Bonner mill they had 60-Days left before a shutdown that is feared to be its last. The mill had been shutdown earlier this year but was reopened in early March. Over a 100-employees will be laid-off when the mill closes in May, concluding Bonner’s history as a mill town that stretches back to the 1880’s. Montana Rail Link dispatches a local from Missoula to Bonner five-days a week and Stimson is the predominant customer, yet in recent years traffic from the mill has dropped dramatically. Whether the Bonner Local will continue to run after the shut down is unknown."

I wrote that small story that led off the RRI News Column over a year ago now. If I remember right it was just a few days before Spring Break in March of 2008 that the headline of the Missoulian read "Stimson To Shut Down." It was a shock to the area, that such a major employer was to go under and it was a shock to railfans that Montana Rail Link would not serve the Mill anymore, just as the railroad had done since its start up in 1987, and the Burlington Northern and Milwaukee Road before that. All the sudden my Spring Break plans became quite simple - Shoot that local .

The following Monday I headed east with the local to Bonner and shot it switch the mill, unfortunately by the time they departed the sun was behind a cloud for "the shot" of them leaving. On two other occasions I would try with no success to get the shot in sun, until late April that the combination of sun and shot came to be. The results can be seen at the top of the post.

However it wasn't that shot that would end up being my favorite.

60 Days Notice: An old switch lock secures the gate to the Bonner, Montana lumber mill owned by Stimson Lumber Co. and servered by Montana Rail Link. Last week, Stimson gave its employees 60 days notice of what will likely be a final shut down for the mill, ending years of rail service by the Milwaukee Road, Burlington Northern and todays Montana Rail Link.

After the local had left on that first day I stuck around and shot this and that. For some reason the lock on the gate caught my eye. With the tracks leading into the distance to an empty log yard it seemed to tell the whole story. My Photo-J teacher at the time here at the University of Montana agreed and I got an A for the assignment.

In the end the mill would hold on until Summer, after I had returned home at the end of the semester. However the story still had to be told and it was....

Railroads Illistrated Magazine, Montana Rail Link News, October 2008.

"Done. Montana Rail Link GP35 403 powered what will likely be one of the last locals to serve the Stimson Lumber Company on the afternoon of July 29, 2008. With only two cars, BNSF 564146 and 564152 billed for a Home Depot in Dayton, New Jersey, the train left the mill and ended over a century long relationship between the railroad and lumber industry in Bonner. Stimson has put the mill and land up for sale at $16-million, yet if a buyer is not found for everything before September 30th, all mill equipment will be placed up for auction, leaving only the land."

Wednesday, March 18, 2009

End of an Era - Marias Pass

Photo By Justin Franz
From Mark Meyer, Montana Railroads Yahoo Group,

"Speaking of ES44 locomotives, some of the six-traction motor variety have replaced the venerable SD40-2s long in service in helper service at Essex. SD40s are being phased out and replaced with more fuel-efficient power, especially during the downturn in business. Two SD40-2s are expected to remain in the Essex area for work train service and may be used as auxiliary helper power as necessary. Helpers for the most part, are only used on eastward stack and merchandise trains."

Summit Crossover, Glacier National Park, October 2008.

Photo By Justin Franz

Tuesday, March 3, 2009

First Friday - March 6

On March 6th, Dylan Peck and myself will be the featured artists at Sotto Voce in downtown Missoula. Both of us will display images from the past few months ranging from subjects like railroads, scenery and people. So please come on down see some photography, have a drink and maybe even buy a shot.

First Friday - Missoula, Montana - March 6th
Sotto Voce - 111 West Main Street, next to The Dark Room.