My name is Justin Franz and I’m an editorial writer and photographer based in Whitefish, Montana.
For as long as I can remember I have been fascinated by railroads and history. As a kid, my dad would bring me with him as he traveled our home state of Maine to photograph and watch trains. Although it was not his career, my dad was a talented photographer and many of his images were published in railroad books and magazines. As I grew up, I dreamed of seeing my own name in print next to his and I spent much of my free time trying to achieve that.
Along the way I realized that my photos would have a much better chance of being published if there were words that went along with them. In high school, I started sending stories to rail-related magazines and in 2004 I had my first article published in Trains Magazine. It was a dream come true.
In 2007, I moved to Missoula, Montana to attend the University of Montana’s School of Journalism. While there I got a job with the student newspaper – first as a reporter and later as a news editor. In 2011, I won a Hearst Journalism Award for a profile on a UM student dealing with post traumatic stress disorder following a deployment to Iraq.
After graduating in May 2011, I went to the Flathead Beacon in Kalispell, Montana where I work as both a writer and photographer (my editor has called me the Swiss Army knife of the newsroom). At the Beacon, I cover everything from city government to environmental issues, but my primary focus in recent years has been the criminal justice system. While at the Beacon, I have won five first place awards from the Montana Newspaper Association, including the Mark Henckel Outdoor Writing Award.
Since 2014, I have also been a national correspondent for Trains Magazine, the premier railroad magazine in North America and have written numerous cover stories, covering everything from technology to preservation.
My words and photos have been featured in numerous newspapers and magazines (and even a few books), including Travel + Leisure, Atlas Obscura, Flathead Living, Glacier Journal, Maine Magazine, Maine Home + Design, DailyDot.com, Mashable.com, Empire Builder Magazine, Railfan & Railroad Magazine and Railroad Heritage.