Hermiston has always had a railroad connection. The Union Pacific main between Umatilla and Hinkle was an early rail line in the area with a siding called Maxwell near the center of town. The tracks separated the township. At one time a chapel car named Emmanuel was set at Maxwell siding, a gathering spot for early residents. The area needed a post office and there was already a Maxwell, Ore., so a little contest was held and because of a popular book by Robert Louis Stevenson, “The Weir of Hermiston," the name Hermiston was chosen.
Soon, with a depot and an agency, Hermiston was on its way to the prosperity a railroad brings. Railroads played an important role in the building of Cold Springs reservoir and the shipping and receiving of munitions for the Umatilla Army Depot. Along with options for shipping, the Union Pacific provided passenger service on such legendary trains as the Streamliner and the Portland Rose. In 1922, Oregon ordered the Union Pacific to build a small siding at Hinkle, named for an area farmer, saving those farmers miles of transportation.
Over the years, route improvements were made and on June 23, 1949, Union Pacific announced that Hinkle would be the new terminal and crew change point, replacing Reith and Pendleton. Construction began in 1949, and in 1951 a new locomotive shop was built of glass blocks at a cost of $287,000, employing 51 people. Hinkle was completed in June 1952, with a price of $5.5 million dollars. By summer’s end the Union Pacific Hinkle Yard received statewide recognition as a rail center.
By 1976, 500,000 rail cars passed through Hinkle Yard per year, with employment topping 400; the largest payroll in the county. Construction of the current Hinkle Classification Yard began that same year, and was dedicated in June 1978, at a cost of $20 million. The Governor attended, CEO Ike Evans spoke, even Henry Kissinger stopped by. The new yard accommodated business from the Pacific Northwest and Canada.
Since its inception, Hinkle has become, with the hard work from its generations of employees, one of the most vital rail centers, with upwards of 500 employees who strive to streamline rail traffic. In return, Union Pacific Railroad provides living wage jobs with good benefits. Union Pacific is one of Hermiston's longest lasting employers, and has provided prosperity for generations.