HERMISTON, Ore. – Pretty and petite, you will find Angie Kile working side by side with the men in Union Pacific’s largest locomotive service and repair facility in the northwest. Specialized work? You bet. But if you think it is specialized work for specialized men only, you need to meet Angie.
Called the Hinkle Rail Yard and located in Hermiston, Oregon, it is where the big engines come 24 hours a day seven days a week 365 days a year to be serviced, repaired, fueled, overhauled, washed and whatever else it takes to keep them on the tracks.
Employees work very hard to change out motors attached to each set of wheels under the locomotive, do periodic maintenance of all the different electrical components, change carbon brushes that conduct the electricity, calibrate electronic equipment so that it corresponds to the unit it is installed on, make sure all the safety devices work properly and change out parts that have failed or melted or are out of date.
Before going to work for the railroad, Angie was in the process of getting a college degree in maintenance mechanics. An automobile accident, that left her with serious head wounds, changed her plans..
“I was employed at the local potato processing plant (Simplot), when they closed their doors and 650 of us lost our jobs,” Angie said. “Because the plant closed, I was afforded an opportunity to retrain and I chose to go to college and get a degree in maintenance mechanical work. I studied heating and air conditioning, welding, machining, electrical theory, motor controls and irrigation technology with the goal of rejoining the workforce in another food processing plant. However, on my way to class one morning, I had a car accident that nearly scalped me and I knew with that kind of an injury I would not be going to work in a food processing plant.
“ I was able to complete my final term and earn my degree while I was recovering, but until my wounds healed I couldn’t return to work. With the help of my husband, my two children and the loving people that surrounded me, I picked myself up and made myself marketable again.
“It was after singing karaoke one night my luck changed. I met one of the big bosses from the Union Pacific Railroad, and he encouraged me to pursue a career with them. I followed up with that meeting and was offered a job as a locomotive electrical apprentice. That was six years ago and today, I am a journeyman locomotive electrician working with the best bunch of guys who not only teach me things every day but also truly treat me like one of their own.
“My first job as a journeyman, was changing the motors that are attached to each set of wheels under the locomotive which is by far the most physically demanding job for an electrician. You work in a very cramped, dark greasy space unhooking large wires atop a greasy ladder. I had great partners though who taught me easy ways to get things done. I am very lucky to work with some of the funniest, warmest most caring guys.”
Union Pacific, which operates North America’s premier railroad franchise, covers 23 states in the western two-thirds of the United States. The Hinkle Rail Yard operation in Hermiston is a 100,000-square foot repair facility with four run-through tracks for repairing 12 locomotives at one time. Two 340-foot service tracks outside the building are capable of handling ten locomotives at a time — five on each track. The service tracks, fuels and ready nearly 90 locomotives a day. It was built in 1978 and employs 250 workers.
“I really enjoy my job and feel that I fit in well there,” Angie said. “I have made many great friends who have not only inspired me in my professional life but in my personal life as well. Since I began working for the railroad, I have started hiking with my kids and the dog, going white-water rafting, learning to ride a motorcycle (even bought myself one), going to the gym and attending live musical theater.
“My life is very full right now and I really treasure the time I have with my family and do the best I can to make great memories with my kids. I owe a lot of that to the confidence my job has provided and the people I have been blessed enough to learn from every day. I can’t imagine a job that could fit me any better than the one I have.”