Facebook Page
Union Pacific Pilot Rock Branch

Union Pacific
Pilot Rock Branch

Fifteen miles south of Pendleton is the small community of Pilot Rock, named for a nearby large basaltic rock formation used as a beacon by passing emigrants on the Oregon Trail. The small community gained the notice of the Oregon Railway & Navigation Company in the early 1900s, and on 24 May 1906 the OR&N incorporated the Umatilla Central Railroad Company. The Umatilla Central completed a fourteen-mile long line running from the OR&N mainline at Reith/Pilot Rock Junction (four miles west of Pendleton) south to Pilot Rock. The railroad opened for business on 16 December 1910, at which point the OR&N leased the property and initiated operations.

Union Pacific maintained service on the line with a daily except Sunday mixed train, operating as Train #42 southbound and Train #41 northbound. Passenger traffic eventually fell off, but freight traffic remained strong, especially after Kinzua Pine Mills built a sawmill in the town. Kinzua and its corporate successor Kinzua Resources operated the sawmill until June 2009, when the company sold the mill to timber industry giant Boise Cascade. Boise Cascade operated the mill as Kinzua Lumber until late 2018, when they sold it along with a couple other area mills to Woodgrain Millwork of Fruitland, Idaho. Rail service continued into early 2020, when Union Pacific suspended service due to flood damage on the line that compounded steadily deteriorating track conditions. As of March 2021 the line has sat idle for more than a year waiting for whatever comes next.