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Angels Flight, Los Angeles

Angels Flight Car

Angels Flight car. Photo by Felicia Aparicio.

Angels Flight, reputed to be the world’s shortest railway, is a funicular railway originally opened on Bunker Hill in Downtown Los Angeles in 1901. The two railcars, Olivet and Sinai (named for two mountains in the Bible) served to connect upscale Bunker Hill homes with downtown shopping areas below. After World War One, however, Bunker Hill's upscale status rapidly disappeared and its stately homes were converted into cheap rooming houses. The neighborhood fell into blight. In 1969, Angels Flight was dismantled and placed in storage as part of a neighborhood urban renewal project. The Community Redevelopment Agency promised to reassemble and reopen the historical line elsewhere within a few years. The promise was not fulfilled, however, until much later, when the railway was finally reopened, half a block south of its original location on Hill Street, on February 24, 1996. The resurrected Olivet and Sinai provided 60,000 passengers per month with a nostalgic one minute, 298-foot ride. Prior to being reopened to the public, the cars were each put through 9,000 pound weight safety tests. The 9,000 pounds were a load of donated cases of Snapple and Budweiser.

Angels Flight Car Interior

Angels Flight car interior. Photo by Felicia Aparicio.

On February 1, 2001, one of the two Angels Flight cable cars became detached from its cable and hurtled down the tracks to collide with its sister car. Sadly, 83-year-old tourist Leon Praport died from his injuries sustained in the accident and his wife Lola was critically injured. Seven other passengers were injured. Praport, a New Jersey resident, was a Holocaust survivor. Angels Flight was been closed since that fateful day. The only other injuries on record was to a women in 1913 who jumped from one of the moving cars and (although unverified and undated) the death of a drunken sailor who, it was reported, attempted to climb the track and was crushed by a railcar.

On March 15, 2010, with new safety features and considerable testing, Angels Flight again returned to operation.

A little more than three years later, on September 5, 2013, one of the cars derailed midway along the rail. No passengers were injured, however, they had to be rescued by firefighters. An investigation by the National Transportation Safety Board (NTSB) identified safety problems with its brake system and a design problem between its car body and wheel axle. As a result, Angel's Flight was closed again and underwent a $5 million renovation funded by a partnership of the Angels Flight Railway Foundation, ACS Infrasturcture and engineering firm Sener. Angels Flight again reopened on August 31, 2017.

Angels Flight Upper Station

Angels Flight upper station. Photo by Felicia Aparicio.

Bunker Hill, Angels Flight, Third Street, Los Angeles, 1910

Circa 1910. Looking towards Bunker Hill from Third Street (Hill Street intersection in the foreground). Angel's Flight is to the left of the Third Street Tunnel. Photo from the California Historical Society Collection at USC Library.

Angels Flight, 1960

Cars passing - Angels Flight, Third & Hill Streets, Los Angeles, 1960. Photo from the Library of Congress.

Angels Flight, 1960

Angels Flight, Third & Hill Streets, Los Angeles, 1960. Photo from the Library of Congress.