Friday, March 17, 2017

The Return of Angel's Flight!

Inoperable Angel's Flight Railway, 2016

I was SO happy to hear that Angel's Flight will run again! It was closed down in 2013 after a series of safety problems.

Here's the history of the little railway from Wikipedia:
The funicular has operated on two different sites, using the same cars and station elements. The original Angels Flight location, with tracks connecting Hill Street and Olive Street, operated from 1901 until it was closed in 1969, when its site was cleared for redevelopment.
Fashion Photo Shoot on Angel's Flight, 1965. Herald Examiner Collection

The second Angels Flight location opened one half block south of the original location in 1996, with tracks connecting Hill Street and California Plaza. It was shut down in 2001, following a fatal accident, and took nine years to commence operations again. The railroad restarted operations on March 15, 2010. It was closed again from June 10, 2011, to July 5, 2011, and then again after a minor incident on September 5, 2013. The investigation of this 2013 incident led to the discovery of potentially serious safety problems in both the design and the operation of the funicular. Before the 2013 service suspension, the cost of a one-way ride was 50 cents (25 cents for Metro pass holders). Angels Flight service has been suspended since that time. 
Mayor Garcetti made the announcement last week that the safety issues have been resolved and that Angel's Flight should be back in service by Labor Day 2017!
Angel's Flight, 1962

I do remember taking a ride from the Grand Central Market up to the top of Bunker Hill with my Dad in the early 1960s. It was thrilling, as a little girl, to ride up that steep hill in the beautiful rail car with wooden benches. It was all so Victorian. Once we got to the top there wasn't really anything to do so we rode down on the next car and went back to the Grand Central Market for more shopping. It was so sad when the railway closed in 1969 for the redevelopment of Bunker Hill. So much history of Los Angeles was bulldozed. Sigh.
"Angel's Flight" painting by Ben Abril (1923-1995) 

It was a great day 27 years later in 1996 when Angel's Flight was resurrected a half-block south of its original location. It was only open for 7 years until a tourist died when the system failed and hurtled down the hill and hit its partner car. Once again, Angel's Flight reopened for a few months when the powers that be figured out it was unsafe to run.
Photo by William Reagh, 1967

A new company will make the necessary repairs and install a "get-away" walkway next to the tracks. This will be a major boon for the high-rise apartment dwellers on Bunker Hill. Now they'll be able to easily hop down to Grand Central for a pastrami sandwich!
I've always been fascinated by the role that Angel's Flight has played in the movies. My friend, Jim Dawson wrote a fascinating book about Bunker Hill and Angel's Flight in the movies. You can read about it HERE. The railway is seen in many noir films of the 1950's and early 1960's. The one film I especially remember seeing with a cameo by Angel's Flight was "The Exiles" (1961). The movie was shot in 1958 and deals with a group of Native American youths that live on Bunker Hill and take the railway up and down to experience life in downtown Los Angeles. It really shows the decay of Bunker Hill and the surrounding area during that time. I was less concerned with the story of this documentary and more interested in the visuals.
Photo Still from "The Exiles" of Angel's Flight and Bunker Hill, 1958

I cannot wait to ride that little railway once again, this summer!

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At 10:03 AM PDT, Blogger Brenda said...

There is one of these in Dubuque, Iowa. I live about 70 miles away, and when I was a little girl, my dad used to take me on his motorcycle every summer. It was kind of creaky and scary, but I don't think there have been any serious accidents there.

At 5:33 PM PDT, Blogger Ellen Bloom said...

Wow, that's so interesting, Brenda. Thanks for the links!

At 5:50 AM PDT, Blogger ken bloom said...

This warms my heart. I have so many memories of riding the Angel's Flight down to the Central Market with Dad to get Armenian string cheese and bread along with other goodies and then riding back up. The view was spectacular. String cheese and steep inclines will always be linked in my thoughts.

At 1:20 PM PDT, Blogger Fabrics USA Inc. said...

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