California Today: Beloved Railway to Return in Los Angeles
The idle Angels Flight railway in the Bunker Hill section of Los Angeles on Wednesday. Credit Nick Ut/Associated Press
The train’s operation was halted in 1969 to make way for new development, then again in 2001 after a fatal accident. In 2013, it stopped a third time when a car derailed.
Now, Angels Flight, a two-car funicular on a steep slope in downtown Los Angeles, will give it another go. Mayor Eric Garcetti announced this week that a deal was reached with a private group to make safety upgrades and resume service by Labor Day.
Angels Flight was built in 1901 as a link between the stately Bunker Hill neighborhood and the downtown shopping district. The “magic chariot,” as a film narrator once called it, had a penny fare and traveled a mere 100 yards.
Angels Flight in the early 1900s, with tracks connecting Hill and Olive Streets in Los Angeles. The railway was reopened in 1996 a half block south of its original location. Credit California State Library
Through two World Wars, the Great Depression and the dawn of the space age, it ferried more than 100 million passengers.
But starting in the late 1960s, the railway remained mostly idle, buffeted by encroaching development, disregard and safety issues. In a low point in 2001, one of the cars broke loose and collided with the other, killing a man.
Richard Schave, a tour operator who campaigned for the latest revival, said a burst of unexpected publicity helped propel the project.
Last year, graffiti was scrawled on one of the dormant cars, an outrage to residents and city officials. “That was the moment when everyone on the team was like, ‘We have to get to yes,’” Mr. Schave said.
The campaign was further helped by the train’s cameo in the film “La La Land,” sparking renewed interest in the odd, orange-colored train car where Ryan Gosling kisses Emma Stone.
When it’s up and running, Angels Flight is expected to attract tourists as well as people who work and live atop Bunker Hill and want to get to the tacos and Thai food at Grand Central Market below.
The ticket price isn’t yet set. (People close to the project have suggested $1 each way.)
Nathan Marsack, a local historian, said the railway represented a rare tribute to Los Angeles’s past as a center of technological vision.
“The reason Angels Flight is there is because we were such a futuristic city, once upon a time,” he said. “What’s cool about it is, these are our roots. This is us at our best.”