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Angels Flight, LA’s iconic tiny railway, will start running again

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In the foreground is the entrance to a railway with train tracks. The sign on the entrance reads Angels Flight. Behind the railway are buildings and a park with trees and flowers.
Angels Flight
Hayk_Shalunts / Shutterstock

Angels Flight—a very short railway that runs up and down the hill between Hill and Olive streets in Downtown Los Angeles—will resume operation again for the first time in more than three years, city officials announced today.

“It is truly a historic day for one of Los Angeles’ most recognized treasures,” said Los Angeles City Councilmember José Huizar.

A nonprofit has been in charge of the attraction for more than a decade, but a new private operator, ACS Infrastructure Development, Inc., is taking over for the next 30 years, and it will reopen the funicular by Labor Day.

“It is our hope that this public-private partnership ensures the new Angel’s Flight will be safe, economically sustainable and—once again—a key city of Los Angeles cultural centerpiece for years to come,” Huizar said.

Interest in the railway—which measures just 298 feet long—was reignited by the much buzzed-about La La Land (it made a cameo).

But Angels Flight has been inactive since 2013 due to safety concerns. Its cable cars, Sinai and Olivet, are prone to break-downs and accidents—a passenger died in a crash in 2001.

Angels Flight originally ran parallel to the Third Street Tunnel.
Los Angeles Public Library photo collection
An 83-year-old man died in a 2001 accident on Angels Flight.
Los Angeles Public Library photo collection

When Angels Flight opened in on New Year’s Eve in 1901, passengers paid one cent to be ferried up the steep grade of Bunker Hill. At the time, Bunker Hill was a fashionable, upper-class neighborhood, and the funicular ended almost at the doorstep of the elegant Crocker Mansion (the three-story house was razed in 1980 by the Elks Club).

Angels Flight operated until 1969, when the site where it was located was redeveloped. It was put in storage, then, in 1996, was reassembled and relocated a half-block south. It ran smoothly for a handful of years, but starting in 2001, it was plagued by safety issues.

In February of that year, a mechanical failure caused one of the cars to suddenly reverse and accelerate downhill. It crashed into the other car, and one passenger died and seven others were injured.

The railway reopened in 2010 only to be shut down again for an unsafe wheel in 2011. It closed again in 2013, after both cars went off the rails.

Though the railway has sat dormant for almost four years, a steep staircase runs alongside it, connecting pedestrians from the top of Bunker Hill to Grand Central Market.

The cars will run again as the city looks to redevelop the park that surrounds the tracks. The property has been marketed as prime for mixed-use development that would integrate the funicular and Metro station next-door.

Angels Flight Railway

356 South Olive Street, , CA 90013 (213) 626-1901 Visit Website