Angels Flight Railway
Angels Flight after reopening in September 2017.jpg
Angels Flight in September 2017
Angels Flight is located in the Los Angeles metropolitan area
Angels Flight
Angels Flight is located in California
Angels Flight
Angels Flight is located in the United States
Angels Flight
LocationHill Street, Los Angeles, California
Coordinates34°3′4.82″N 118°15′0.76″W / 34.0513389°N 118.2502111°W / 34.0513389; -118.2502111Coordinates: 34°3′4.82″N 118°15′0.76″W / 34.0513389°N 118.2502111°W / 34.0513389; -118.2502111
ArchitectMerceau Bridge & Construction Co.; Train & Williams
Architectural styleBeaux-Arts
NRHP reference No.00001168
Significant dates
Added to NRHPOctober 13, 2000[2]
Designated LAHCMAugust 6, 1962[1]

Angels Flight, view from lower end during closure period (May 2004) while cars were placed in storage after an accident.
Angels Flight, view from lower end during closure period (May 2004) while cars were placed in storage after an accident.

Angels Flight is a landmark and historic 2 ft 6 in (762 mm) narrow gauge funicular railway in the Bunker Hill district of Downtown Los Angeles, California. It has two funicular cars, named Olivet and Sinai, that run in opposite directions on a shared cable. The tracks cover a distance of 298 feet (91 m) over a vertical gain of 96 feet (29 m).[3]

The funicular has operated on two different sites, using the same cars and station elements. The original Angels Flight location, with trackage along the side of Third Street Tunnel and connecting Hill Street and Olive Street, operated from 1901 until it was closed in 1969, when its site was cleared for redevelopment.

The second Angels Flight location opened one half block south of the original location in 1996, mid-block between 3rd and 4th Streets, with tracks connecting Hill Street and California Plaza.[3] 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.[4] It was closed again from June 10, 2011 to July 5, 2011, and then again after a minor derailment 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.[5][6]

Before the 2013 service suspension, the cost of a one-way ride was 50 cents (25 cents for Metro pass holders). Although it was marketed primarily as a tourist novelty, it was frequently used by local workers to travel between the Downtown Historic Core and Bunker Hill. In 2015, the executive director of the nearby REDCAT arts center described the railroad as an important "economic link", and there was pressure for the city to fund and re-open the railroad.[3] After safety enhancements were completed, Angels Flight reopened for public service on August 31, 2017, now charging $1 for a one-way ride (50 cents for Metro pass holders).[7][8]

Original location

Built in 1901 with financing from Colonel J.W. Eddy, as the "Los Angeles Incline Railway", Angels Flight began at the west corner of Hill Street at Third and ran for two blocks uphill (northwestward) to its Olive Street terminus. Angels Flight consisted of two vermillion "boarding stations" and two cars, named Sinai and Olivet, pulled up the steep incline by metal cables powered by engines at the upper Olive Street station. As one car ascended, the other descended, carried down by gravity.[9][10][11][12] An archway labeled "Angels Flight" greeted passengers on the Hill Street entrance, and this name became the official name of the railway in 1912 when the Funding Company of California purchased the railway from its founders.[13]

The original Angels Flight was a conventional funicular, with both cars connected to the same haulage cable. Unlike more modern funiculars it did not have track brakes for use in the event of cable breakage, but it did have a separate safety cable which would come into play in case of breakage of the main cable. It operated for 68 years with a good safety record,[14] with three notable exceptions: in 1913 a derailment occurred whereby a car was jumped and one lady with it, in 1937 when a sleeping salesman was dragged several yards by the car, and a fatal accident in 1943 when a pedestrian walking up the tracks was killed. [15]

During operation in its original location, the railroad was owned and operated by six additional companies following Colonel Eddy. In 1912 Eddy sold the railroad to Funding Company of Los Angeles who in turn sold it to Continental Securities Company in 1914. Robert W. Moore, an engineer for Continental Securities, purchased Angels Flight in 1946. In 1952 Lester B. Moreland and Byron Linville, a prominent banker at Security First National Bank, purchased it from Moore and the following year Lester B. Moreland's family purchased Byron Linville's interest in the Railway, becoming sole stockholder. In 1962 the city forced Moreland to sell though condemnation and the city's redevelopment agency hired Oliver & Williams Elevator Company to run it until it was shut down on May 18, 1969. The following day the dismantling began and the cars were hauled away to be stored in a warehouse. The railroad's arch, station house, drinking fountain, and other artifacts were taken to an outdoor storage yard in Gardena, California.[16]

The only fatality that involved the original Angels Flight occurred in the autumn of 1943, when a sailor attempting to walk up the track itself was crushed beneath one of the cars.[13]

In November 1952, the Beverly Hills Parlor of the Native Daughters of the Golden West erected a plaque to commemorate fifty years of service by the railway. The plaque reads:[17]

Built in 1901 by Colonel J.W. Eddy, lawyer, engineer and friend of President Abraham Lincoln, Angels Flight is said to be the world's shortest incorporated railway. The counterbalanced cars, controlled by cables, travel a 33 percent grade for 315 feet. It is estimated that Angels Flight has carried more passengers per mile than any other railway in the world, over a hundred million in its first fifty years. This incline railway is a public utility operating under a franchise granted by the City of Los Angeles.

In 1962, at its first meeting, the city's new Cultural Heritage Board designated Angels Flight a Los Angeles Historic-Cultural Monument (No. 4), along with four other locations. Los Angeles was early in enacting preservation laws, and the first sites chosen each were "considered threatened to some extent," according to the history of the board, now the Cultural Heritage Commission.[1]


Angels Flight; May 1969, Sign posted before the railway was closed in 1969
Angels Flight; May 1969, Sign posted before the railway was closed in 1969

The railway was closed on May 18, 1969[18][19][20] when the Bunker Hill area underwent a controversial total redevelopment which destroyed and displaced a community of almost 22,000 working-class families renting rooms in architecturally significant but run-down buildings, to a modern mixed-use district of high-rise commercial buildings and modern apartment and condominium complexes. Both of the Angels Flight cars, Sinai and Olivet, were then placed in storage at 1200 S. Olive Street, Los Angeles. This was the location of Sid and Linda Kastner's United Business Interiors. At this location the Kastners maintained "The Bandstand," a private museum. The Bandstand featured antique coin-operated musical instruments where one of the cars (Sinai) was on display in the museum. Olivet was stored in the garage of the building. They were stored at this location for 27 years at no charge in anticipation of the railway's restoration and reopening, which according to the city's Redevelopment Agency, was originally slated to take place within two years.

Sid Kastner standing on Sinai in front of "The Bandstand" where the two funicular cars were stored (1969)
Sid Kastner standing on Sinai in front of "The Bandstand" where the two funicular cars were stored (1969)


After being stored for 27 years, the funicular was rebuilt and reopened by the newly formed Angels Flight Railway Foundation on February 24, 1996, half a block south of the original site.[21] Although the original cars, Sinai and Olivet, were used, a new track and haulage system was designed and built, a redesign which had unfortunate consequences five years later. As rebuilt, the funicular was around 300 feet (90 meters) long on an approximately 33-percent grade.

Car movement was controlled by an operator inside the upper station house, who was responsible for visually determining that the track and vehicles were clear for movement, closing the platform gates, starting the cars moving, monitoring the operation of the funicular cars, observing car stops at both stations, and collecting fares from passengers. The cars themselves did not carry any staff members.[14] Angels Flight was added to the National Register of Historic Places on October 13, 2000.

2001 accident

On February 1, 2001, Angels Flight had a serious accident when car Sinai, approaching the upper station, instead rolled downhill uncontrollably and collided into Olivet near the lower station. The accident killed a tourist, 83-year-old Leon Praport, and injured seven others, including Praport's wife, Lola.

Angels Flight car in 2008
Angels Flight car in 2008

The National Transportation Safety Board (NTSB) conducted an investigation into the accident and determined that the probable cause was the improper design and construction of the Angels Flight funicular drive and the failure of the various regulatory bodies to ensure that the railway system conformed to initial safety design specifications and known funicular safety standards. The NTSB further remarked that the company that designed and built the drive, control, braking and haul systems, Lift Engineering/Yantrak, was no longer in business and that the whereabouts of the company's principal was unknown.[14]

Unlike the original, the new funicular used two separate haulage systems (one for each car), with the two systems connected to each other, the drive motor, and the service brake by a gear train; it was the failure of this gear train that was the immediate cause of the accident since it effectively disconnected Sinai both from Olivet's balancing load and from the service brake. There were emergency brakes that acted on the rim of each haulage drum, but due to inadequate maintenance, the emergency brakes for both cars were inoperative, which left Sinai without any brakes once its physical connection to the service brake was lost. Contrary to what might be expected, the new funicular was constructed with neither safety cable nor track brakes, either of which would have prevented the accident; the NTSB was unable to identify another funicular worldwide that operated without either of these safety features.[14]

The original Angels Flight; 1960, L.o.C. Historic American Buildings Survey (HABS)
The original Angels Flight; 1960, L.o.C. Historic American Buildings Survey (HABS)
Angels Flight; c. 1905, View of the original Angels Flight with the Third Street Tunnel and an observation tower
Angels Flight; c. 1905, View of the original Angels Flight with the Third Street Tunnel and an observation tower

Records indicate that the emergency brake had been inoperative for 17 to 26 months due to the fact that a normally closed hydraulic solenoid valve had been placed in a location where the design called for a normally open valve and that its ill fitted solenoid was burned out.

During the 17 to 26 months that the emergency braking system was not operating, the braking system was tested daily, but since the service brake and emergency brake were tested simultaneously, there was no way to tell if the emergency brake was functioning without looking at the brake pads or hydraulic pressure gauges during the test. The test was always performed with the Sinai car traveling uphill, which meant that when the power was cut and the brakes applied (as part of the test), Sinai's momentum caused the car to continue moving uphill a short distance (slackening the cable) and then to roll back from gravity, jerking the cable tight.

If the emergency brakes had been functional, they would have caught Sinai when the cable snapped tight, but without the emergency brakes, the force of the jerk caused by the daily test was directed through the spline (the part that failed) and to the service brake. In addition, it was found that the original design called for the spline to be made of AISI 1018 steel on one drawing and of AISI 8822 steel on a different drawing, but it is unlikely that this ambiguity in the design contributed to the accident.[22] However, regular analysis of gear box oil-samples was discontinued in May 1998, despite the fact that the company performing the tests recommending that the rising particulate level in the oil samples warranted the test occurring more frequently.[14] The continued rising particulate level may have been in part caused by unusual wear of the splines. Continued testing could have resulted in an inspection to locate the cause of the unusual wear.

Joseph M. Cooper operates Angels Flight in 1960
Joseph M. Cooper operates Angels Flight in 1960

Besides the design failures in the haulage system, the system was also criticised by the NTSB for the lack of gates on the cars and the absence of a parallel walkway for emergency evacuation. The funicular suffered serious damage in the accident.


The death and injuries could have been avoided if any one of the following had taken place:[22]


Interior of the renovated Angels Flight car in March 2010.
Interior of the renovated Angels Flight car in March 2010.

On November 1, 2008, both of the repaired and restored Angels Flight cars, Sinai and Olivet, were put back on their tracks and, on January 16, 2009, testing began on the railway.[23][24] On November 20, 2009, another step in the approval process was achieved.[25][failed verification] On March 10, 2010, the California Public Utilities Commission approved the safety certificate for the railroad to begin operating again.[26][27]

The new drive and safety system completely replaced the system which was the cause of the fatal 2001 accident. Like the original Angels Flight design and most traditional funicular systems, the new drive system incorporates a single main haulage cable, with one car attached to each end. Also like the original design, a second safety cable is utilized. To further enhance safety, unlike the original design, each car now has a rail brake system, as a backup to the main backup emergency brakes on each bull-wheel. Another added safety feature is an independent evacuation motor to move the cars should the main motor fail for any reason.[28]

Reopening and temporary closing

Angels Flight reopened to the public for riding on March 15, 2010. The local media covered the event with interest.[29] Only a month after re-opening, Angels Flight had had over 59,000 riders.[30] It connected the Historic Core and Broadway commercial district with the hilltop Bunker Hill California Plaza urban park and the Museum of Contemporary Art – MOCA. The cost of a one-way ride at that time was 50 cents, 25 cents with TAP card.

On June 10, 2011, the California Public Utilities Commission ordered Angels Flight to immediately cease operations due to wear on the steel wheels on the two cars. Inspectors determined that their fifteen-year-old wheels needed replacing.[31] The railway reopened on July 5, 2011, after eight new custom-made steel wheels were installed on the two cars.[32]

2013 accident

On September 5, 2013, one car derailed near the middle of the guideway. One passenger was on board the derailed car, and five passengers were on board the other car. There were no injuries. Passengers had to be rescued from the cars by firefighters. The brake safety system had been "intentionally" bypassed using a small tree branch.[3][6][33]

The National Transportation Safety Board determines the probable cause of the September 5, 2013, accident was the intentional bypass of the funicular safety system with Angels Flight management knowledge; and Angels Flight management continuation of revenue operations despite prolonged, and repeated, unidentified system safety shutdowns.

— National Transportation Safety Board, Railroad Accident Brief[6]

The NTSB also noted a problem with the basic design: "The car body and the wheel-axle assembly are not articulated." The passing section of the track involves a short turning section which allows the cars to pass each other. The axles do not turn to follow the track, resulting in the wheel flanges grinding against the rail, causing excessive wheel wear. This problem, combined with safety system problems which caused unwanted track brake deployment, resulted in a derailment.[6]

2017 reopening

Plans to bring the railway back into service began in January 2017.[34] Safety upgrades were made to the doors of the cars, and an evacuation walkway was added adjacent to the track. These enhancements were made by ACS Infrastructure Development and SENER through an agreement with Angels Flight Railway Foundation in exchange for a share of the funicular's revenue over the next three decades. Angels Flight reopened for public service on August 31, 2017.[7]

In arts and popular culture

Film and video

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Visual art


See also


  1. ^ a b "History of the Cultural Heritage Commission". Archived from the original on September 16, 2010. Retrieved June 8, 2010.
  2. ^ "National Register Information System". National Register of Historic Places. National Park Service. April 15, 2008.
  3. ^ a b c d Nelson, Laura J. & Branson-Potts, Hailey (July 23, 2015). "L.A. Business and Cultural Leaders Want to See an Angels Flight Plan". Los Angeles Times.
  4. ^ DiMassa, Cara Mia (March 15, 2010). "Angels Flight Rides Again". Los Angeles Times. Archived from the original on March 22, 2010. Retrieved March 18, 2010.
  5. ^ Schaefer, Samantha (September 5, 2013). "Angels Flight Car Comes off Track, Stranding Australian Tourist". Los Angeles Times. Retrieved September 6, 2013.
  6. ^ a b c d National Transportation Safety Board (June 23, 2014). "Railroad Accident Brief: Angels Flight Railway Derailment" (PDF). National Transportation Safety Board. Accident No. DCA13FR011.
  7. ^ a b Nelson, Laura J. (August 25, 2017). "Angels Flight, closed since 2013, will reopen Thursday". Los Angeles Times. Retrieved August 31, 2017.
  8. ^ "Angels Flight Railway". Angels Flight Railway Company. Retrieved May 30, 2018.
  9. ^ Harrison, Scott (January 7, 2011). "Angels Flight's First Opening". Los Angeles Times.
  10. ^ "Mayor Snyder's Ascent of the 'Angels' Flight'". Los Angeles Times. January 1, 1902. p. 12. Alternate Link via ProQuest.
  11. ^ "Up Again, Down Again: It Will Take Two Minutes, Perhaps Three, for the Round Trip on the Angels' Flight". Los Angeles Times. November 21, 1901. p. 11. Alternate Link via ProQuest.
  12. ^ "Angels' Flight Publicly Opened: Novel Enterprise Is Visited by City Officials Mayor Snyder Makes a Speech Congratulating Colonel Eddy Upon His Scheme to Afford Transportation for Residents of the Hill Section". Los Angeles Herald. Vol. 29, no. 92. January 1, 1902. p. 9 – via California Digital Newspaper Collection.
  13. ^ a b Wheelock, Walt (1961). Angels Flight: A California Heritage. Glendale, CA: La Siesta Press. p. 16.
  14. ^ a b c d e National Transportation Safety Board (February 1, 2001). "Uncontrolled Movement, Collision, and Passenger Fatality on the Angels Flight Railway in Los Angeles, California" (PDF). National Transportation Safety Board. Archived from the original (PDF) on October 22, 2011. Retrieved January 22, 2007.
  15. ^ "Angels Flight/".
  16. ^ "History of Angels Flight®".
  17. ^ Wheelock, Walt (1961). Angels Flight: A California Heritage. Glendale, CA: La Siesta Press. p. 20.
  18. ^ "Angels Flight to Make Final Run May 18". Los Angeles Times. May 8, 1969. p. D2. Alternate Link via ProQuest.
  19. ^ Hebert, Ray (May 12, 1969). "Angels Flight Now Running Out Its Last Few Journeys: Angels Flight Making Last Runs This Week". Los Angeles Times. p. OC_A1. Alternate Link via ProQuest.
  20. ^ "Angels Flight: End of an Era". Los Angeles Times. May 13, 1969. p. A8. Alternate Link via ProQuest.
  21. ^ Gordon, Larry (February 25, 1996). "Maiden Voyage: Historic Angels Flight Railway Reopens to Public With Plenty of Revelry and a Wisp of Nostalgia". Los Angeles Times.
  22. ^ a b "Angels Flight Accident". Consultants' Bureau. Kashar Technical Services. May 3, 2007. Retrieved December 26, 2008.
  23. ^ Alossi, Rich (January 16, 2009). "History in Motion: Angels Flight Takes Off!". angelinic. Archived from the original on January 22, 2009. Retrieved January 17, 2009.
  24. ^ "Angels Flight". Glass Steel and Stone. Archived from the original on January 15, 2010. Retrieved November 14, 2008.
  25. ^ "Angels Flight". Curbed Los Angeles. Archived from the original on July 24, 2011.
  26. ^ DiMassa, Cara Mia (March 10, 2010). "Nine Years After Fatal Accident, Angels Flight Rail Line Receives Safety Certificate". Los Angeles Times. Archived from the original on April 15, 2010. Retrieved March 14, 2010.
  27. ^ DiMassa, Cara Mia (March 11, 2010). "Angels Flight Railway Gets PUC Safety OK". Los Angeles Times. Archived from the original on April 15, 2010. Retrieved March 14, 2010.
  28. ^ "Historic Angels Flight Railway Reopens" (PDF) (Press release). Angels Flight Railway Foundation. March 15, 2010. Archived from the original (PDF) on March 4, 2012. Retrieved June 21, 2012.
  29. ^ Cart, Julie (March 14, 2010). "Angels Flight to Reopen Monday". Los Angeles Times. Retrieved March 14, 2010.
  30. ^ "Angels Flight Hits Nearly 60,000 Riders". Los Angeles Downtown News. April 16, 2010. Retrieved April 27, 2010.
  31. ^ Knoll, Corina (June 11, 2011). "Angels Flight, Halted, Awaits New Wheels". Los Angeles Times. Retrieved June 11, 2011.
  32. ^ Barboza, Tony (July 5, 2011). "Angels Flight Railway Reopens After Safety Shutdown". Los Angeles Times. Retrieved July 5, 2011.
  33. ^ Schaefer, Samantha; Mather, Kate & Gold, Scott (October 11, 2013). "Angels Flight Has Had a Long, Bumpy Track Record". Los Angeles Times. Retrieved July 31, 2014.
  34. ^ Nelson, Laura J. (March 1, 2017). "Angels Flight Expected to Reopen by Labor Day, Officials Say". Los Angeles Times. Retrieved March 1, 2017.
  35. ^ "Angel's Flight (1965)". AFI CATALOG OF FEATURE FILMS. Retrieved August 8, 2021.
  36. ^ "Angels Flight". Angels Flight Railway Foundation (copy of original video). Archived from the original on January 8, 2017. Retrieved January 8, 2017.
  37. ^ Murphy, Mekado (November 4, 2016). "L.A. Transcendental: How 'La La Land' Chases the Sublime". The New York Times. Retrieved January 7, 2017.
  38. ^ "The Saint" – via Netflix.
  39. ^ "The Saint". IMDb.
  40. ^ Andreeva, Nellie (February 13, 2018). "'Bosch' Renewed For Season 5 By Amazon; Eric Overmyer Back As Co-Showrunner; Season 4 Gets Premiere Date & Trailer". Deadline Hollywood. Retrieved February 14, 2018.
  41. ^ Victoria (June 24, 2020). "The landmark Angels Flight railway is a pivotal set in Perry Mason". Angels Flight® Railway. Retrieved July 5, 2020.
  42. ^ Reich, Kenneth (March 16, 2001). "Family to Sue City, Firms Over Angels Flight Death". Los Angeles Times.
  43. ^ Dawson, Jim (2008). Los Angeles's Angeles Flight. Mt. Pleasant, SC: Arcadia Publishing. p. 125. ISBN 978-0-7385-5812-7 – via Google Books.
  44. ^ Williams, Aaron. "Genius Lyric Annotation: "L.A. (My Town)" by the Four Tops". Genius.