351 South Hill Street,
Los Angeles, California
There's two vermillion colored strangely shaped train cars in Los Angeles. They go up and down a steep hill, the railway they ride on being only 298 feet long. Due to the hill they traverse, the cars are built angular, meaning their floors are actually a flight of stairs, and the cars are built at an angle instead of being rectangular. At the top of the hill is an orange colored ticket counter and a very small "station" while at the bottom of the hill, the end of the railway is an orange arch. This is Angel's Flight Railway.
Angel's Flight is a funicular. Funicular comes from the Latin word: funiculus meaning pertaining to a cord or rope. Funiculars are used for going up and down steep inclines, using two counterbalanced track guided cars which are attached to opposite ends of a single cable. The cable is looped over a pulley at the upper end of the tracks. Basically as one car goes up the hill, the other goes down. There are still a few other funiculars in operation, but it is not that common.
Angel's Flight has had a pretty traumatic history filled with a few closures. It first opened up on New Year's Eve 1901, connecting Hill Street and Olive Street, just to the left of the 3rd Street Tunnel and roughly a half block north of its current location. Currently, the station at the top sits at 350 South Grand Avenue while the lower entrance is located at 351 South Hill Street. It is $1 each way to ride the train, and souvenir tickets are provided if you buy round trip passage at the station at the top of the hill. The two cars are named Sinai and Olivet.
At 298 feet, the railway might possibly be the shortest railroad in the world. More than 100 million riders have taken a ride along its railway, and that just in its first fifty years of operation. The track is what is known as a narrow gauge railway. Standard railroads use a gauge, the distance from one side of the track to the other, that is 1435 millimeters or four feet, eight and a half inches. Angel's Flight uses a gauge narrower than the standard, at two feet and six inches or 762 millimeters. Other common narrow gauge railways include tracks laid for things like coal mines, etc.
The railway was built by Colornel J. W. Eddy; who was a Lawyer, Engineer and even a friend of President Lincoln. The arch at the bottom has the words "Angel's Flight" written on it, and this is where the railway obtained its formal name, back in 1912, when the Funding Company of California purchased the railway.
In 1969, Angel's Flight first closed due to the destruction and redevelopment of the Bunker Hill area at the top of the railway. The old houses and community at the top were controversially being demolished to make way for new developments. The railway was originally only supposed to be closed for two years. On May 18th, 1969, the last ride of Angel's Flight occurred, and everything, including the cars were put into storage. One sat on display for a while at a nearby "museum". It wasn't until 27 years later, on February 24th, 1996 that the trains began running again, this time a half block south of where it had originally been located. It only lasted for five years, before a fatal accident, a result of faulty brakes, ended up closing the railway once again. Due to configuration issues and changes when it had reopened, the railway was closed for nine years, opening again in 2010. But it would close once more in 2013, this time after a non-fatal accident. It opened most recently on August 31st, 2017, this time supposedly for good, with its designs updated, safety protocols updated, and its configuration looking a lot more like it had when it originally opened. It is supposed to have a thirty year operation contract this time, so it should be open for a long time.
When it first operated in the 1900s, it was mostly used to allow residents of Bunker Hill get up and down the hill. Today, it is more often ridden by tourists visiting the city. On October 13th, 2000, it was added to the National Register of Historic Places. It has appeared in many movies; in recent times the 2011 Muppets and the 2016 La La Land.
There are several plaques around Angel's Flight. To the left of the station on the top of the hill is a plaque from 1952, commemorating the railway's fiftieth anniversary. It is set into a water fountain, which when the trains were closed, dismantled, and placed into storage back in 1969, the water fountain was also placed into storage.
Built in 1901 by Colornel J. W. Eddy, Lawyer, Engineer and Friend of President Lincoln, Angel's Flight is said to be the world's shortest incorporated railway. The counterbalanced cars, controlled by cables, travel a 33 percent grade for 319 feet. It is estimated that Angel's 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.
Marked by Beverly Hills Parlor #289
Native Daughters of the Golden West
There are three plaques to the right of the arch at the bottom of the hill. Where as the plaque at the top of the hill is from the fifties, these three plaques are all more recent, since at least the nineties.
ANGELS FLIGHT RAILWAY
Bunker Hill :: Los Angeles
From 1901 until 1969, the Angels Flight Funicular Railway operated just north of this location, adjacent to the south side of the third street tunnel. The Flight was dismantled in connection with the re-grading phase of the Bunker Hill Urban Renewal Project. At that time, the Los Angeles City Council directed the Community Redevelopment Agency (CRA) of the City of Los Angeles to preserve and rebuild the Angels Flight Railway. A part of the California Plaza Project, the restoration and reconstruction of Angels Flight was funded from CRA's Bunker Hill Tax Increment Revenues and a grant from the Metropolitan Transportation Authority. This marker, erected at the February 23, 1996 re-dedication celebrates.
"A promise fulfilled, the return of Angels Flight"
Richard J. Riordan, Mayor
Los Angeles City Council
ANGELS FLIGHT RAILWAY
Bunker Hill :: Los Angeles
Opened December 31, 1901
Closed and Preserved May 18, 1969
Re-dedicated February 23, 1996
Reopened February 24, 1996
When the Angels Flight Funicular Railway was closed on May 18, 1969, it was carefully dismantled, and its component parts were placed in storage. During the 1996-96 restoration and reconstruction efford under the auspices of the Community Redevelopment Agency (CRA) of the City of Los Angeles, the original station house, at the top, and the hill steet arch, at the bottom, were restored. Similarly, the original cars, Olivet and Sinai, were restored, but each car now sits upon an entirely new undercarriage designed as an integral component of the inclined railway's modern operating system. The work of the Historical Restoration and Engineering Professionals was overseen by a group representing the CRA. The Cultural Affairs Department of the City of Los Angeles, and the Los Angeles Conservancy, the work was performed by:
Community Redevlopment Agency
of the City of Los Angeles
Harris & Associates, Design and Construction Manager
Last Edited: 2020-05-04