LOS ANGELES — The historic Angels Flight railway, which has been closed since one of the two rail cars came off the tracks in September 2013, will reopen by Labor Day with a new operator, city officials announced last week.
Thanks to a 30-year agreement with the ACS Group, the short funicular on Bunker Hill will be upgraded and renovated, and safety improvements will be made, including the installation of an emergency walkway along the short route.
Mayor Eric Garcetti and Councilman Jose Huizar were among those taking part in the announcement March 1, which was made in the shadow of the railway and its twin cars, Sinai and Olivet. The railway had a brief cameo in the Oscar-nominated musical “La La Land,” with stars Ryan Gosling and Emma Stone seen seated in one of the rail cars, then exiting through the gate at the top of the hill.
“We at Angels Flight Railway Foundation want to thank all the people who brought us to this grand moment,” said Adele Yellin, chair of the Angels Flight Railway Foundation. “The first person I’d like to express our gratitude to [is] Mayor Eric Garcetti, for facilitating this deal among ACS, Sener and the Angels Flight Railway Foundation.”
The Metropolitan Transportation Authority Board of Directors approved a motion by Garcetti in 2015 to study ways to re-open Angels Flight, which travels a short distance along Bunker Hill in downtown Los Angeles.
“Angels Flight is a cultural gem that tells an unforgettable story about the history of Los Angeles,” Garcetti said. “Today, we celebrate the rebirth of this iconic attraction — and once the modernization is complete, we will welcome millions of visitors from around the world to experience it with us.”
There were six people riding the funicular when it had its most recent accident, but none were injured. A National Transportation Safety Board report released a month later indicated that railway operators had been using a tree branch for months to bypass a safety feature on the railcar.
The nonprofit Angels Flight Railway owns Angels Flight’s equipment, including its tracks and cars, and had a ground lease allowing it to operate the funicular, according to its president, Hal Bastian. He said federal officials and the California Public Utilities Commission were requiring Angels Flight’s operators to build a walkway next to the tracks before operations can resume.
Col. J.W. Eddy first opened a funicular rail up Bunker Hill on Dec. 31, 1901, when rides cost a penny. It was dismantled and put into storage in 1969 because of the Bunker Hill urban renewal project, then rebuilt and reopened in 1996, a half-block south of the original site.
In 2001, an accident that killed one person and seriously injured seven others prompted another closure that lasted nine years. Angels Flight reopened in 2010, in time for the railway’s celebration of its 110th anniversary on New Year’s Eve 2010.
The CPUC shut it down for almost a month in June 2012 when inspectors found that a wheel part that holds the cars on the track, the flange, had been worn down to a thickness that was unsafe on three of eight wheels.
The funicular re-opened July 5, 2012, after the operator installed all new wheels made of harder steel.