Angels Flight resumes in downtown LA after 9-year break

Angels Flight rail car descends Bunker Hill in downtown Los Angeles
Angels Flight rail car descends Bunker Hill in downtown Los Angeles
Brian Watt/KPCC

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Some of downtown Los Angeles' history got back on track Monday morning after a 9-year break. The Angels Flight funicular is shuttling passengers up and down Bunker Hill again.

An early bus from Santa Ana delivered 66-year-old William Daniel in time to board the first Angels Flight trip of the new era. Daniels rode the funicular as a child with his mother and grandmother. He called it his oldest and fondest memory of L.A.

"That was the thing to do when you came to L.A. was to take this flight. I don’t know why we did it," Daniel said, chuckling. "But it’s just as thrilling as it was when I was a kid. It’s really quite a ride."

For just 25 cents, the ride is short and steep. Two orange rail cars attached at opposite ends of the same cable run along two parallel tracks. As one climbs Bunker Hill, the other rolls down it. With 298 feet of track, it’s dubbed the shortest railway in the world. The service dates back to 1901.

"I think that it has a connection between generations," said Dennis Luna, chairman of the Angels Flight Railway Foundation. "Yes, you can take the stairs, but it is part of history, and I think frankly, its cuteness attracts people."

Nine years ago, an accident on the railway killed an 83-year-old man and forced operators to close Angels Flight. Luna’s non-profit joined with other foundations, the California Cultural and Historical Endowment, and private donors to raise nearly $3.5 million. With the money they restored it with new computerized safety features.

"We have 4 different types of brakes now on the car," said Luna. "We hope to operate it for another 108 years."

It will run every day – including holidays - from 6:45 a.m. to 10 p.m. For as long as possible, the foundation says, each ride will cost a quarter.