Saturday, December 4, 2010

Angels Flight: The Shortest Railway In The World

Olivet car awaits passengers at the California Plaza station.
Archway at South Hill Street station.
Among attractions near the Pershing Square metro subway station in downtown Los Angeles is the landmark Angels Flight funicular railway. Traveling a distance of 298 feet, the ride costs 25 cents each way and takes riders uphill from South Hill Street across from the Grand Central Market to the California Plaza Watercourt on Grand Avenue.

The railway is comprised of two cars named Olivet and Sinai that trade positions when they move so that one car is always stationed uphill and one down along South Hill Street. Mid-way the track splits into two so the two cars are able to pass each other. Like other similar funicular cars around the world, the purpose of the short train ride was to bring convenience to travel along very steep hillsides in a city.

The original Angels Flight opened in 1901 connecting Hill Street with Olive Street and closed in 1969, a victim of area redevelopment. The urban updating also displaced almost 22,000 working-class families renting rooms in the run-down buildings nearby. The rail re-opened in 1996 in the location where it is situated today.

An accident in 2001 where one passenger was killed and seven others injured forced the closing of Angels Flight. Reports reveal that as one car approached the upper station, it reversed direction and accelerated downhill uncontrolled to strike the car at the lower station.

Station along South Hill Street.
The railway did not re-open until March 3, 2010 after years of improvements to meet strict safety standards. Today both residents, workers and visitors in the area use the railway. Uphill at Watercourt Plaza, visitors are offered a view of downtown Los Angeles and a short walking distance to the Museum of Contemporary Art. For visitors it is an innocent diversion in exploring downtown.

More info at The rail is open every day from 6:45am-10pm. See the post about Angels Flight becoming the logo and name brand of a popular pair of pants/slacks from the disco era. Also see the post about the California Plaza featured in the movie "2012".

California Plaza station near Grand Ave.
Above and below: car interior

Above: view of the twin buildings at California Plaza near the upper station.
View of downtown L.A.


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