Los Angeles has more than its share of historic buildings and places. Of them, Angel’s Flight in Downtown LA is probably the most beloved piece of our heritage by both tourists and locals. It has appeared in dozens of major motion pictures and Angelenos have fought more than once to keep Angel’s Flight a part of our city.
Angels Flight is a landmark narrow gauge funicular railway in the Bunker Hill district of Downtown Los Angeles, California. Considered the shortest railway in the world, it has two cars, Sinai and Olivet, running in opposite directions on a shared cable on the 298 feet long incline railway. And once you have seen the magnificent California Plaza on the top, you will be riding Angels Flight again and again!
It’s 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. As short as it is (298 feet), riding Angels Flight is something that needs to be on your “must do” bucket list when visiting Los Angeles. Angels Flight was added to the National Register of Historic Places on October 13, 2000.
The funicular was built in 1901 and its tracks ran alongside the entrance to the 3rd street tunnel under Bunker Hill where it operated until 1969. In 1901, Bunker Hill was one of the most fashionable neighborhoods in Los Angeles, and the cars, Olivet and Sinai, ferried wealthy Angelenos up and down the steep slope between Hill and Olive Streets.
The beloved landmark was dismantled in 1969 when the Bunker Hill area underwent a controversial total redevelopment which destroyed the architecturally significant but now run-down mansions and buildings. 22,000 people were displaced as Bunker Hill was converted to a modern mixed-use district of high-rise commercial buildings and modern apartment and condominium complexes.
In the early 1990s, Angels Flight rose from the ashes. It was refurbished and relocated a half-block south from its original location now adjacent to California Plaza in 1996. In 2001 it was shut down following a fatal accident, and took nine years to commence operations again.
The railroad restarted operations on March 15, 2010 only to be closed 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 Angels Flight.
It remained closed for many years with Angelenos constantly urging the city to re-open it. Although the need to re-open it was marketed as a tourist attraction, it was frequently used by local office workers to travel between the Downtown Historic Core and Bunker Hill.
In 2015, the executive director of the nearby REDCAT arts centre described the railroad as an important “economic link”. Not only was Angels flight a historical landmark and tourist attraction, it connected the Historic Core and Broadway Theatre District with the hilltop Bunker Hill California Plaza urban park and the Museum of Contemporary Art – MOCA.
In March 2017 an announcement was made that the line would be reopened later in the year after safety enhancements are completed; Angel’s Flight reopened for public service on August 31, 2017.
Of all the places to see when visiting Los Angeles, Angel’s Flight should be number one on your list. For a moment you step back in time to the early 1900s and enjoy a totally unique experience. And where else can you experience the place where dozens of movies were filmed for just a dollar?
Hop on the Angels Flight at 350 S Grand Street. NOTE: This is what Google Maps lists as the address, however that requires you get to Angels Flight by walking through the California Plaza. The way I prefer to get on Angels Flight is at the base (not the top) on Hill Street between 3rd and 4th. The Pershing Square Metro Station is just at the end of the block if you prefer to travel by subway and avoid the parking hassles.
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