Fri, Sep 01, 2017 - Page 7 News List

LA’s popular Angels Flight railway to open again


People stand near the Angels Flight funicular at its original location next to the 3rd Street tunnel in Los Angeles, California, on Aug. 14, 1945.

Photo: AP

Angels Flight, Los Angeles’ beloved little railroad, is about to start reaching for the heavens again.

The funky little funicular that carried Emma Stone and Ryan Gosling to the top of downtown LA in the movie La La Land was scheduled to reopen to the public yesterday morning.

After a ceremonial first ride by the mayor, the transit system the city proudly calls the world’s shortest public railroad was to resume doing what it first did on New Year’s Eve 1901, ferrying riders up and down the city’s stunningly steep Bunker Hill.

A funicular, it operates by using the counterbalancing weights of its cars to pull one up while the other descends.

It was closed four years ago after a derailment left a handful of passengers perched precariously above a downtown street for hours.

No one was hurt, but a subsequent investigation revealed numerous safety flaws and the state’s Public Utilities Commission shut the railway down.

To the surprise of the public and the commission — which did not know the funicular would be used in La La Land — Stone and Gosling climbed aboard for a scene that depicted a romantic nighttime ride.

By the time the Oscar-nominated film was released last year, officials were considering plans to reopen Angels Flight, but the movie seemed to give them added incentive.

While it was closed, the public had to use an adjacent steep, smelly, trash-strewn stairway.

“La La Land was the last straw,” local historian and preservation activist Richard Schave said. “It was like, ‘OK, we have to get a yes on this now.’”

Schave and his wife, Kim Cooper, had launched a popular petition drive to reopen the railway after an ugly graffiti attack damaged its two antique rail cars in 2015.

“I’m thrilled to see it back again,” said 71-year-old LA periodontist Gordon Pattison, who like countless other LA natives has countless childhood memories of taking a scenic ride along the 91m railway’s narrow-gauge track.

“I think the first time I rode it was in my mother’s arms in 1946,” said Pattison, who planned to ride it again yesterday.

Round-trips cost US$0.01 when Angels Flight opened in 1901. For the next 68 years, it carried tens of millions of people from Bunker Hill’s stately Victorian mansions to popular downtown shopping areas.

Now, round-trip rides are to cost US$1, and those who use transit cards are to pay just US$0.50.

The little railway was still a must-take ride for tourists and locals alike when it closed in 1969 for a decades-long redevelopment project.

Four years after it reopened in 1996, it was added to the National Register of Historic Places.

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