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Angels Flight takes a step toward reopening

February 25, 2009 | 11:18 am

Angle_2 Is the long-dormant Angels Flight about to start rolling again?

Mechanics tested the cars at Angels Flight for six hours of continuous operation Tuesday, one of a series of tests that the historic downtown funicular must go through before it reopens.

Officials have been working for nearly two years to reopen the Bunker Hill railway, which was closed in 2001 after an accident along the tracks killed a tourist and injured seven other passengers.

Predictions of when Angels Flight will reopen always seem to fail, though, and John Welborne, president of the Angels Flight Railway, the nonprofit group overseeing the funicular's restoration, declined to give a specific deadline. "It's impossible to give a date other than soon," Welborne said.

Some of the delay, Welborne said, came from contractors who had given overly optimistic time lines. And, he said, "the electric control package that operates the drive system has been meticulously designed and tested. It's just the right speed to get it right."

Welborne said that he was "very pleased" with the results of the tests this week. "Everything was working well," he said. "We are awaiting the return of our electrical engineers to do some fine tuning of the various sensors for safety systems.

"Then we will be doing tests with loads to be the equivalent of a fully loaded car with passengers. All of these are standard procedures under the code of the American National Standards Institute."

Welborne said that the renovated funicular cars will have a number of newly added, modern features, including audio communication between the cars and their "stations," a dual-cable system with a haul rope and a safety cable, and rail brakes on both cars. "We worked extremely hard to have all of the modern features not be evident," he said. "It is, after all, a 1901 railway."

-- Cara Mia DiMassa

Photo: The Angels Flight tracks up Bunker Hill.

Credit: Alexander Gallardo / Los Angeles Times