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Angels Flight, the 'shortest railroad in the world,' reopens in downtown L.A.

March 15, 2010 |  8:20 am

 After nine years in mothballs, the so-called "shortest railroad in the world" was again ferrying passengers up and down Bunker Hill as the Angels Flight funicular reopened Monday morning.

Hearty Angels Flight lovers were on hand at 6:45 a.m. as the approximately 300-foot-long railway -- which was closed in 2001 after a deadly accident -- again cranked up.

"It's great, as much fun as when I was a kid," said William Daniel, 67, among a group of passengers who hopped on the orange funicular at 6:43 a.m.

"I think it's going a little faster now," he added. "It's wonderful they didn't change the trolley much. It's virtually the same, except for the electric door. And more warning signs."

The California Public Utilities Commission last week approved the safety certificate for Angels Flight.

In a letter to Angels Flight Railway Co., the PUC said that it had "no major safety concerns" regarding the rail line. The company had faced numerous delays in reopening the funicular.

Me-angels-flight16 The rail line was designed to connect downtown L.A. with the residential community on Bunker Hill. But when the city demolished that neighborhood as part of a 1960s redevelopment push, Angels Flight was left moribund. The funicular was revived in 1996 after years of effort by preservationists.

"I think Los Angeles is a wonderful place with important history and the only part of Bunker Hill that remains is Angels Flight," said John Welborne, president of the Angels Flight Railway Foundation, said Monday morning.

In 2001, a car broke loose and slid backward  before smashing into another rail car at the bottom of the steep hill, killing an 83-year-old man and injuring seven other people. Federal investigators concluded that faulty mechanical and brake systems, combined with weak oversight, were to blame.

The ride Monday morning was not the smoothest, and the rail cars shook a little bit, but Angels Flight was restored to ride like it did in 1969, Welborne said.

The funicular features new equipment, but the technology is much the same, save for some added safety features. The kind of head on collision that happened nine years ago is no longer possible, he said.

-- Hector Becerra at Bunker Hill

Photo: The Angels Flight funicular resumes operation Monday morning after being closed for nine years. Credit: Robert Gauthier / Los Angeles Times

Photos: Angels Flight Railway reopens

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