Olivet and Sinai, the cars of Angels Flight, are seen through the plastic gates blocking pedestrians from entering the landmark.
Anticipation over Angels Flight Railway’s reopening continues as LAist reports the debate of private vs. public at L.A. Downtown News.
After Downtown News printed an editorial last week saying “we have to turn to the government to (get the railway running again)”, Angels Flight Railway Foundation President John Welborne (who’s interviewed for this blog here) and Angels Flight Board of Directors Chairman Dennis R. Luna responded to concerns that the funicular should be handed back to the city.
“Safety must not take a back seat to attempts at political expediency,” wrote Luna and Welborne, and reminded readers that the last time the railway was in public hands, it took 27 years for the city to reopen it.
Angels Flight has history...After closing in 1969, re-opening in 1996, and closing again in 2001, the landmark is ready for a comeback. (Full disclosure: My father worked at the architectural design company for Angels Flight's '96 re-opening)
Upon first glance, the roughly 300-foot-long – or short, depending on how you look at it – Angels Flight Railway looks like an oddity in the midst of Downtown L.A.’s Bunker Hill district at 4th and Hill Streets. Surrounded by glass and metal skyscrapers, concrete buildings and some greenery here and there, the funicular’s two orange and black cable cars, Olivet and Sinai have shuttled many Angelenos throughout the decades.
The railway was built in 1901 by Colonel J. W. Eddy, a teacher, Civil War veteran, Illinois State Representative and miner, according to records from the Historic American Buildings Survey. Eddy moved to L.A. in 1895 and saw a need for an easier way for residents to go up the hill “other than by foot or horse and buggy.” On its grand opening on December 31, passengers rode free all day on Olivet and Sinai (which were painted white back then) and “punch was served by the ladies who resided nearby on Olive Heights.”
Angels Flight was designated as a landmark on August 6, 1962 by the Cultural Heritage Board of Los Angeles because it was “the last remaining cable railway” in L.A.; sadly, it was closed seven years later in 1969 as Bunker Hill became more commercial and less residential. In 1996, Angels Flight was finally re-opened, and (full disclosure!) because it was one of the projects of the architectural design company that my father worked for, me and my family were among the first to ride the railway. However, it was shut down again in 2001 due to an accident in which the operating mechanisms failed, killing 83-year-old rider Leon Praport. It was the second death in Angels Flight’s history; in 1913, “damage to the cable allowed one of the cars to go careening back down the incline. Passengers were badly shaken” but one woman died after she jumped out of the car.
Last week, passersby may have seen Sinai and Olivet running up and down their tracks for the first time in 2009 (the first test runs had taken place in early November of last year), and according to Angels Flight Railway Foundation President John Welborne. One man even waited eagerly to pay the 25-cent fare and be shuttled up to California Plaza at the top of the hill, but the ready passenger had to be turned away because the landmark’s final testing and safety certifications are still in process, said Welborne.