World's shortest railroad chugs back to life
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Angels Flight is the beloved little railroad in Los Angeles. It had its cameo in the hit musical "La La Land." Now it's almost ready for its close-up.
For more than a hundred years, the narrow-gauge railroad hauled people 298 feet up and down the city's steep Bunker Hill. It was shut down in 2013. That was after a series of mishaps, including a crash that killed a rider.
Now, Mayor Eric Garcetti has said those issues are being resolved. The railroad's antique wooden cars, named Sinai and Olivet, should be back in service by Labor Day. They'll be operated by a public-private partnership. It is between the nonprofit Angels Flight Foundation and the private company ACS Infrastructure Development.
"As anyone who has seen 'La La Land' can tell you, dreams do still come true here in Los Angeles," Garcetti said. There were dozens of cheering Angels Flight fans crowded together to hear his announcement on March 1.
The railroad's restoration has been planned for months. But it may have gotten an unexpected boost. That's when moviegoers saw Emma Stone and Ryan Gosling riding happily in one of the cars in "La La Land." Many took to social media to ask why they couldn't ride, too.
That scene was just one of several film shoots the funicular has appeared in, said John Wellborne. He is past chairman of the Angels Flight Railway Foundation. But, he added with a chuckle, "It got a lot more attention than we anticipated."
Meanwhile, some work still needs to be done before the cars can move again.
That includes upgrading its funicular system in which the two cars' counterbalancing weights allow one to be pulled up safely while the other is lowered. An emergency ramp must also be installed next to the railroad tracks. If the cars break down in mid-run, as they did in 2013, firefighters won't have to rescue the passengers this time.
Angels Flight is listed on the National Register of Historic Places. It holds a special place in the hearts of LA residents of all ages. Many will tell you countless stories of coming downtown to ride it during their childhood.
"I was 5 years old," said Ron Lozano. He vividly recalls the short trip as being his first thrill ride. "I didn't get to Disneyland until I was 17.
Angels Flight opened on New Year's Eve 1901. It hauled residents from Bunker Hill's stately Victorian mansions down to one of the city's best shopping districts. Rides cost a penny.
It operated until 1969. It was shut down as the neighborhood underwent redevelopment.
It reopened in 1996, just as the area was beginning to undergo a revival. For the next few years, it carried thousands of tourists and office workers from the skyscrapers, museums and fashionable hotels. These had sprung up on Bunker Hill to the Grand Central Market below.
It was shut down after a terrible system failure sent one car crashing into the other in 2001, killing a passenger.
Reopened in 2010, it was closed three years later after a derailment stranded riders.
CRITICAL THINKING QUESTION
Why would someone want to take such a short ride?
Write your answers in the comments section below