Just Days After Reopening, LA’s Angels Flight Shutters Again

LOS ANGELES (AP) — Four days after its splashy reopening, the Angels Flight railroad in downtown Los Angeles has shut down again.

A notice on its website Monday said the funky little funicular would be closed for several days for maintenance.

Mayor Eric Garcetti was on hand Aug. 31 for a ceremony marking the return to service of the 116-year-old line that stretches just 298 feet up Bunker Hill. Before that, the beloved railway had been closed since 2013.

A sign posted Monday at the ticket booth says recent extreme weather conditions prompted the maintenance work. No details were given.

The transit system the city proudly calls the world’s shortest public railroad began ferrying riders on New Year’s Eve 1901.

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 Public Utilities Commission shut the railway down.

To the surprise of the public and the commission — which didn’t know the funicular would be used in “La La Land” — Emma Stone and Ryan 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,” laughed local historian and preservation activist Richard Schave. “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.

Roundtrips cost a penny when Angels Flight opened in 1901. Roundtrip rides cost $1 when service resumed briefly last week, and those who use Metro transit cards pay just 50 cents.

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 that saw Bunker Hill’s mansions replaced by high-rise office buildings, hotels, luxury apartments and museums.

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

It was closed again in 2001, however, after a failure of the counterbalancing system caused a crash that killed one rider and injured several others. The railway finally reopened in 2010, only to be closed three years later after riders had to be rescued by firefighters.

(© Copyright 2017 The Associated Press. All Rights Reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.)

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