Posted by: Brad Nixon | October 7, 2010

Vintage Vertical Public Transport

Note: This article was written in 2010, several years prior to an extended closure of Angels Flight. For a 2017 update, see the end of this article.

We continue our walk across part of downtown Los Angeles, today leaving 3rd and Broadway and heading west. To see the previous three posts, click back at the bottom of this entry, or scroll down, depending on how your browser displays this blog. Or, to start at the beginning, CLICK HERE.

Although I completed more than 99% of my downtown Los Angeles adventure last week via the customary mix of personal automobile and foot power, I did travel on public transportation for a short distance. A very short distance.

If you read the previous entry in the current series about downtown L.A., you know that we left off at the corner of 3rd and Broadway, the Bradbury Building. CLICK HERE to see that post. Now, with less than 15 minutes before my meeting on Bunker Hill, I have to travel about four blocks due west, but, since going due west runs me into the steep side of the hill, I also have to swing south to the foot of the hill and then climb back up north a couple of hundred feet in elevation. I’ll never make it, you say? Ah, that’s the secret that I share with my fellow Angelenos of more than a hundred years ago! I have a rare public transportation option: Angel’s Flight.

In 1901, Bunker Hill was occupied by the homes of the city’s businesspeople and the well-to-do who occupied an extensive neighborhood of gracious Queen Anne-style frame houses. Those houses are gone, now, torn down long ago to clear the Hill for commercial development which, today, consists of 40- and 50-story commercial and condominium structures. You should note that a tiny enclave of Queen Anne architecture is preserved in Angeleno Heights west of downtown. There’s a tour that includes a look inside some truly remarkable houses which is a great addition to any visit to L.A. Click on that Angeleno Heights link to learn more.

Back at the turn of the 20th Century, to provide a connection up and down the steep grade between Bunker Hill residences and the downtown below, the city built Angel’s Flight in 1901.

Angels Flight Brad Nixon 3449 (640x480)

Although it’s no longer in exactly the same location as the original, Angel’s Flight has been reconstructed using the original cars. Any of you who are fans of railroads and rail travel will recognize this establishment as a funicular: two cars that run in opposing directions, counterweighting one another. Restored, they make the ride up Bunker Hill in a couple of minutes. I’ve ridden funiculars up to Corcovado in Rio De Janeiro, and up Mount Victoria in Hong Kong, and there are many examples in other parts of the world.

Angels Flight Brad Nixon 3452 (473x640)

Today, most people who ride Angel’s Flight do so purely as a tourist novelty, but, for me, it saved me a walk up Grand Avenue wearing a suit and a tie on a 90-degree day.

Angels Flight interior Brad Nixon 3455 (640x480)

As you can see, I had the car to myself. Like funicular and cog-driven trains everywhere, the car is built in stairsteps, so that there’s always level sitting and walking. This car, and its counterpart are the original cars from 1901, restored to their Victorian grandeur.

For the two minute ride the fare is, um, reasonable. In 2010, it was 25 cents. [2018 update: $1 for a one way trip.]

The ticket collector is at the top of the ride. If, as I did, you start at the bottom, you simply wait until a green light goes on, indicating that it’s safe to enter the car, go through a turnstile, and take your seat. In less than a minute, the car heads up the hill, passes the downbound car halfway, and you exit at the top and give the person at the ticket window your quarter. Neat. Perfect.

If you saw the 2016 film, “La La Land,” you saw Emma Stone and Ryan Gosling riding Angels Flight:

Angels Flight in La La Land Summit Entertainment (640x341)

Exactly how the producers got that shot of highly paid actors riding then officially closed Angels Flight is a matter of discussion here in Movietown.

After a number of years of closure for safety reasons, Angels Flight began operating again on August 31, 2017, open 365 days a year. Check the Angels Flight website for details. I wrote a blog post about the opening. CLICK HERE to read it.

In the next post I’ll wrap up this L.A. adventure, heading home through some of the sights we can catch as we drive south.

© Brad Nixon 2010, 2018. “La La Land” is the property of Summit Entertainment, and images from the film may not be used for any commercial or non-fair use purpose.

Leave a Comment. I enjoy hearing from readers.

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.


%d bloggers like this: