Angels Flight, the funky funicular that transported Angelenos from the top of Bunker Hill down to the Hill Street Grand Central Market is back in operation again after a nine year absence. Built in 1901, it operated problem free up until 1969 when it was dismantled and put into storage while waves of gentrification were transforming Bunker Hill from an area of transients and boarding house drifters to the of high rise condos we see today. In 1996 most of the original parts including the two cars (Sinai and Olivet) and the archway were pulled out of storage and mounted onto a newly designed track and haulage system just a half block south of its original location.
Operation ran smoothly up until a 2001 accident which resulted in the fatality of an 83 year old tourist when one of the cars broke loose and smashed into the oncoming second car. After a lengthy NTSB investigation, both Sinair and Olivet were repaired and returned to the tracks and testing of the funicular began in the Fall of 2008. The Public Utilities Commission approved the safer design of Angels Flight and operation was welcomed back to Bunker Hill on March 15, 2010.
Bunker Hill is regularly featured in the writings of Charles Bukowski and John Fante and Angels Flight can bee seen in several films including the Glen Miller Story starring Jimmy Stewart and episodes of Dragnet starring Belmont High School graduate Jack Webb. In my one and only venture into the film making business in 1996, I used Angels Flight in my Super Hi-8 short film which took third place at the PCC film festival. Someday I may dust it off for a digital transfer but I have to warn you, “it ain’t pretty”. For a great film experience that features the funky funicular and Bunker Hill, check out a recently restored film by the UCLA Film Archive called The Exiles. Shot in 1961 by Kent MacKenzie, The Exiles chronicles the lives of several native Americans who leave the reservation in the 1950s and take up residence in Bunker Hill. The DVD also features an interesting 1956 documentary on this historic downtown Los Angeles area.