Learn California.org
Home Visit the Students section Visit the Teachers section Visit the Research California section Visit the Sitemap
Keyword Search

Background information on Angels Flight
Information for teachers about the photo students examine 

<-- Go Back

Angels Flight

Los Angeles

Angels Flight, opened in 1901 as the "Los Angeles Incline Railway," was a passenger funicular railway built up Los Angeles' Bunker Hill from Third and Bunker (now Hill) Streets. Bunker Hill was a prominent and stylish neighborhood at the turn of the century, and Colonel James Ward Eddy received a franchise to build a passenger-carrying line from the business district along Bunker Street up to the fine Victorian homes at the top of the hill.

Dubbed "The World's Shortest Railway," two cable cars named "Olivet" and "Sinai" carried passengers up the 600-foot 33% incline in one minute. The fare was originally one penny, raised to a nickel in 1914. An ornate entrance arch was built at the lower ends of the line in 1908 as a gift of Los Angeles area members of the Elks Lodge, which was hosting the national Grand Lodge Reunion in 1909. This explains the letters "B.P.O.E." (for Benevolent and Protective Order of Elks) on the arch.

A funicular railway has two cars connected by a single cable that goes around a sheave at the top of the incline. A motor turns the sheave, raising one car as the other is lowered. The cars pass on a short section of parallel tracks built in the middle. This arrangement allows the uphill car to be balanced by the weight of the downhill car, and therefore requires relatively little power to operate. Inclined railways of this type were fairly common in hilly cities during the era before automobiles--another similar line called "Court Flight" was built north of Angels Flight at Temple and Hill Streets--but Angels Flight is believed to be the shortest ever built.

Angels Flight continued to operate through the 1940s and 1950s as the Bunker Hill neighborhood deteriorated into a slum. Angels Flight was a quaint anachronism by 1959, and was scheduled for demolition as part of a renewal project. Preservationists kept the city from tearing the railway out for a decade, but the little line was finally removed in 1969 to make way for office buildings and a senior center. The parts were stored for twenty-five years until the development of the California Plaza complex in the early 1990s made reconstruction of Angels Flight possible.

Approximately 60% of the original materials could be restored and reused. New tracks were built from Fourth and Hill Streets 298 feet up what had been Bunker Hill to the California Plaza Watercourt at the top. The "new" Angels Flight, now costing a quarter to ride, reopened a block from its original site on February 24, 1996: "The World's Shortest Railway" had been reborn after an absence of twenty seven years!

The photo students are examining was taken on April 8, 1924. The boy in Knickers is a good clue to the time since they were popular with youths of that time. Another clue is the age of the automobiles. The tracks in the foreground were part of the Los Angeles railway line. The Drug store on the corner changed signs by 1927 as noted in the student online page. Angels Flight. This gives an outside date of 1927. The cars were made in the 1920s, so it is possible to date the photo for that period. The photo was originally taken by the California State Public Utilities Commision for a series of photos on tunnels in the state. It is in the State Archives, as are the other photos available for your study with the students.

Copyright ©2000-2009 LearnCalifornia.org. All rights reserved.