Sunday, January 29, 2012

Out & About--Taking Angels Flight in Downtown Los Angeles

This month has been an homage to film noir on GlamAmor--its movies, locations, and all around style--and I would be remiss in not including Angels Flight.  It is, after all, iconic and has been included in countless movies, starting in 1918 with Good Night, Nurse! and appearing in one film noir after another--Act of Violence (1948), Criss Cross (1949), M (1951), Kiss Me Deadly (1955), and Angel's Flight (1965).  It was also chosen as a literary location by noir author Raymond Chandler for his novels The King in Yellow (1938) and The High Window (1942)

Thus, during my recent trip downtown to visit the Bradbury Building, I could not help but walk a couple of city blocks in order to ride Angels Flight. Built back at the turn of the century in 1901, the landmark funicular railway (both cars are connected to the same cable) became known to millions around the world who then came to ride the cars at 3rd and Hill Streets in Los Angeles.  A historic plaque reads,
[Financed] by Colonel J.W. Eddy--lawyer, engineer, and friend of President Abraham Lincoln--Angels Flight is said to be the world's shortest incorporated railway.  The counterbalanced cars, controlled by cables, travel a 33 percent grade for 315 feet.  It is estimated that Angels Flight has carried more passengers per mile than any other railway in the world...over 100 million in its first 50 years. This incline railway is a public utility operating under a franchise granted by the City of Los Angeles. 
Unfortunately, in 1969 Angels Flight was dismantled due to a controversial development project that removed much of Bunker Hill, its residents, and commuters from the downtown area.  But to the surprise of the city, the popularity of LA's incline railway never waned and people passionately fought to have it brought back.  In 1996, Angels Flight was reopened after being renovated and relocated just a half block from its original site. Though the structure was moved, the trolleys are the original cars--named Sinai and Olivet--from 1901.  Believe me, it's pretty incredible to breathe in all that history when you ride inside them.  I think you'll quickly see why it has been such a favorite for more than a century.  Enjoy the ride.

Thanks to USC Library Archives for use of the historical images

3rd and Hill Streets 1898...
future home of Angels Flight

Angels Flight 1903
with only an arch and small waiting area built at top

Angels Flight 1910
with its formal arch erected now

Angels Flight featured in film noir--Act of Violence (1948, above)
and Mickey Spillaine's Kiss Me Deadly (1955)

Angels Flight 1960
just prior to closure

Angels Flight today...
booth atop California Plaza at 4th and Hill Streets

Inside the trolley car

Another noir icon--Los Angeles City Hall--seen from Angels Flight

Our ride has come to an end


Marline said...

I'm going to have to start a big ol' binder of all the wonderful iconic LA landmarks and NOIR-scenes you've introduced us to, Kimberly, so I don't forget to visit every one in April for the TCM Film Festival. What treasures await!!!! Thanks again!

Anonymous said...

What an interesting story. I'd never heard of Angels Flight until I read about it here, now it pops up at me all over the place. Watched the cars at their orig site in some great old youtube videos. Your story reminded me how much fun DH and I had riding the trolley cars in San Francisco (tho I was not as prettily dressed as you are). Katherine Louise

Kimberly Truhler said...

Oh Kay, I plan to give you so many options to explore in LA when you're here in April that you'll never want to leave!

And I love hearing that you explored even more online on Angels Flight, Katherine Louise. Feel free to share any YouTube clip addresses here--how fun! I'll have to dig some up on my own and add them to my YouTube channel. I agree that the trolleys in San Francisco are SO much fun to ride (and mass transit to boot) and was so happy that Angels Flight more than exceeded my expectations.

Thank you both for your comments!

Kevin Osborne said...

A really cool old location and a great article Kimberly! It is interesting to see the railway in its original setting and in the old movies. This is a very fun L.A. landmark to visit!

Kimberly Truhler said...

Thanks so much, Kevin! It was really cool to see how downtown Los Angeles and Angels Flight both evolved in those historic photos. And it was such fun to ride!

Anonymous said...


VP81955 said...

I did an entry on Angels Flight last November that features some more pictures...

Related Posts Plugin for WordPress, Blogger...