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Angels Flight Railway to resume service Monday

March 14, 2010 12:00:00 AM PST
A lot of Los Angeles residents grew up taking rides on Angel Flights. So when the rail service resumes on Monday it is sure to bring back some old memories.The trip up and down the steep Bunker Hill in Downtown Los Angeles takes about a minute, giving Angel Flight the distinction of being called the world's shortest railway.

Patrons got a chance to go for test runs over the weekend, and many say they can't get enough.

Long Beach resident Laura Gonzalez said she will probably use the rail every weekend.

"It's great. It's a pretty nice ride with a great view, and it's a great bargain with 25 cents one way," said L.A. resident Annie Avery.

Monday's reopening will be the first official rides in about nine years when a tragic accident led to the shutdown of Angels Flight in 2001. An equipment malfunction caused one of the rail cars to slide downhill into a vehicle. An 83-year-old man was killed in the accident and seven other people were injured.

The National Transportation Safety Board concluded that faulty mechanical and brake systems were the cause.

The rail system first opened in 1901 to shuttle people up and down Bunker Hill and ran for nearly 70 years. Angel Flights was rebuilt and reopened in 1996 until the accident in 2001.

"So we went to the best engineers around the world and said, 'How do we rebuild it property?'" said John Welborne, the Angels Flight operator. "What we did was throw out everything that was there from the 1994 and 1995 rebuilding."

Since the accident the rail system has undergone a major restoration. The ride boasts an improved drive and control system as well as new safety features that were approved by the California Public Utilities Commission.

"It's a little scary and rickety, but we made it up and made it down," said Echo Park resident Kyle Barber.

"As long as it's not going downhill, I'm fine. Uphill is fine. Downhill is not fine," said Sherman Oaks resident Karen Klingborg.

Officials said the price for the ride will still be 25 cents as it was years ago. The cars on the ride will be the original rail cars from 1991.

It may not be the most efficient way to travel these days, but to most people, it's all about being part of history once again.

"It's fun to have. We came just for this," said L.A. resident Jocelyn Whitfield, holding up the rustic Angels Flight ticket stub. "It's going up on my bulletin board at work."

A grand reopening will be held Monday at 6:45 a.m.