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Los Angeles’ Beloved Railroad Seen in movie ‘La La Land’ Chugging Back to Life

It was shut down after a catastrophic system failure sent one car crashing into the other in 2001, killing a passenger

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Los Angeles Mayor Eric Garcetti speaks at news conference standing in front of the Angels Flight railway in Los Angeles on Wednesday, March 1, 2017. Angels Flight, LA's beloved little railroad, had its cameo in the hit musical "La La Land" and now it's almost ready for its close-up. The tiny funicular that hauled people 298 feet up and down the city's steep Bunker Hill was shut down in 2013 after a series of safety problems. Garcetti said those issues are being resolved and the railroad's antique wooden cars should be back in service by Labor Day. (AP Photo/Nick Ut) VOA
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Angels Flight, LA’s beloved little railroad, had its cameo in the hit musical “La La Land” and now it’s almost ready for its close-up.

The narrow-gauge railroad that for more than a century hauled people 298 feet up and down the city’s steep Bunker Hill was shut down in 2013 after a series of mishaps, including a crash that killed a rider.

At a news conference Wednesday, Mayor Eric Garcetti said those issues are being resolved and the railroad’s antique wooden cars, named Sinai and Olivet, should be back in service by Labor Day. They’ll be operated by a public-private partnership between the nonprofit Angels Flight Foundation and the private company ACS Infrastructure Development.

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“As anyone who has seen ‘La La Land’ can tell you, dreams do still come true here in Los Angeles,” Garcetti said exuberantly as dozens of cheering Angels Flight fans crowded together with reporters to hear his announcement just outside the railway’s bottom-of-the-hill station.

The railroad’s resurrection has been planned for months, but it may have gotten an unexpected boost when moviegoers saw Emma Stone and Ryan Gosling riding happily in one of the cars in “La La Land.” Many took to social media to ask why they couldn’t ride too.

That scene was just one of several film shoots the funicular has appeared in, said John Wellborne, past chairman of the Angels Flight Railway Foundation. But, he added with a chuckle, “It got a lot more attention than we anticipated.”

Meanwhile, some work still needs to be done before the cars can move again under an agreement reached with the state Public Utilities Commission.

That includes upgrading its funicular system in which the two cars’ counterbalancing weights allow one to be pulled up safely while the other is lowered. An emergency ramp must also be installed next to the railroad tracks so that if the cars break down in mid-run, as they did in 2013, firefighters won’t have to rescue the passengers this time.

Angels Flight railway is seen in the Bunker Hill section of Los Angeles, California, March 1, 2017.

Angels Flight railway is seen in the Bunker Hill section of Los Angeles, California, March 1, 2017.

Despite its recent woes, Angels Flight, listed on the National Register of Historic Places, holds a special place in the hearts of LA residents of all ages who will tell you countless stories of coming downtown to ride it during their childhood.

“I was 5 years old,” said Ron Lozano, who still vividly recalls the short trip as being his first thrill ride. “I didn’t get to Disneyland until I was 17.”

“It was heartbreaking when it shut down,” said the engineer who for years worked in a downtown skyscraper overlooking the tracks.

Angels Flight opened on New Year’s Eve 1901, hauling residents from Bunker Hill’s stately Victorian mansions down to one of the city’s best shopping districts. Rides cost a penny.

It operated until 1969 when it was shut down as the neighborhood, having fallen on hard times, underwent redevelopment.

FILE - Visitors walk past Angels Flight Railway in Los Angeles, Jan. 17, 2017.

FILE – Visitors walk past Angels Flight Railway in Los Angeles, Jan. 17, 2017.

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It reopened in 1996, just as the area was beginning to undergo a renaissance. For the next few years it carried thousands of tourists and office workers from the skyscrapers, museums and fashionable hotels that sprung up on Bunker Hill to the Grand Central Market below.

It was shut down after a catastrophic system failure sent one car crashing into the other in 2001, killing a passenger.

Reopened in 2010, it was closed three years later after a derailment stranded riders.(VOA)

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Children In California To Return To School, 3 Weeks After The Wildfire

Schoolwork will probably be secondary to dealing with trauma and reconnecting with friends, said Paradise High Principal Loren Lighthall.

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Erica Hail hugs her son Jaxon Maloney, 2, while preparing her older children for their first day of school since the Camp Fire destroyed their home in Yuba City, Calif. VOA

Eight-year-old Bella Maloney woke up next to her little brother in a queen-size bed at a Best Western hotel and for breakfast ate a bagel and cream cheese that her mother brought up from the lobby.

And then she was off to school for the first time in nearly a month.

For Bella, brother Vance and thousands of other youngsters in Northern California who lost their homes or their classrooms in last month’s deadly wildfire, life crept a little closer to normal Monday when school finally resumed in most of Butte County.

“They’re ready to get back,” Bella’s mother, Erica Hail, said of her children. “I think they’re sick of Mom and Dad.” At school, “they get to have time alone in their own space and their own grade and they get to just be by themselves.”

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Erica Hail, back left, dresses son Vance Maloney, 5, while preparing her children for their first day of school since the Camp Fire destroyed their home in Yuba City, Calif. voa

Schools in the county had been closed since Nov. 8, when the blaze swept through the town of Paradise and surrounding areas, destroying nearly 14,000 homes and killing at least 88 people in the nation’s deadliest wildfire in a century. About two dozen people remain unaccounted for, down from a staggering high of 1,300 a few weeks ago.

About 31,000 students in all have been away from school since the disaster. On Monday, nearly all of them went back, though some of them attended class in other buildings because their schools were damaged or destroyed, or inaccessible inside evacuation zones.

Bella was shy and not very talkative but agreed she was excited to be going back. She wanted to see her friends.

The small, tidy hotel room with two queen beds has been home to the family of five for some two weeks. Since they lost nearly everything to the fire, there was little to clutter up the space. The Hails are booked there until February.

“Bella, what time is it?” Hail asked her daughter, waking her up in their hotel room.

“Seven dot dot three five,” came the 8-year-old’s sing-song reply. 7:35. It was time to brush her teeth, comb her hair and hit the road for a nearly hourlong drive to school in the family SUV.

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Bella Maloney, 8, arrives for her first day of school since the Camp Fire leveled her family’s home, in Durham, Calif. VOA

A few minutes later, at seven-dot-dot-four-seven, they were out the door.

Some families driven out by the inferno have left the state or are staying with friends or relatives too far away for the children to go back to school in Butte County.

The Hails — whose five-bedroom, two-bath home in Paradise was destroyed — are staying in Yuba City, a long drive from their new school in Durham.

It was shortly before the 9 a.m. start of the school day when they pulled up to Durham Elementary School, where Bella is in third grade and Vance is in half-day kindergarten.

Across the county, nearly all of the teachers are returning to provide a familiar and comforting face to the children.

“It’s important that the kids are able to stay together and have some sort of normalcy in the crazy devastation that we’re having now,” said Jodi Seaholm, whose daughter Mallory is a third-grader.

Mallory underwent radiation in October to treat a recurrence of brain cancer and showed no fear, Seaholm said, but “this situation with her house burning down has absolutely devastated her.”

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Trees reflect in a swimming pool outside Erica Hail’s Paradise, Calif., home, which burned during the Camp Fire. VOA

Counselors brought in from around the country were in nearly every classroom Monday to help children who were distressed by their escape through a burning town and the loss of their homes, Paradise school Superintendent Michelle John said at a celebratory news conference. Many of the teachers lost their homes as well.

“Our kids are traumatized,” John said. “Their families are traumatized.”

Most of Paradise High School survived but is inaccessible.

The district doesn’t have space yet for intermediate and high school students whose classrooms were rendered unusable, so for the 13 days before the holiday break begins, they will learn through independent study. They will have access to online assignments and a drop-in center at a mall in Chico where they can get help from teachers or see classmates.

Also Read: Australia Suffers From Heat And Fuel Wildfires

Schoolwork will probably be secondary to dealing with trauma and reconnecting with friends, said Paradise High Principal Loren Lighthall.

“They don’t have their church, they don’t have their school, they don’t have their work, they don’t have their friends. They don’t have any of that stuff, and we’re asking them to write five-paragraph essays?” Lighthall said. “It’s just unreasonable at this point. We’re going to do it, but we’re going to be super flexible with what we require.” (VOA)