Angels Flight in mid track IMG_20160605_180348

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It has been 1005 days since Angels Flight Railway, the beloved funicular that is, with the exception of a stone retaining wall, the last remnant of the lost Victorian neighborhood of Bunker Hill, suffered a minor derailing incident and was taken offline by its regulator, the California PUC.

Last July, horrified to see a car defaced with greasy graffiti, we formed the Angels Flight Friends & Neighbors Society (FANS) and petitioned Mayor Garcetti for help in cutting the regulatory red tape. He responded quickly, instructing Metro to prepare a report. But nothing else happened, at least not in the public eye. And here it is, almost summer again, and there’s still no good answer to that burning question we hear so often on our historic tours: “When can we ride Angels Flight?”

We believe that everyone should have the chance to enjoy this unique time capsule of old Los Angeles. And it occurred to us that if Angels Flight can’t legally take paying customers, there’s nothing to stop virtual visitors from climbing aboard. Unfortunately, there’s also little to stop bad actors from climbing aboard, as we discovered yesterday evening, on arrival at Angels Flight.

While Craig Sauer prepared his 3-D Matterport camera rig to capture the funicular’s photogenic nooks and crannies, Angels Flight FANS Richard Schave and Gordon Pattison got busy scrubbing off the childish graffiti tags that covered Olivet’s windows, undercarriage, seats and beams.  This vandalism, funicular operator John Welborne said, was no more than five days old. Thanks, a lot, “Saucy.”

But how are people getting into the Angels Flight cars, normally parked in the center of the 298 foot track, high above the ground? We didn’t have to ask, for an intense young man suddenly appeared just below the station house, having marched boldly up the tracks from Hill Street. When John Welborne inquired what he thought he was doing, the trespasser cooed, “Are you a Scientologist?” and blithely skipped away.

So far, vandals have only scrawled on the cars, scratched their names into the glass and left trash behind. It is our great fear that one of these illegal visitors will cause more lasting damage that cannot be erased with elbow grease and Goo-Gone. So long as Angels Flight remains out of commission, it falls to all of us, from public agencies to private citizens, to keep our eyes on Olivet and Sinai, and to call for help if we see anything suspicious.

But enough fretting and fussing: strap on your wings and get ready to soar!

Craig Sauer at Angels Flight station houseCraig’s 3-D scan replicates the experience of boarding Olivet at Angels Flight’s upper station house on Bunker Hill. The car is empty, so you can sit anywhere you like.

ride on Angels Flight lasts less than a minute, but there’s no need to hurry. Poke around and explore, admiring the narrow slatted ceiling, bare incandescent bulbs and metal handrails worn from innumerable rising riders. Although moved half a block south from its original location and no longer hemmed in by Victorian apartment hotels, Angels Flight is essentially unchanged from the conveyance than carried generations of Angelenos from the heights down into the city. Once you’ve had your fill, simply head down the hill inside the car and you’ll arrive at the lower station house, just across from Grand Central Market, open late all summer long and the new home of our free LAVA Sunday Salons and Broadway on My Mind walking tours.

V on Angels Flight IMG_20160605_184149It was a pleasure to spend a little time with our beloved Angels Flight and bring back a special view to share. The best part was seeing the faces of Craig’s children light up as they experienced their very first ride on L.A.’s wonderful funicular. Let’s hope it won’t be much longer before they, their classmates and YOU can ride it any day of the year.

If you care about Angels Flight and want to see it running again, please sign and share our petition, and we’ll keep you informed about the preservation campaign.

If you enjoy Craig’s Angels Flight tour, we also recommend our previous collaborations: The Dutch Chocolate Shop, Barclay Hotel and a folk art tunnel along the Los Angeles River. What will be the next hidden Los Angeles landmark to get the 3-D treatment? Stay tuned!