Angels Flight, L.A.

(Note: This blog post has some actual material about Angels Flight, the historic rail service operating in Los Angeles.  You just have to scroll down a bit to find it.)

I spent part of last week in Southern California.  There were practical and personal reasons to be there, but also opportunities to do a few fun things.

I stayed in a nice hotel on Sunset in West Hollywood.  Not that Sunset in West Hollywood is nice.  However, some aspects of it are better than the high-tech advertising, careless motorists and general bad taste we associate with the street.  In other words, it has its moments.

The hotel had an above average Complimentary Continental Breakfast, which allowed me to save enough money to pay for excellent salads at Sweetgreen.  Be warned that Sweetgreen, at 8570 Sunset, accepts only electronic payments.  I paid with a card, but you can ask ahead of time whether they’ll let you use a phone app.

The area isn’t associated with high-brow culture, but Book Soup is located at 8818 Sunset.  You can find literature there, or stay in the mood for the neighborhood ambiance by buying something trashy to read.  The store is fairly complete.  I swear I saw a copy of The New York Post on the newspaper rack outside.

Sunset has a weird mix of retailers.  Some are upscale, others not.  A convenience store called Pink Dot has a propeller-capped Volkswagen Beetle parked outside.

If you’re interested in early television trivia, stop by 8532 Sunset and look down.  There’s a sidewalk plaque commemorating the now-demolished studio where some scenes from the series 77 Sunset Strip were shot.

I flew into Long Beach on Tuesday, and had a plan for keeping the ground transportation costs into West Hollywood at a minimum.  The plan worked well, too, proving that the impossible really can happen.

Los Angeles County has a more complete public transit system than it did years ago.  A combination subway/surface light rail system has several color-coded lines which aren’t difficult to navigate if you’ve done the research ahead of time.  There are also buses.

Free time can be squandered or invested.  I like to believe my time spent standing in line behind other tourists to photograph Donald Duck’s star on Hollywood Boulevard’s Walk of Fame was an investment.  Same goes for the bus ride (2 Line) into Beverly Hills.

Friday was my last day.  My airline reservation was on the last flight out of LGB for SFO, so there was time to look for something interesting to do after checking out of the hotel.  That’s one of many reasons we use shipping services to send our luggage home at the end of a trip.

After unloading 7.6 pounds of clothing and toiletries on the good people of Fed Ex, I was ready to do as I pleased for the rest of the afternoon.  I wasn’t expecting much, though.  There wasn’t a plan.

After transferring from an inbound 2 bus to the Red Line out of Hollywood, I decided to stay on the train until the end of the line, at Union Station.  Just a tourist thing.  Union Station is a mixed bag, with some fine art deco stuff and some rail terminal mediocrity.  It’s worth seeing for the art deco part, but be careful to avoid walking into areas where only ticketed passengers are allowed.

Now for the Angels Flight adventure…

I got the Red Line inbound to the next stop, at Pershing Square.  The audio announcement before that stop had mentioned Angels Flight, which I didn’t know was back in operation.

Angels Flight has a fascinating history, which is covered partly in a 1965 documentary by Ed Penney.  A link to that documentary is at the end of this post.

Angels Flight is a funicular line which transports people only a short distance.  It’s a tourist attraction, but the 351 South Hill Street location is also useful to commuters who prefer not to walk up the steep incline to offices at California Plaza.  The current fare is one dollar each way, with a discount for Metro Pass holders.

Angels Flight does not have a perfect safety record.  In 2001, an accident killed one passenger, and closed the system for nine years.  In 2013, a less serious incident resulted in a shutdown that lasted four years.

After typing over seven hundred words, I’ll stop boring you with this vacation post and let you reach your own conclusion on whether to try out Angels Flight if you visit Los Angeles in the future.  Personally, I found the ride a tad rickety, but still went round trip.  It’s one piece of history that hasn’t been removed from L.A. permanently, and we should respect it.  Angels Flight is the proverbial Phoenix.

Angels Flight® Railway Operations





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