Wednesday, July 6, 2011

Wheel Be Right Back

When The Militant found out nearly a month ago that Downtown's legendary Angels Flight Railway was suddenly shut down due to deteriorating wheel flanges (they're the part of the wheels that run inside the rails, not on top of them), he took a deep sigh and thought, "Here we go again."

Though Angels Flight 1.0 was dismantled an unspecified number of years before The Militant was born, he was definitely in da house for the opening of Angels Flight 2.0 on February 24, 1996. After the tragic accident of 2001, he was one of the first people back on the funicular in March of last year when Angels Flight 3.0 (okay, really, more like a v 2.5 upgrade) finally ran again. The Militant even made (trivial) history as the very last Angels Flight rider of 2010!

The Militant was ready for a long-ass downtime filled with lots of red tape. He's heard it all before. After all, when Angels Flight 1.0 was dismantled in 1969, the City originally promised to bring it back "In about two years."  Shhyeah, right. He was all ready to draft a post meant for oh...sometime in September beyotching when Angels Flight will finally be ready.

But lo and behold, version 2.51 of the firmware update was announced on Tuesday. The new wheels, costing $40,000 (likely installed by funicular ninjas in the dead of night), were now in place and The Militant felt obliged to visit his old friends yet again.
The old wheels (June 2011)

The new wheels. installed by ninjas (July 2011)
Wait, did they forget to put on the brake? O_o
From the moment he got out of the (M) Red Line Pershing Square station on Hill Street and saw the little orange cars go up and down the incline, a The Militant wore a smile bigger than Los Angeles County. It's back.

And of course he had to take a ride.

Still wearing that big smile, he stepped into Olivet (Remember folks, Sinai is the car towards the north, Olivet towards the south), and after the buzzing sound heralding the 109-year old funicular's ascent, the ringing shriek of the brand-spankin' new wheels, the classic creaking of wood and, of course, the characteristic rumble. Ah, it's so nice to hear those sounds again.

The Militant lingered for a bit on the California Plaza end, listening to background music play as the Grand Performances crew set up for their next show. But he was there to watch his old funicular friends do their job - one that's inevitably filled with ups and downs - and this time not take it for granted.

Welcome back, old friends.


The Maker Monk said...

Is this on the site of the original line, or was it moved during one of the refurbs? If it was moved, does anything exist of the original?

Militant Angeleno said...

The Maker Monk: Wow, you've really been away from Los Angeles for a long time.

Angels Flight 2.51 is located a half block south of the original location (but is oriented in the same direction). The two cars and top and bottom station structures are restored originals. The track infrastructure and cable drive system are all new.

The Maker Monk said...

Thanks, Militant...I've never actually seen the site, only known of it. I thought it had been moved, but wasn't sure what was new and what was original.
Glad the bulk is restored original equipment.
Sometimes replication just ain't the same, you know?

Steve Devol said...

I'm not the nervous type, and in fact am downright adventurous at times, but that Angels Flight scares the s*** out of me ever since it killed that elderly gentleman. That's one helluva grade and don't trust the degree of oversight. Think I'll just keep enjoying it from afar, thankyouverymuch

Militant Angeleno said...

Steve: The original Angels Flight (1.0) operated for 68 years without accidents (one person died in the '40s but it was a non-passenger, and an apparent suicide). The elderly gentleman, Mr. Prapaport likely died because he was elderly. Had he been a younger person, he would have simply gotten injured. His wife did survive.

The new drive system that was in place for the 2010 re-re opening is different from the 1996 re-opening, which was a bad design to begin with. The 2001 accident is not possible with the new system (which is actually designed more like the original 1.0 system).

The oversight of the railway was good enough to suspend the service last month due to the flange problem. No incident happened and the problem was taken care of.

You're a cyclist, right? But you're sounding just like those people who would never ride a bike on our City's streets... :)

Will Campbell said...

Given the interminable length of Angels Flight's closure after the fatal accident I, too, was expecting a loooooong interval before Olivet and Sinai got new shooz and started strutting their stuff again. So glad they're back sooner rather than later.

Militant Angeleno said...

Will: As a very observant Angeleno, did you happen to see any of those wheel-changing ninjas at work?

Will Campbell said...

Unfortunately I did not see the ninjas in action, but if one listens carefully, one can hear them chuckling disappointedly at Steve Devol's somewhat irrational phobia of the historic and beloved funicular.

Personally as someone who's been a passenger on longer and steeper and rickety-er rails both in Mexico and Thailand and good ol' Lookout Mountain, Tennessee, the only thing to fear from Angels Flight is fear itself.

Anonymous said...

Dear Militant and Friends: One of these days, maybe in early August, "wheel" (we will) get some TwitPics photos posted of the wheel ninjas at work -- both making the wheels in a machine shop (on overtime!) and installing them at the Flight. -- Your pals, Olivet & Sinai