LOS ANGELES (AP)- The city's beloved Angels Flight began carrying passengers up and down a steep downtown hill again Monday, nine years after a fatal accident forced an extensive overhaul of the tiny railway's operating and safety systems.
Fans of "The Shortest Railway in the World" waited eagerly to board the first ride at 6:45 a.m., recalling childhood memories of riding the orange-and-black wooden cars - named Olivet and Sinai - which looked the same as when they were first put into service in 1901.
Angels Flight is a funicular, meaning its two passenger cars are attached by a cable and move in tandem, one going up the inclined tracks as the other goes down.
"It's as fun a ride as the first ride I took 60 years
He said the ride was slightly bumpy, just as he remembered it from decades ago.
Officials from the nonprofit organization that operates Angels Flight joked that they purposely kept the ride bumpy to preserve that old-time feel. However, underneath the meticulously restored wooden cars and 298 feet of track is a state-of-the art braking and collision avoidance system.
The railway climbs a 33-percent incline and both cars share a common middle rail, except in the middle of the route where they pass as one ascends and the other descends.
Service halted in February 2001 after one car
The investigation faulted the modern operating mechanism that had replaced the original. It found that a gear failed and caused a cable that raised and lowered the car to come off its spool. In addition, an emergency brake on that mechanism wasn't working and there were no emergency brakes on the cars.
Federal investigators also concluded there was poor oversight of the railway.
The Angels Flight Railway Foundation, whose members include historic preservationists and downtown boosters, spent years raising about $3.5 million to repair and upgrade the railway.
The redesigned mechanism is much like the original, with both cars counterbalancing each other at opposite ends of the same cable. Each car now has a second safety cable, and there are four types of brake systems and collision avoidance technology similar to positive train control. The system relies on sensors on the track to determine the cars' location and when they are allowed to safely move.
Other updates include entrance gates that automatically open and close.
"It's highly sophisticated technology on the inside, but we try to keep it funky and old fashion-looking on the outside," said John Welborne, president of the foundation.
The railway opened in 1901 to connect residents of Bunker Hill, which at the time was topped with Victorian mansions, to the shopping district at the bottom. Riders paid a penny then for the one-minute ride.
The city razed the neighborhood in the 1960 s after it became a slum, and Angels Flight was dismantled in 1969 to make way for skyscrapers, hotels and apartment buildings. The railway sat in a warehouse for years before it was reassembled in 1996 a short distance from its original location.
It was a popular tourist attraction, and was often used by workers to avoid a 153-step staircase.
The fare is now a quarter, and the cars will operate seven days a week from 6:45 a.m. to 10 p.m.
Local courthouse worker Frank Campagna said he used to take the funicular for relaxing lunches at a water fountain atop the hill. He held a quarter in his hand and joked that he saved it for nine years to ride Angels Flight again.