Angels Flight: The World’s Shortest Railway

Jul 28, 2016 4 comments

Angels Flight is a historic narrow gauge funicular railway located in the Bunker Hill district of downtown Los Angeles, California. Dubbed the “shortest railway in the world”, Angels Flight opened in 1901 in what was one of the most fashionable neighborhoods in the city. Its two funicular cars named Sinai and Olivet ferried prominent citizens up and down the steep slope between Hill and Olive streets. Though the journey was short —only 315 feet— and lasted only one minute, it is believed that Angels Flight carried more passengers per mile than any other railway in the world. Over a hundred million passengers rode the cars in its first fifty years.


Photo credit: Allie_Caulfield/Flickr

Angels Flight suffered its first setback in 1969 when the Bunker Hill area underwent major urbanization with old houses getting razed and replaced by high-rise commercial buildings. The funicular was dismantled and its cars were hauled off to storage for what everyone believed would be “a few” years before the railway reopens. But the two cars sat in a dark warehouse for the next twenty seven years. Finally, after a lot of local effort and bureaucratic hassles, Angels Flight was reopened in 1996, now half a block from the original site.

Angels Flight suffered its second setback in 2001, this time due to an accident resulting in the death of a passenger and injury to several others. Operation of the funicular was suspended on grounds of improper design, nonconformance to safety standards and poor maintenance. The funicular remained closed for the next nine years while it was repaired and the old drive and safety system was replaced. It went back into operation in 2010.

In 2013, there was another accident where one car derailed. Although there were no injuries, state regulators are now reluctant to allow Angels Flight to reopen until all safety issues are resolved, including the building of an evacuation walkway adjacent to the tracks should the cars stall halfway up. The board also wants the operators to submit a plan detailing how they will keep passengers safe.

The National Transportation Safety Board’s requirements have not been implemented yet, and as such, the future of Angels Flight is currently uncertain. Today, the orange-and-black cars of Angels Flight sits motionless halfway up the funicular’s ramp covered with trash and graffiti.


Angels Flight at its former location. Photo credit: whitewall buick/Flickr


Photo credit: Paul Narvaez/Flickr


Photo credit: anson chu/Flickr


Photo credit: Luke H. Gordon/Flickr


Photo credit: Luke H. Gordon/Flickr


Photo credit: Bradley Huchteman/Flickr

Sources: Wikipedia / LA Times /


  1. Only Americans use feet as a measure. I assume most of your readers aren't American.

    Please convert the units to the international system the next time.

  2. I think Anonymous meant "only the U.S uses feet as a measure," as the other American countries do not.

  3. Sorry but shortest in the world iz Zagreb funicular railway with 217 ft. And it is in its original place sinye 1890.

  4. Amusing Planet is amusingly incorrect:

    Angel's Landing is NOT the World's Shortest Funicular Railway

    In fact, my research shows that it is only fourth.

    196' Falls Incline Railway Niagara Falls, Canada

    210' Old Quebec Funicular Quebec City, Canada

    217' Zagreb Funicular Zagreb, Croatia

    298' Angel's Flight Railway Los Angeles, USA


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