Historic downtown LA trolley derails; no injuries

LOS ANGELES (AP) — A distinctive downtown Los Angeles trolley with a history of safety problems derailed Thursday when one of its two rail cars came off the tracks.

Firefighters assisted six people off the Angels Flight train after late-morning derailment, but no one was hurt, Fire Department spokeswoman Katherine Main said.

The historic funicular railway dubbed “the shortest railway in the world” goes up and down a hill and is operated by Angels Flight Railway Foundation.

Foundation President John H. Welborne was out of town and could not be reached for comment, according to a woman who answered the phone at his office and identified herself as his assistant. She declined to provide her name but said Welborne had been informed of the incident and was looking into it.

The tiny railway opened in 1901 and for the price of a penny carried people the 298-feet between the Hill Street business district and the top of Bunker Hill.

It was dismantled in 1969 for a redevelopment project and the orange and black wooden cars were stored for years before being reassembled in its current location.

In 2001, one car rolled down the track and crashed into the lower car, killing one person and injuring seven others. The 25-cent rides were halted until March 2010 as a result.

An investigation faulted a modern gear that had replaced an original part, causing a cable that raised and lowered the car to come off its spool. The emergency brake was also broken.

It took years for the nonprofit Angels Flight Foundation to raise the $3.5 million needed to repair and upgrade the railway to reopen it.

It reopened in 2010, and it now costs 50 cents to ride. Two years ago, the tiny railway was again shut down for nearly a month after concerns about wheel wear. It only reopened once state inspectors approved eight new steel wheels.

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