THE SEVEN PRIVATE OPERATORS OF THE ANGELS FLIGHT® RAILWAY
The Angels Flight® Railway Foundation is the seventh private operator of the Railway, having assumed stewardship in 1996. The following describes the Railway’s ownership history.
1901 Col. J.W. Eddy and the Creation of Angels Flight®
Colonel J.W. (James Ward) Eddy was born in 1832 and served in the U.S. Civil War. Today, Col. Eddy rests in peace at Hollywood Forever Cemetery. Col. Eddy was born in Java, New York, in 1832, and he died in California in 1914.
The two Angels Flight® Railway cars have been here in Los Angeles since 1901 (1905 if dated from the rebuilding that resulted in these exact vehicles). That rebuilding was in connection with Col. Eddy’s constructing a trestle over Clay Street so the cars would be going up a constant grade. Clay Street is only a memory now. The City of Los Angeles removed much of the Railway’s old neighborhood — actually, All of the old neighborhood… except for Angels Flight® (moved several hundred feet south). Even Bunker Hill Avenue is gone, only a memory on Bunker Hill.
In 1901, the Third Street Tunnel opened beneath Bunker Hill. So did the Angels Flight® Railway. In May of 1901, Col. J.W. Eddy had sought and received City Council approval to build a funicular by the tunnel. Funicular is from a Latin word, funiculus, which means a slender rope or cord that connects. A funicular is an incline railway. Col. Eddy started building Angels Flight® on August 2, 1901. The Railway opened December 31, 1901. On the Railway’s 1901 Opening Day, more than 2,000 people rode between Hill and Olive Streets.
August 2 to December 31? Try a construction project in Los Angeles in 120 days today!
Second Owner 1912
In addition to the 1905 remodeling, the Railway benefited from the addition of a new Station House and the Hill Street Arch in 1908. Angels Flight® passed to its second private owner in 1912 when Col. J.W. Eddy sold to the Funding Company of Los Angeles.
Third Owner in 1914
The Funding Company of Los Angeles, the 1912 purchaser of Angels Flight®, sold the Railway in 1914. The 1914 purchaser was Continental Securities Company. Engineer Robert M. Moore began service as Railway general manager that year. Robert Moore served the Railway and its passengers for 38 years, from 1914 to 1952.
The Railway’s Manager Becomes the Fourth Owner in 1946
In 1946, engineer Robert W. Moore purchased the Railway from the Continental Securities Company (owner since 1914).
Fifth Owner Takes Over in 1952
In 1952, engineer Robert W. Moore retired and sold the Railway to Lester B. Moreland and Byron Linville. In 1953, Lester B. Moreland’s family purchased banker Byron Linville’s interest in the Railway, becoming sole stockholder. Byron Linville was a prominent banker at Security First National Bank who had developed affection for Angels Flight®. Banker Linville shared a common interest in the workings and history of the Flight with engineer Moreland.
Lester B. Moreland was an electrical engineer with the Department of Water and Power who parked on Bunker Hill so he could ride Angels Flight® on his way to and from his office downtown. Regularly riding the Flight, Lester Moreland got to know Robert Moore, General Manager since 1914 (and owner since 1946).
Mr. Moore realized that Mr. Moreland had a real interest in the Railway’s preservation and was fully capable of operating it. When Robert W. Moore decided to retire, he chose to sell the Railway to Messrs. Moreland and Linville, as noted previously. The Railway was sold to them on August 23, 1952. The Moreland legacy of Railway stewardship lasted until the City’s redevelopment agency forced a sale to the City in 1962.
Sixth Private Operator – Oliver & Williams Elevator Company – Takes the Reins from the City in 1962
The alternative to the Moreland’s selling to the City was condemnation — to allow the City to “improve” Bunker Hill with “urban renewal.” Condemnation is the same as “taking by eminent domain.” After the City’s redevelopment agency forced the Morelands to sell the private Railway to the City in 1962, the City then hired another private entity to run it. The City made Sidney Smith — of the Oliver & Williams Elevator Company -- operator of the Railway. The Oliver & Williams Elevator Company ran the Railway from 1962 to 1969 and was the Railway’s sixth private operator. While Sidney Smith and his company ran the Railway in the 1960s, Bunker Hill’s old buildings were demolished all around it.
And then… late on Sunday, May 18, 1969, Sinai and Olivet took their last trips on their tracks at the Third Street Tunnel location. The next day, Monday, May 19, 1969, dismantling of the Angels Flight® Railway got underway.
The two cars were hauled off to storage, first at 1200 South Olive Street at the warehouse of Sid and Linda Kastner’s United Business Interiors, then at a CRA/LA (Community Redevelopment Agency of the City of Los Angeles) warehouse… for what everyone was told would be “a few” years. The Arch, the Station House, the drinking fountain, and other artifacts were taken to an outdoor storage yard in Gardena. For most of the next 27 years (1969-1996), the two cars were just lying in a dark warehouse.
Part of the Railway’s history is directly related to the Bicentennial of the founding of the City of Los Angeles. In the early 1980s, leaders of the Los Angeles 200 Committee (the group planning the City’s Bicentennial Celebration) learned details of the moribund state of the Angels Flight® restoration. The role of the Los Angeles 200 Committee in the restoration of the Angels Flight® Railway can be found in the twitter.com/angelsflight postings and elsewhere.
In 1991, through the efforts of the Los Angeles Conservancy and others, including the volunteer Angels Flight® Coordinating Committee chaired by lawyer Dennis R. Luna (later Chairman of the Board of the Angels Flight® Railway Foundation), the City finally began to fulfill its Angels Flight® restoration promise made in the late 1960s.
Design work for the Angels Flight® restoration and reconstruction — under City auspices — was underway in 1993 and 1994. Most of the physical restoration and reconstruction activity took place in 1995 and was completed in 1996. It also became clear during this period that California Plaza’s developer was not going to operate Angels Flight® as originally planned. Angels Flight® always had operated privately, and that was the CRA/LA’s plan — to return the Railway to the private sector. Because the Bunker Hill developer elected to terminate its development rights, that meant there was no private entity to take back and run Angels Flight®.
Seventh Private Operator Runs Angels Flight® Today
So, the Angels Flight® Railway Foundation was created. The Foundation stepped up and assumed the rights and obligations of the Bunker Hill developer with respect to the little Railway. The Railway Foundation became the seventh private operator of Angels Flight® with a gala reopening on February 24, 1996.
In 2013, Angels Flight® was closed. It reopened in 2017 after restoration and installation of key safety upgrades were made possible through a unique public-private partnership between the Foundation and lead developer ACS Infrastructure (ACS). ACS, with minority partner SENER Engineering and Systems, implemented the safety upgrades after entering into a 30-year contract with the Foundation to operate and maintain Angels Flight®. The official re-opening occurred on August 31, 2017.
In summary, the seven private operators of the Angels Flight® Railway are:
- 1901, Col. Eddy
- Funding Company of Los Angeles in 1912
- Continental Securities Company in 1914
- Robert W. Moore in 1946
- Lester B. Moreland and Byron Linville in 1952
- Oliver & Williams Elevator Company (after City condemnation) in 1962
- Since 1996 the seventh private operator has been the Angels Flight Railway Foundation®. As of 2017 they partnered with ACS for 30 years to operate and maintain the funicular.
On Bunker Hill – A Lost Neighborhood Found
An excerpt from the On Bunker Hill time travel blog:
Bunker Hill is a ghost, and though you may today walk streets named Grand and Hope and imagine that you stand where once were grand Victorian homes turned flophouses, you are in fact one hundred feet beneath the old roads, which the city shaved away to make a wider footprint for the high rise tenants that replaced them.
Look up, ten stories up, and if you’re a dreamer you can almost see the big houses bobbing there between the towers, old men and women toddling out onto the porches and down the avenues, exchanging gossip, feeding the cats, collapsing under some junkie’s fists, boarding Sinai or Olivet for the ride down to Grand Central Market, pruning the roses, taking a nickel every time someone parks on their lawn, a taxi dancer and her mother hearing angels dictate a mystic book, pretty girl children rolling hoops, raucous longhaired boys sledding downhill and crashing into the side of Hazard’s Pavilion, John Fante dreaming of girls who won’t date him, carrier pigeons conveying messages from Avalon, phony mediums and real ones spewing ectoplasm in shadowy parlors, Kay Martin and Leo Politi painting the old houses just ahead of the wreckers, The Crockers and the Bradburys spinning in their ballrooms, landladies, bankers, writers and bums, all the possibilities of a great neighborhood as it is born, flourishes, fades and is demolished. – Kim Cooper, editrix