Angels Flight: The Story of an L.A. Icon

Learn about the fascinating history of "The World's Shortest Railway"

Angels Flight
Angels Flight

You can see it in more than a hundred movies, read about it in dozens of books, and even do skateboard tricks in a video game version of it. And yes, you can actually ride the legendary Angels Flight like locals and visitors have done for generations.

Angels Flight Lower Station
Angels Flight Lower Station

What is Angels Flight?

Technically, it's a funicular - a short, cable railway built on an inclined surface, often a mountainside or cliff. Funiculars have two trams or passenger cars that counterbalance each other. The two cars of Angels Flight are named Sinai and Olivet.

Angels Flight Top Station
Angels Flight Top Station at California Plaza | Photo: @finalgravityus, Instagram

Where is it?

Built into a hillside in Downtown Los Angeles, it's hard to miss this vintage gem. Angels Flight only runs for one block (298 feet to be exact), but it's a steep one. It links the Grand Central Market at the bottom to the Water Court shopping mall at the top, connecting Hill and Olive Streets.

Angels Flight Lower Station in 1960
Angels Flight Lower Station, original location at 3rd & Hill (October 1960) | Photo Wikimedia Commons

How old is Angels Flight?

The original Angels Flight opened in 1901 — but at a different location half a block away. During its heyday, it was both a tourist attraction and a practical way for pedestrians to avoid one of Downtown L.A.'s steepest streets. Angels Flight had several owners over the decades and eventually closed in 1969. Sinai and Olivet were warehoused for 27 years until 1996, when the railway was reopened.

Angels Flight was designated Los Angeles Historic-Cultural Monument #4 in August 1962, and added to the National Register of Historic Places in October 2000.

Scene from "La La Land" at Angels Flight in Downtown LA
Scene from La La Land at Angels Flight  |  Photo: @filmtourismus

Was that Emma Stone and Ryan Gosling on Angels Flight?

Yes! In the Oscar-winning La La Land (2016) they play lovers who share a ride and a kiss in one of its cars. Not only was it closed to the public at the time, it wasn't supposed to be used for film shoots.

Harry Bosch inside an Angels Flight car in Season 4 of "Bosch"
Harry Bosch inside an Angels Flight car in Season 4 of "Bosch" | Photo: Amazon Studios

Haven't I seen it somewhere else?

Angels Flight has appeared in more than 100 movies, including the film noirs Criss Cross (1949) and Kiss Me Deadly (1955); the 1963 cult classic The Incredibly Strange Creatures Who Stopped Living and Became Mixed-Up Zombies; and The Muppets (2011) when Jason Segel sings "Man or Muppet."

Glimpsed in the Bosch series pilot, Angels Flight takes center stage in Season 4, which is based on the sixth Bosch book (also called Angels Flight) and features Harry leading the task force that investigates the murder of civil rights attorney Howard Elias on the funicular.

Angels Flight has also been in TV shows from Perry Mason (both the original and the 2020 HBO series) to the classic Dragnet and The Biggest Loser.

Angels Flight Railway car interior
View from inside the Angels Flight Railway  |  Photo: Yuri Hasegawa

What does Angels Flight look like now?

Pretty much the same as it did in the early 1900s. Steve DeWitt, who oversaw the restoration for ACS Infrastructure, said the company took pains to restore the trams and the two stations to their original Beaux Arts splendor — including the orange and black paint on the cars. "It has never been our intent to make it look like a 21st century facility," he says. "There are scratches and things that have been there for many years. We wanted to ensure it looked how it was supposed to look when it was well loved and used for many years. When the public steps on one of these cars, they're stepping back 100 years literally."

Angels Flight Lower Station
Angels Flight Lower Station on Hill Street | Photo: @60by80, Instagram

How do I catch a ride?

Angels Flight is open daily from 6:45 a.m. to 10 p.m., including all holidays. A one-way ride costs $1, or you can purchase a souvenir round-trip ticket for $2. Flash your Metro TAP card and you'll only pay 50 cents. Discounted five-ride and 40-ride Commuter Ticket Books (valid for one person only) are also available. No reservations needed, just show up and hop aboard!

Angels Flight - Top Station
California Plaza, 350 S. Grand Ave, Los Angeles 90071

Angels Flight - Lower Station
351 S. Hill St., Los Angeles 90013 (across from Grand Central Market)