Historic downtown LA trolley derails; no injuries


LOS ANGELES (AP) — A distinctive downtown Los Angeles trolley with a history of safety problems derailed Thursday after an electrical issue caused one of its two rail cars to come off the tracks.

No one was hurt, but six people were helped off the train. Only one was riding on the derailed car.

Angels Flight Railway President John H. Welborne said in a statement that a grounding brush for one of the cars had malfunctioned, depleting its batteries.

The lack of power triggered the trolley's new safety system and shut down operations. The car's rail brake was activated, and it caused the rear wheels on the car to lift.

"We apologize for the inconvenience to our passengers, whose safety is always our top priority, and we expect the cars to be back in service after the electrical ground issue is resolved and authority to resume the operation is given by the California Public Utilities Commission approves," Welborne said.

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

The 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 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.

Welborne said that the railway now has multiple safety systems and any time one is triggered the entire system stops and multiple levels of braking occur.