NTSB probes cause of LA Angels Flight derailment

LOS ANGELES (AP) — Federal officials are investigating last week’s derailment of the historic Angels Flight, a tiny downtown Los Angeles funicular railway with a history of safety problems.

The National Transportation Safety Board will issue a report and recommendations after it determines what caused one of the two rail cars to come off the tracks Thursday, the Los Angeles Times reported (http://lat.ms/15MFLWO).

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

Angels Flight, dubbed “the shortest railway in the world,” could be shut down for months during the investigation.

Officials from the California Public Utilities Commission and Angels Flight Railway President John Welborne spent Monday afternoon inspecting the rail line, running tests and gathering documentation, the newspaper reported.

Video cameras show the car called Sinai descending the hill, derailing at the bottom and maneuvering before it was pulled back up the track, Watson said.

“We got some insights but didn’t really come to a probable cause,” he told the Times.

Representatives from the company that manufactured the rail system will arrive for further testing later this week, he said.

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.

The train 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 Thursday the railway now has multiple safety systems, and any time one is triggered the entire system stops and multiple levels of braking occur.

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Information from: Los Angeles Times, http://www.latimes.com

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