Text and Photos Michel Azéma
Accident at Angels Flight Funicular
The events  
The events
Los Angeles, California
February 1st, 2001 12:17 pm

1 Killed, 7 Hurt

by Michel Azéma
This not a cable break!

At 12:17 pm the cabin going up suddenly hit the second cabin which was going down!
One passenger was killed and 7 injured.
It seems that the accident was not due to a cable break as I first thought. The cable suddenly got out from the groove of the pulley (spool) at the top of the line and the upper cabin found itself with a bif length of untightened cable!

Photo Bob Chamberlin / Los Angeles Times

Rob Hernandez / Los Angeles Times
The cabin rushed down the track and hit the second cabin in the lower half of the line.
Contrary to what I previously wrote, there are no emergency brakes below the cars! The only security of cabin was a second cable which was parallel to the traction cable. There was also emergency brakes on the spool at the top station but this brakes were unable to stop the way down of the car, of course because the cable was no more winded into the groove of the spool! This security cable was linking the two cars and was also ineffective for the same reason.
Most of funiculars are designed to assume an unsollicited break of the cable or an overspeed of the car. This is the main risk of inclined cable railways, so the break of the cable is controled by an emergency break on the cabins.
When the cable breaks there is an overspeed of the cabin, this overspeed is mecanicaly detected by a special system under each cabin and the emergency brakes are activated and the cabin must be stopped in a few meters. The emergency brakes are strong jaws which grip the rails.
Angels Flight Funicular was not fitted with such an emergency brake!
The events
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Michel Azéma, Paris (France)
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