Car lovers and history buffs will love the Forney Museum of Transportation in Denver. It’s a must-see for your next trip to the Mile High City.
Denver’s Forney Museum of Transportation displays the best of transportation history, from locomotives, to automobiles, to horse-drawn carriages and other antique forms of travel.
Located off Interstate 70 and Brighton Boulevard, near the Denver Coliseum, the museum rotates items from its stored collection and temporary exhibits, so there is always something new to see, says Christof Kheim, museum director.
The museum began with the private collection of J.D. Forney, a Fort Collins native born in 1905. J.D. ‘s first car, purchased himself, was a 1919 model T coupe, which took him through his years of college at Colorado A&M (now CSU), and even earned him a speeding ticket on the campus.
The collection started in 1955 with a 1921 Kissel, a gift from his wife Rae and son Jack. “This was the type of car that J.D. courted his wife in,” Kheim says. Forney also invented the instant-heat sauntering iron and the farm welder (a portable welding
machine that ran off household current), he explains.
Forney Industries was a welding supply chain in Fort Collins that sold items throughout the country. The company occasionally accepted vehicles as pay or trade for welding equipment, hence the beginning of the collection.
From 1955 to 1960, the lineup remained a private collection. In 1961, the collection was officially deemed a non-profit museum. In 1969, the Forney family and Dr. James Arneill, a railroad buff, teamed up to open the Colorado Transportation Museum, located in the building that is now home to the REI Flagship store near downtown Denver. The museum eventually moved to its current location.
Perhaps the most spectacular attraction is the Big Boy, the world’s largest articulated steam locomotive, which took 18 months and more than $750,000 to disassemble and move to its current home. Only 25 were built, eight of which remain and are in museums.
The museum also contains the just-as-striking 1909 Rotary Snowplow, which was built to clear the tracks for the Big Boy, and an impressive collection of other railcars and locomotives.
Other notable exhibits include Amelia Earhart’s 1923 Gold Bug Kissel (nicknamed “The Yellow Peril,” because she was said to have driven the way she flew a plane); a 1927 Rolls Royce, and an 1811 Overland Stagecoach.
A favorite for many visitors is the 1963 Amphicar, borrowed from John Bevins of Berthoud, Colorado. The Amphicar is a German land and sea vehicle. It was great for a trip to the lake, and, with a few quick preparations, a trip across the lake, as well.
Collections also include wooden bicycles, monstrous old farm machinery and mini cars. Mini cars, such as the Freeway, made of fiberglass and with an engine similar to a lawnmower, have been around for decades. The 1958 BMW Isetta 300 is so small that the front of the car doubles as a hatch for the passenger to crawl inside.
Electric cars are also nothing new. Dating to 1916, the Detroit Electric Opera Coupe was marketed as an electric carriage. Throughout the ‘70s and ‘80s, the odd-looking CitiCar was developed in Florida in response to a fuel crisis.
Another eye-catching vehicle in the Denver Forney Museum of Transportation is the 1923 Hispano Suiza Victoria Towncar. Built in Barcelona, the car was originally purchased by Hollywood director D.W. Griffith for a whopping $35,000, which today would be equal to about $532,957. The long, convertible Towncar made several movie appearances, including the 1933 film “My Lips Betray.”
The Forney Museum also is available to rent for birthday parties, meetings and other group events. The museum appreciates donations (both displays and monetary), Kheim says, because it receives no government funding.
History buffs, car lovers and just about anyone will find it worthwhile to make a visit to the Forney Museum of Transportation.
If You Go
Forney Museum of Transportation
4303 Brighton Blvd.
Denver, Colorado 80216
Admission costs $8 for adults, $6 for seniors 62 and older, and $4 for children 3-15; no charge for children under 3.