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Forney Museum and Colorado Model Railroad Museum 7/3/2021

by Chris Guenzler

Elizabeth and I pulled into the parking lot and parked the car.

History of the Forney Museum

The Forney Museum of Transportation began as the private collection of Mr. J. D. Forney of Fort Collins, Colorado. From an early age Mr. Forney had an interest in cars, airplanes, and all modes of transportation. He was born in Enid, Oklahoma on January 27, 1905. Due to a family breakup, J. D. lived some of his childhood on his Uncle Mert's farm in Missouri. There he learned how to do a full day's work at an early age helping with chores. He ran away when he was 14 and was on his own from then on. He knew how to work hard, and delighted in doing a man's work and receiving a man's wages.

J.D. attended his first years of high school back in Enid, where he purchased his first car, a 1919 Model T Coupe. He spent his senior year in Sterling, Colorado, where his older brother Clarence was the Industrial Arts teacher. He also worked part time in the local grocery store, and played on the high school football team. 1919 Kissel While a student at Sterling, J.D. traded his Model T for a used 1919 Kissel touring car.

He brought this car with him when he enrolled at Colorado A&M, (Aggies), which is now CSU. (He confessed that he had been ticketed for speeding around the oval there.) It was here at college that he met and courted Rachel Krickbaum in his Kissel car. A few years later, she was to become Mrs. J.D. Forney.

After years of hard farm labor, J. D. knew that he did not want farming to be his life's work. In his youth he had often sold products door to door to earn extra money and enjoyed the work. After college he began selling encyclopedias.

In 1932 the Depression limited sales and J. D. looked for other ways to support his family. He invented and patented a unique "Instant Heat Soldering Iron" and the Forney Manufacturing Company was formed. Its headquarters was the basement of his home in Fort Collins, where he began to manufacture and sell his invention, with considerable assistance from his wife.

This original soldering iron worked from a car battery and was ready to solder as soon as you touched the metal. In the early 1930's, he developed a 110V transformer to operate the soldering iron. This then developed into a small welder, and after that, a larger welder.

In the late 1930's, J.D. had a vision of a welding machine that would work with the electricity available from the newly developed REA farm electrical system. Such a welder had to be able to operate satisfactorily from small rural transformers. His was the first 'limited input welder'. When REA approved his welder, his vision moved forward rapidly. These welders were easy enough for the average man to operate, and soon Forney Manufacturing Company became known as the pioneer in "farm welding". For many years Forney Manufacturing led the nation in the production of farm welders.

Other products followed, including battery chargers, spot welders, welding supplies, vacuum cleaners, training film production, water ski's, and even aircraft (Fornaire Aircoupe). The affiliated companies became Forney Industries.

In 1955 J.D.'s wife Rae and son Jack, decided that J.D. needed a diversion from business and secretly conspired to locate a Kissel Kar similar to the one he owned in high school. They had hoped he would enjoy tinkering with the car and perhaps drive it to work or take it for Sunday drives.

A Kissel was found and Jack arranged to have it painted yellow. J.D. did indeed drive it to work quite often, and a photo of him in his Kissel was published in the "Forney Flashes", a Forney Industries weekly that went out to over 600 field representatives around the country.

As soon as the 'Flashes' hit the field a call came in to J.D. from one of the field representatives, "I have a 1915 Model T that I can trade straight across for a Model C Welder. Are you interested?" Similar calls began to come in. J.D. was no stranger to barter from his days in the cash-poor Depression and couldn't resist the temptation to acquire the cars he was interested in. He especially responded to calls that mentioned the owner needed to get rid of the car and was going to junk it or sell it to kids to make a hot rod. From then on J. D. began trading welders for and buying automobiles and carriages. The collection began to grow.

Jack was running the manufacturing plant and one of his employees was a draftsman who had grown up in his father's shop - a shop which restored antique automobiles. Jack mentioned to J.D. that he could release him for a half week at a time, if J.D. would like his help in restoring his growing collection. Within a month, Jack had to hire a new draftsman, as J.D. had him working full time on the cars. The manufacturing plant employed experienced welders, mechanics, carpenters, machinists, painters, etc., so many restoration projects began to be worked on between production schedules.

In time, J.D. began to receive invitations requesting the use of his antique automobiles in parades and events in nearby communities. Mrs. Forney was a collector of antique clothing, so often employees with their families, as well as the Forney family, dressed in authentic period clothing for the event, young and old alike. They were trained to drive the horseless carriages or classic cars.

Three or four times a year, 6 to 16 vehicles would become part of a parade or special event in the area. Jack and Pat's matched team of black Morgan horses were used to pull one of the elegant Victorian carriages in these parades. This required an entirely different sort of "driver". Often the cars were driven from Fort Collins to the nearby community and drew quite a bit of attention as they rolled down the highway to their destination. This continued for about 8 years. At this time, it was still just J.D. and Rae's private collections and the idea for a museum had not yet emerged.

At first, the collection was housed in his garage, and an attached building J.D. had used to build welding equipment in the 1940's. But Donart Printers, (an affiliated commercial printing firm on the premises) was growing, so a new building was constructed on LaPorte Avenue with the possibility that Don Art could expand into it. However, J.D. began storing some of his vehicles there before Don Art had expanded enough to move in.

His collection began to occupy more and more of the space in the new building. The restoration shop was moved into the back of the building as J.D. began to acquire more vehicles that needed work, including some "basket cases". Don Art made other plans for their expansion.

J.D.'s collecting continued. A small German locomotive was purchased from a New York amusement park. Motorcycles, buggies, wagons, carriages and most anything with wheels were added. Local residents and employee's families increasingly desired to view the collection, so J.D.'s grandchildren were enlisted as cashiers, and to dust and polish the vehicles. The collection was usually open on Saturdays and sometimes Sunday afternoons. Children were charged 10 cents and adults, 25 cents. The collection grew and grew, so in 1961, it was incorporated and became the Forney Museum, a non-profit charitable organization.

In 1965, Mr. Forney served on a planning committee bringing a Billy Graham crusade to Denver. Here he met Jerry Von Frelic who was the originator of "Cinderella City", one of the first giant shopping malls in the country. Mr. Von Frelic offered J.D. free rent if he would move the collection to his new mall. This would give the museum more exposure, while drawing people to the mall, a good deal for both of them. The museum remained there for about 2 years.

Due to limited space and other operational difficulties, Mr. Forney began to seek a new location. His collection now numbered over 200 vehicles, including another locomotive and some rail cars. The Denver Tramway Powerhouse, a large brick historic building near the Platte River became available. The Tramway Power House was built in 1901 to house the boilers and engines to generate the electricity for the Denver Trolley system that blanketed the Denver Metropolitan area until 1950. Another collector, Dr. James Arneill, a prominent Denver surgeon, had several railcars and six antique automobiles. He partnered with J.D. to purchase the building to house both collections and was active in raising money for the Museum in it's new home. The collections were moved to the Powerhouse in 1968.

Shortly after the move, Union Pacific donated a 4-8-8-4 Alco "Big Boy" Locomotive 4005, the largest steam locomotives ever built. Only 8 of these giants remain today. Donated vehicles of all sorts began to be more prevalent than acquisitions. These donations could be written off the donor's taxes, providing a benefit for both the museum and the donor.

The Museum remained in the tramway building for 30 years, remaining a well known landmark along I-25. The museum, however, continued to grow and finally began outgrowing the Tramway building. Also, the high cost of restoring the continually deteriorating structure was becoming prohibitive. All restoration had to be done to historic site specifications and often involved considerable time navigating red tape and ongoing negotiations. Asbestos and lead paint in the old building had to be addressed also. Much of the time and money that was to have been used to upgrade the exhibits and make the area more comfortable for visitors was redirected to maintaining the building. The idea of moving the entire collection was staggering, and the museum made several efforts over the years to secure sufficient funding for the museum to continue operation.

J.D.'s health began failing in the mid '80s and Jack took over managing the activities of the museum. In October 1998, under his direction, the Museum sold the Platte Street building to sporting goods retailer REI. It ran them around $40 million to restore the old building to a level the Museum could never have achieved. A warehouse facility on Brighton Blvd. next to the Denver Coliseum was purchased. Renovations began in 1998. With the help of many volunteers and the loan of needed equipment, most of the collection was moved to the new building by the spring of 1999. It took 2 years of negotiations, permits, track laying, etc. to move the Big Boy locomotive to its new home, ultimately costing over $750,000. (The moving of the collection is a story unto itself for another issue.)

From the move to the opening of the "new" Museum, we were very fortunate to have hired our director, Pam Johnson Bestall, whose tireless work and creativity has been invaluable in this undertaking. Her interest in the collection and understanding of its historic value made her an extremely valuable asset.

In January 2001 the Museum opened to the public in this spacious 140,000 square foot facility. Only 70,000 square feet of space is now being utilized for exhibition and administrative purposes. The remaining space is available for future expansion when funds are available. The entire museum collection, including the train equipment and Big Boy steam locomotive, is now housed indoors.

Along with his wife Rae, J.D. spent untold hours with the museum over the years. Their children and grandchildren have also worked extensively on the museum. Jack Forney and his family continue to do so. Most museum exhibits are from J.D.'s collection and were donated to the Forney Museum of Transportation. Jack and Pat Forney have put a tremendous amount of time, energy and money into the Museum. It is through their dedication this historical treasure has been kept alive.

Our Visit

In the parking lot there was something new to see since my last visit in 2016 with Robin Bowers.

Denver and Rio Grande Western caboose 01447.

The entrance to the Forney Museum. We went in and paid the admission to see this wonderful museum.

The Forney Locomotive 0-4-4T 108 built in 1897. Jack Forney purchased this engine in 1997 and gave it the markings of F&CPVRy which stood for "Forney and Central Platte Valley Railway" in honor of the museum's previous location, at the confluence of Cherry Creek and the South Platte River.

Forney & Central Platte Valley Railway Swedish 1909 Rail Combo Car purchased from the Midwest Central Railroad in Mount Pleasant, Iowa.

Union Pacific Big Boy 4-8-8-4 4005.

The inside of 4005's cab with every knob and lever lettered.

Denver and Rio Grande Western dining car 804 "Pikes Peak" built in 1927 and in service until the late 1960's.

Denver and Salt Lake coach 715 built in 1906 and purchased by the museum in 1976.

Colorado and Southern caboose 10501.

Henschel and Son 0-4-0T 7 built in 1930. It worked for an unknown Danish railway line until it was bought in 1961 by Arthur Seifert. In 1962, Seifert sold it to the museum.

Union Pacific Rotary Snow Plow 900099 built in 1909 as 099 for the Laramie, Hahns Peak & Pacific Railroad, which operated a one hundred and eleven mile line south from Laramie, Wyoming, to Coalmont, Colorado.

Chicago & North Western 4-6-0 444 built in 1906. In 1958, it was sold in to the Black Hills Central Railroad and then to the Forney Transportation Museum in 1968.

Union Pacific Derrick 903053. It was built in 1901 as 02801 and is the oldest known surviving derrick built by the Industrial Works of Bay City, Michigan.

Denver and Rio Grande Western GP30 3006 built in 1962 and in service until 1998. The museum acquired it in 2018.

Polk Brothers business car PB1 which was originally owned by the Polk family of Chicago. They owned a chain of appliance stores in the Chicago area known as the Polk Brothers. This car was used in 1968 to celebrate the 150th anniversary of Illinois becoming a state. The car has a lounge, 3 bedrooms (1 for guests, one for the assistant and one for the railroad president) a dining room, staff quarters and a kitchen.

Track equipment and a Union Pacific speeder.

A picture of a speeder on the trestle in Wagon Wheel Gap, Colorado.

Baltimore & Ohio locomotive bell that you can ring.

Denver Tramway cable car 40 which was used on 15th Street in the city. It was built in 1886 as horse car 271 then converted to a cable car in 1888. It is believed to be the oldest powered streetcar in Colorado.

Denver Tramway streetcar 77 built by Woeber Carriage Company in 1906.

Denver Tramway streetcar 77 information board.

Union Pacific station bench. This ends our coverage of the Forney Museum. We visted the gift shop but failed to buy anything. From here we made our way to US 85 which I drove us up to Lasalle, Colorado.

The Lasalle Union Pacific station built in 1907.

The first true surprise of the trip, a section of rail of the first railroad in America located in Quincy, Massachusetts built in 1826. I never expected this in Lasalle, Colorado. We next drove north to Greeley to Jersey Mike's for lunch before our next stop of the trip.

Colorado Model Railroad Museum

While just three years old, David G. Trussell lost his father during the Battle of the Bulge during the latter stages of World War II. Born from this family tragedy was an interest in trains and model railroading that has lasted Trussell a lifetime. His mother moved back in with her folks in the tiny Missouri town of Shelbina where her father worked as the station agent for the Burlington Railroad. In the ensuing years David was a regular fixture at his granddad’s depot, growing up to the sound of telegraph keys, the dependable ticking of the huge station clock gracing a marble lined waiting room and the roar of passing trains.

In 1949 his mother remarried, and the family moved to the Ozarks, but Trussell's interest in trains didn’t wane. Imagine his excitement when he encouraged his cub scout pack to wrangle a ride on the final passenger train run from Osceola to Lowry City and back, a staggering distance of five miles.

As his family moved from the Ozarks, David maintained his railroad hobby interests and created his first scratch-built HO scale structure while in high school. After college he served as a lieutenant in the United States Army, including a 1965-66 stint in Vietnam, where he managed to hop a ride on an armored train from Saigon to an air base some 30 miles distant just to appease his appetite for visiting railroads.

Many home layouts followed after his discharge, each one larger and more detailed than its predecessor. These culminated in the building of a giant modular model railroad big enough to fill an entire gymnasium. The layout was transported in two trailers and visited sites from Kansas City, Missouri, to Seattle, Washington. While in Seattle at the Train Show portion of the National Model Railroad Association Convention his Denver, Greeley and Tahoe layout earned the ultimate first place show ribbon. By this time there was a skilled core group of volunteers from the Northern Colorado area who became the original volunteers for what is now the Colorado Model Railroad Museum.

After a 32-year career in journalism publishing more than a half dozen newspapers in the western United States, in 2002, Trussell sold his newspaper stock and "retired". The idea of returning something positive to the community was born during a discussion with Kenny Monfort, a successful businessman in the Greeley, Colorado, area who urged him to return something of lasting value to the local community. Taking Kenny’s suggestion to heart, David took stock of his talents and the idea of designing and building the “Greeley Freight Station Museum” (eventually the Colorado Model Railroad Museum) was born.

Ground was broken for the museum in 2002 and construction required his total commitment for the next seven years as the 10,000 square foot facility and its contents took shape, sometimes at an inch-at-a-time pace.

Becoming a 501(c)3 non-profit entity in 2008, the museum was filled with railroad artifacts and revealed to the public during a grand opening conducted on Memorial Day weekend in 2009. Since that time more than 150,000 visitors have enjoyed what former Model Railroader Magazine Senior Editor Jim Hediger says is "…the finest model railroad I've ever seen"!

Our Visit

We drove up and parked the car. This building once was the Union Pacific freight house in Greeley.

The museum emblem on the wall of the building.

All the railroads of Colorado. We went inside and waited a couple of minutes for the manager to let us in.

Union Pacific station boards and all the volunteers and contributors to the museum.

The dispatching office.

On the east wall of the building.

My first picture of the model railroad.

We were given a signal display demonstration by one of the members.

The signal going to the yellow aspect.

The signal in the yellow aspect.

The signal in the green aspect.

The grade crossing signal with the stop sign displayed.

Engines on the model railroad.

Locomotive cab demonstrator. I went up the steps to the balcony that is on the west wall and north wall of the building.

Colorado and Southern caboose 10583.

Model of the H.M.S. Norfolk battle ship.

Looking down on the very impressive HO model railroad.

Lanterns from various railroads in the United States.

EMD builder's plates and Milwaukee Road railroad emblem.

More lanterns.

Looking down at one of the most fabulous railroads I have ever seen.

Railroad china.

Amtrak conductor uniform.

Pullman towels from various railroads.

A variety of railroad signs on the west wall.

Pandora model train display.

A very special collection of HO scale railroad cars and engines.

A marker light and Lionel metal signs.

Railroad pictures.

Two Kodachrome Santa Fe units pulling a blue and yellow Santa Fe engine on a freight train.

Two display cases.

Two coach seats, more comfortable than most Amtrak seats.

The southwest wall of the building.

A train crossing the high bridge and the Rio Grande Zephyr passing by.

A variety of engines.

The steamship Winchester Bay based out of Seattle.

A tank farm.

The Edmund Fitzgerald.

An Amtrak train with locomotives in various paint schemes.

The circus display at this great museum.

The California Zephyr.

Railroad displays on the south wall.

Two more locomotives.

4449 pulling a Southern Pacific passenger train.

The Lego train layout.

Illuminated Christmas layout. We visited the gift shop and bought two lapel pins then returned to the car. We drove a block and a half to the next depot.

The Union Pacific Greeley depot built in 1930.

Information board about the Greeley station. We were not quite finished with Greeley as I took Elizabeth to the next street to the east of the tracks.

Milwaukee Road coach 604, originally 489, built 1946. Retired 1971 and sold to SOO Line who converted it to work train service bunk car X-621.

Milwaukee Road coach 620, originally 515, built 1948. Retired 1971 and sold to SOO Line who converted it to work train service bunk car X-622.

Milwaukee Road coach 487, built 1946. Retired 1971 and sold to SOO Line who converted it to work train service kitchen-diner X-620.

A picture of the three cars which are owned by a private individual.

USLX double-door box car 210. We still have more to show you from Greeley.

Union Pacific Burns, Wyoming depot at Centennial Village which was behind a fence.

Another wig-wag crossing signal at Centennial Village.

Union Pacific 4264 East at Lucerne, Colorado. From here I drove us to Fort Collins where we stopped at the Colorado Welcome Center and picked up two state maps for our collection then checked into the Clarion Inn. After we did our Internet activities, I wrote the Tiny Town story then we went to Subway for dinner. After dinner, I labelled the pictures and we then wrote the rest of the day's story. We called it an early night after a very good day of railfanning activities.