Growing from a private car collection to the eclectic vehicle collection that exists today, the Forney Transportation Museum in Denver, Colorado, contains such oddities as Amelia Earhart’s car, a bashed up Herbie the Love Bug, and one of the world’s largest steam locomotives, all brought to “life” by aging, dead-eyed mannequins.
J.D. Forney, founder of Forney Industries, began his vehicle collection in 1961 after his wife and children gifted him an antique car like the one he had wooed his wife in. Starting with this single car, Forney began to expand, taking in not just unique cars, but strange vehicles of all kinds, adopting the slogan, “Anything on Wheels.” Following this ethos, the collection came into possession of famous cars like Amelia Earhart’s old roadster, the “Gold Bug,” and a version of Herbie the Love Bug that was beat up from filming; strange custom cars with eight wheels and small plastic autos that rolled on just three; weird antique vehicles such as an old medicine show stagecoach and a steam-powered tractor; and maybe most imposing of all, a Union Pacific “Big Boy” steam locomotive, one of the largest ‘engines’ of its kind ever produced (there were only 25 of them ever made).
To fill out the refurbished vehicles, a handful of mannequins were placed behind the wheel or nearby as though admiring the vehicles with their unblinking gaze. Strangely, the original Forney museum location featured a whole exhibit on famed Colorado cannibal Alfred Packer, although this was rightfully mothballed when the museum moved to its current location.
Today the museum still presents one of the most unique vehicle collections anywhere in America, and arguably the world, with over 600 pieces currently in the collection. However, as the collection of odd conveyances continues to grow and change, the mannequins that live in the museum do not, although at this point their strangeness fits right in.