Travel Tips for Brooks
Small Town with Big Museum
"Downtown Brooks smaller than Museum Complex"
There is not much to Brooks, really. It has a single traffic light at highway 99E and Brooklake Road, a railroad crossing, several businesses and residences, a post office, and is the home of a waste to energy power plant and a food processing plant. On the other side of Interstate 5 is a smaller unincorporated community known as "Hopmere" (too small to even appear on VirtualTourst's list of cities and communities) which has a second railroad crossing and a few other small businesses.
That's Brooks - a typical small Willamette Valley town, with a few gas stations to serve the freeway traffic, and one or two industries keeping it alive. In the case of Brooks there is also busy 99E running through the middle it, making it even one of the less livable small Willamette Valley towns as it isn't possible to walk much of anywhere due to the traffic volume and speed, and lack of sidewalks.
With One Huge Exception:
West of interstate 5, there is one of the largest museum complexes in Oregon: Antique Powerland, currently covering some 62 acres and working on buying more land for badly needed expansion, and home of a streetcar museum operated by the Oregon Electric Railway Historical Society, the Brooks Historical Society museum, the Western Steam Fiends, the Oregon Truck Museum, the Antique Caterpillar Machinery Museum, and several other museums.
During the last weekend in July and first weekend in August, the historic machinery all comes to life at the same time during the Great Oregon Steam-up. The first day sometimes sees as many as 10,000 people through the front gate.
For more photos see the Great Oregon Steam-up activity tip and the 2007 Steamup photos.
(Antique Powerland is actually closer to Hopmere than to Brooks, but Hopmere is such a small community that it is not even found in Virtual Tourst. It is found on a number of Oregon maps, however. Official post office address is Brooks, however.)
"The Huge Museum"
In 1952, a group called the Western Steam Fiends was formed. Their primary interest at the time was antique steam machinery, including steam tractors and stationary engines. A small section of farm land was set aside for occasional display and operation.
The facility kept growing. The Willow Creek Railroad eventually added steam (and diesel) powered model trains large enough to ride on. In 1986 the Brooks Historical Society preserved the old Brooks train station from demolition by moving it to the Powerland grounds, and it now serves as the home of the Brooks Historical Society.
In the mid-1990s, streetcars and trucking museums were added to the mix at the site. During this time, the Oregon Fire Service Museum was also looking for a new home, and started participating in the steam-up with steam powered pumping engines and other historical fire equipment.
Today, it is known as Antique Powerland, is the home of several museums, has several more museums raising funds for buildings, and is the site of the Great Oreogn Steam-up.
The Great Oregon Steam-up (see tip) is an event that draws far, far more people to Brooks than live in the town. On some days, the Steam-up has recorded some 10,000 people, while the population of Brooks is less than 500, according to the 2000 census.
This shoould give you some idea of the size of the musem complex vs. the size of the city of Brooks.
A look at Google maps satelite photo feature is also revealing when comparing the size of Brooks to the size of Powerland.
The city is growing also, however. This is particularly the case with the community known as "Hopmere" on the west side of Interstate 5. As time has gone on, the community of Hopmere has grown (mostly due to traffic from the freeway) and most likely the two communities will merge into one long strip along Brooklake Road.
"Other stuff in Brooks"
Brooks does have a few other items of interest. As seen in the top photo, there is the bar and grill at the junction of 99E and Brooklake Road, right in downtown Brooks. Freeway oriented businesses include a gas station and restaurant combination that offers fairly typical freeway amenities. At the 4-way stop sign at Brooklake Road and River road (Hopmere) there is a small store that may be of interest, and may offer snacks, beverages and ice cheaper than you can find right at the freeway (I can't guarantee a better price though since I don't like getting into or out of the gas station by the freeway in the first place, and therefore never go there).
Brooks is also the home of the Marion County waste to energy plant, which does occasionally offer tours of its facility. It may not be the typical tourist activity, but it is the only other real "attraction" in Brooks besides Antique Powerland.
New at the 2010 Great Oregon Steamup
The Great Oregon Steamup 2010 edition had a number of additions over last year, and it was good to see some of the progress going on at this museum complex.
It was also good to see some new equipment here that hadn't visited in the past.
For the 2007 show, the Vintage Car and Motorcycle Museum was simply a concrete slab but the 2010 show marked the first time the museum facility was really complete as a museum building.
The exterior of the new museum is shown above.
The interior of the Vintage Car and Motorcycle Museum is a wonder to behold compared to what used to be here, and is a great home for the historic vehicles that once were looking for a museum home.
While the Oregon Electric Railway Historical Society once had a small museum at their facility in the Oregon Coast Range, they had to move away from there in 1997. Their interpretive displays have been temporary since then, but today they have a new building, which will be their interpretive center, under construction on the grounds of Antique Powerland. Indeed, during the 2010 Great Oregon Steamup the roofers were there doing work on the building, even over the weekend.
The museum buidling is based on a standardized Southern Pacific station design, and the trolley track runs right behind the station.
The Pacific Northwest Logging Museum is still working on putting a building here at Brooks, but their collection continues to be a bit better organized, and during the 2010 steamup there were logging skills demonstrations such as pole climbing, ax throwing and log rolling. This was more involved than this group has ever been in the past during the steamup, and as their museum plans develop we can hope for more!
I have videos of the log rolling and the ax throwing.
More and more material from the Oregon Military Museum shows up every year at the Great Oregon Steamup, and 2010 brought yet more antique military equipment, as well as not-so antique military equipment for the display here.
Military displays at the Great Oregon Steamup this year included this World War I era truck, which is one of a very few left in operating condition.
During the steamup, the Oregon Military Museum was amazed to discover an appropriate horn for the vehicle, long missing and sought for, at the "swap meet" section of the Steamup.
Since the 2008 show, there has been some progress on restoring the huge stationary engine from the Mount Emily Lumber Company. Compared to the 2008 photograph the machine is starting to come together, though restoring something of this size and constructing the concrete foundation for it is certainly an interesting challenge.
A first ever at the Great Oregon Steamup was the firing of blank munitions by one of the military tanks brought here for the 2010 show.
However, the still photos really don't show the Great Oregon Steamup as it really should be seen. The idea behind the steamup is to see everything in motion and operating as intended. As of this writing, I have uploaded some 37 videos to the Brooks section of Virtual Tourist, and as time goes, on there may very well be more.
From the 2010 show alone these include:
+ Steam Powered Ice Cream Making near the steam powered sawmill
+ Case Steam Traction Engine operating through the grounds. We've seen this engine in a previous video or two, but it isn't moving under its own power in those.
+ Westinghouse Steam Traction Engine and just like the above we have seen this one in a previous video, but only operating as a stationary machine.
+ Log Rolling from the Pacific Northwest Logging Museum
+ Ax Throwing from the Pacific Northwest Logging Museum
+ Double Headed Steam Train on the Willow Creek Railroad
+ Miniature Model of an Antique Gas Engine operating in one of the display areas.
+ Antique Fire Engine on its way through the display area
+ Logging Demonstration Using 1/8th Scale Models of Logging Equipment is far easier than trying to transport, rebuild and maintain the historic big stuff you see at various museums. You won't see too much in this video (the stuff moves at 1/8 of its actual speed!) until about 2/3 of the way through the logs that have been raised up will be swung over the log cart. You will be able to see the log boom move.
It was a very good but tiring two weekends and the heat really hit us hard on the first weekend. I hope all who came had as good a time as the exhibitors did.
What Was New in 2008 at Antique Powerland
Every year some things are a little different at the Great Oregon Steamup. These are a few of the things that were different for the 2008 show.
Some years back, Antique Powerland received a huge staionary engine that was built in 1925 for the Mount Emily Lumber Company. A new home is being built for the huge engine, but it isn't likely that the nearby boiler for the sawmill will power it. Instead, current plans are to use an electric motor to run it every once in a while.
Here is the 1925 builder's plate from the huge stationary engine that will soon be part of the Antique Powerland.
This diesel locomotive was built in World War II to serve the docks in Portland. It sat disused for a lot of years, and will need some restoration work.
This flanger, for removing ice from between the rails so that trains don't hit it and derail, has been undergoing extensive restoration work. This is the best this unit has looked in many years.
This unit as well as the locomotive, above, are owned by the Pacific Northwest Chapter of the National Railway Historical Society in Portland.
The car club built a gazebo as part of their parkland area. This gazebo had a display of antique toy cars and trucks in it.
For several years now, there has been a collection of logging equipment on the grounds of Antique Powerland. This year, the group has made a little progress as far as labeling the equipment and making sure that people know that they are in fact an active group.
Usually there is a small display of a few items from World War II at the Great Oregon Steamup. In 2008, there was a much, much larger display of a fairly wide variety of antique military machines.
As usual there were quite a number of antique automobiles, though the mixture was a little different this year, and included a number of fairly recent (though still over 30 years old) vehicles, as well as some real classics.
The 2006 Steamup at Antique Powerland
Just before the opening day of the 2006 Great Oregon Steamup, the Oregon Electric Railway Museum received this car from Porto, Portugal. Supposedly it was to add to the operable car fleet, as all of the museum's current cars are project cars. The hope was to be able to give the Australian open car a bit of a rest for some badly needed work.
As the car arrived just before the opening of the 2006 Great Oregon Steam-up, it wound up staying in this rather inconvenient location for most of the 2006 show.
While the Oporto car was later proven to be operable, the fact is that getting it into usable condition will be another project, and the Oregon Electric Railway Museum didn't need another project car! They wanted an operable car!
Watching operable equipment is what the Great Oregon Steamup is about. This early Fairbanks-Morse engine was used to operate the railroad bridge between Oregon and Washington at Wishram, and was retired in the 1950s.
As you can see from this long shutter opening, the engine is in operating condition, and is running for the show.
This caterpillar D-9 "Quad" (four tracks, two machines operating off of a single control stand) was on display during the show. It made its first appearance at the 2006 show. It was part of the display by the caterpillar museum but I don't think it is part of the parmanent museum collection.
The 2006 show was the first one to feature the "Flanger", which is a snow removal car. It was undergoing restoration when this photo was taken in 2006.
In 2006, TriMet (the transit agency in Portland, Oregon) was celebrating the 20th year of MAX operation. As part of that celebration, they produced a set of headboard advertisements featuring early photos of public transit in Portland. One set of these were donated to the Oregon Electric Railway Musem, and thus they wound up in the Australian open car.
The 2006 Steamup was the first time these had been displayed at Brooks.
There are always several operating steam tractors, as there is quite a collection of them at Antique Powerland. This is just one of the examples.
As usual, the stationary engines were an interesting part of the show.
For more information see the various tips on:
Great Oregon Steamup
and the various links from those tips to the web sites and specific tips to museum groups and official web sites of museums that participate in the steamup.
Great Oregon Steam-up 2005
These photos we all taken during the Great Oregon Steamup in 2005. For more information on this annual event, which features operating historic machinery, see my Great Oregon Steam-up tip.
The ornate little stationary engine in the photo above demonstrates everything I like about the steam-up: you get to see interesting and unusual pieces of equipment in operation. There are several hundred such historic pieces from all over the west coast that are brought to Brooks for this event.
Great Oregon Steam-up 2005 included a few firsts. One of them was the first time the Oregon Electric Railway Museum was able to operate their trolley all the way to the old Brooks station that now houses the Brooks Historical Society.
This new section of track was placed in the ground, under the grass level. It was then encased in concrete and the grass and dirt replaced. The result is an attractive surface level track that doesn't pose a triping hazard to anyone, can be driven over anywhere, and at the same time is perfectly suitable for operation.
Another interesting piece that was added for the 2005 Stea-up was this Jordan Spreader, which lives back by the Steam Crane. This machine is used to plow snow, dirt, and other items off of the track and right of way. It is owned by the Pacific Northwest Chapter, National Railway Historical Society and is the first piece of railway equipment they own that has a permanent museum home. They were unable to find a museum location in the Portland area, and so are moving some of their museum pieces here to Powerland.
As usual, the Western Steam Fiends spent a lot of time doing their railway steam crane demonstration. Here, the steam crane silently waits for an early morning start.
To serve as a flag pole, the Fire Service Museum puts an American flag on one of its fire trucks, and runs it as high as it will go. The result is a huge American flag over 100 feet in the air, without having to have a permanent flag pole. This tradition has been followed for quite some time at the Steam-up, and the same was true for the 2005 show.
I enjoy watching the old machinery operate. Really, it isn't any fun just watching it sit around. This Russell steam tractor is one of the interesting antique vehicles of all types you will find operating around the grounds during the steamup.
My first contact with the historic fire equipment was a steam powered fire pumper that visited the Great Oregon Steam-up sometime around 1996. As time has gone on, more and more fire equipment started visiting, and now it is the goal of the Fire Service Museum to build a museum on the grounds.
These historic fire trucks are just one example of some of this wonderful old fire fighting equipment that is now visiting Brooks from time to time during steam-up and would probably find a home when such a museum is completed.
This photo also gives you some idea as to the sheer size of the flag that is used during the steam-up, and the height to which it is raised on the fire truck ladder.
With a long shutter speed, it is possible to see the motion of these small stationary engines on display and operating while here at Brooks for the Steam-up. Much of this is privately owned visiting equipment that only comes here for the steam-up.
For more photos, please see the photos of the 2007 steamup, as well as the various tips relating to Antique Powerland and the various museum organizations that operate there. This includes the Antique Caterpillar Machinery Museum and Oregon Electric Railway Museum and the Willow Creek Railroad and the Pacific Northwest Truck Museum and other organizations.