"Small Town with Big Museum" Brooks by glabah

Brooks Travel Guide: 14 reviews and 124 photos

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.)

About That 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. An annual demonstration ("Threshing Bee" at the time due to the focus on farm machinery) was ongoing through the 1950s and 1960s, with land eventually purchased for a more permanent display and demonstration ground.

The facility kept growing and expanding. 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 railroad 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, as Oregon Electric Railway Historical Society had lost its grounds in the Coast Range and the trucking museum needed a permanent home. During this time, the Oregon Fire Service Museum was also looking for a new home, and started participating in the annual steam-up (which continued to get larger) with steam powered pumping engines and other historical fire equipment.

Today, the entire facility 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 event now called 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.

Pros and Cons
  • Pros:small town, really nice museum complex
  • Cons:Not much else to do, no public transport, no sidewalks, busy roads
  • In a nutshell:Powerland is great, but Brooks is a typical small rural town, only with lots of traffic.
  • Last visit to Brooks: Aug 2007
  • Intro Updated May 9, 2016
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Reviews (14)

Comments (4)

  • Odiseya's Profile Photo
    Mar 18, 2016 at 11:14 PM

    Great presentation of little town and museum complex!

  • BruceDunning's Profile Photo
    Nov 16, 2010 at 2:16 PM

    The area looks so pristine and then things to do-but the railroad seemed too small for me to climb aboard. You presented this very well with good comments and pictures..

  • Camping_Girl's Profile Photo
    Jun 24, 2009 at 7:05 PM

    These are really great tips, Glenn!

  • christine.j's Profile Photo
    Dec 5, 2008 at 12:04 PM

    This looks like a very special museum, I'm sure it attracts lots of enthusiasts.


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