Brooks steam car – Ottawa Science and Technology Museum

Posted by jerry on May 24th, 2008 — Posted in Steam, Technology

I had read here about the Brooks steam car – made in Canada in the 1920s. The car was underpowered and overpriced, but it was manufactured and more than 100 were built. Only a handful survive. This is a tale of how I got to see one up close and personal.

The article mentioned that there were four in Canadian museums and three in the UK – there may be eight Brooks steam cars left in the world – so it’s a rare item.

Knowing I was to be traveling to Ottawa I emailed the Science and Technology Museum to find out if the car was on display. I received a lovely email in response with apologies that the car was not on display, but I could make an appointment to view the car at their warehouse.

At the appointed time I met with the Assistant Curator for Transportation and was taken to an amazing warehouse with several steam cars – more on those later. The 1926 Brooks Tourer was unmistakable with its fabric body – it looked in amazing condition, as though it was driven in just a week ago.

I was able to take a number of photos that I would not have been able to get if the car were on official display. The first two photos that follow were supplied by the museum and used by permission.

Brooks steam car
Brooks steam car – photo courtesy of the Ottawa Science and Technology Museum – used by permission

Brooks steam car
Brooks steam car – photo courtesy of the Ottawa Science and Technology Museum – used by permission

Brooks steam car
Brooks steam car – photo Jerry Everard ©2008

Brooks steam car
Brooks steam car – photo Jerry Everard ©2008

Brooks steam car
Brooks steam car – photo Jerry Everard ©2008

Brooks steam car
Final drive to rear axle
Brooks steam car – photo Jerry Everard ©2008

Brooks steam car
Boiler left hand side
Brooks steam car – photo Jerry Everard ©2008

Brooks steam car
Brooks steam car – photo Jerry Everard ©2008

Brooks steam car
Brooks steam car – photo Jerry Everard ©2008

Brooks steam car
Brooks steam car – photo Jerry Everard ©2008

More steam cars from this excellent museum will be added over the next few days

Cheers
Jerry

9 Comments »

Comment by Bob Thompson

I enjoyed your Brooks / Ottawa. I have a lot of the parts that were sold at the Brooks auction in the late 1920’s. I plan to restore a brooks chassie. The running chassie would be very interesting as the body hides all the unique operating parts.
Bob

Posted on December 21, 2008 at 1:19 pm

Comment by Bob Thompson

I enjoyed your Brooks / Ottawa. I have a lot of the parts that were sold at the Brooks auction in the late 1920’s. I plan to restore a brooks chassie. The running chassie would be very interesting as the body hides all the unique operating parts.
Bob

Posted on December 21, 2008 at 1:19 pm

Comment by Jim Parker

When I was a very young kid, about 1950, there was a man who lived on Dewhurst Blvd. North of Danforth in Toronto. This gentleman owned a Brooks steamer, that looked like an oversized Model A sedan, and occasionally on summer evenings he would fire it up and cruise silently around our neighbourhood until he saw a youngster and he would stop the car and open the passenger door. “Do you want a ride sonny?” He would probably be arrested for that now, but then it was safe to trust anyone and any car ride was a thrill, so I always readily climbed in. The man drove around a couple of city blocks, then back to the pick-up spot. He liked to demonstrate the Brooks’ unique way of stopping. He moved a lever on the steering column which put the rear wheels (and probably the engine) into reverse. The Brooks stopped as if had run into a brick wall. “Now young fellow, you can say you’ve had a ride in a steam car.”
I suspect that this car eventually made its way into the Craven collection. Does anyone else remember this fine gentleman and his Brooks?

Posted on March 1, 2009 at 12:02 pm

Comment by jerry

Jim,
Thanks for sharing that story on my blog – you are probably right about that bloke being arrested if he tried it these days – but it’s great to think that there was someone driving around and willing to share his passion for the steam car. The ride obviously made an impression on a young lad!

The Brooks – as you can see from the photos – is a very impressive looking car, and would have certainly been quieter than most others in its day. I am told that its weight, coupled with a relatively small boiler for the size of car meant that it was somewhat under-powered and prone to run out of steam if the steam flow was not well managed by the driver.

Thanks again for sharing – that’s a great story about a personal encounter with a rare steam car

Best regards
Jerry

Posted on March 1, 2009 at 2:17 pm

Comment by Elaine

I am currently putting together an article on the Brooks Steamer for a Heritage book on behalf of the Blyth Steam Show – There will be a 1926 Brooks Steamer on display at the Huron Pioneer Thresher and Hobby Association (The Blyth Steam Show – in Blyth Ontario) on September 11, 12, 13, 2009. Thanks for putting a smile on my face Mr. Parker with your memories of the steamer.

Elaine

Posted on April 11, 2009 at 10:32 am

Comment by ken demerling

my father and 2 uncles worked at Brooks,they considered it a most impractical car even though they were all steam fans. My father spent a day driving Mackenzie King around Southern Ontario campaigning in a Brooks. Oland Brooks spent more time bringing western farmers to Stratford as investors than he did trying to sell a $4000 car in a $800 car market

Posted on September 19, 2009 at 11:05 am

Comment by jerry

Thanks for that comment Ken, your father and uncles views are consistent with others who have looked into the Brooks’ history. The Brooks cars appear to have needed considerable skill to marshal the steam reserves from the undersized boilers. That said, some owners report that the cars can maintain a steady 40-45mph with careful driving.

Posted on September 19, 2009 at 7:42 pm

Comment by Don Bouchat

Recently, while sifting through my father’s effects, I found a share certificate issued by the Brooks Steam Motors Limited in 1927 and purchased by my Grand Father. Does anyone out there have any knowledge of what the antique value of these stocks might be?
Feel free to contact me by email.

Don Bouchat

Posted on August 24, 2011 at 7:22 am

Comment by James Tagge

I have a 1924 brooks steam car in very very restorable condition. I am looking to sell it. do you think you could help connect me to anyone who might be interested? I have some video of it.
413 329 6997 413 298 7140

Posted on May 7, 2014 at 6:30 am

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