This was one of the last forays into steam locomotion, which was undertaken by Brooks Steam Motors between 1923 and 1929. Brooks Steam Motor Ltd. was created out of the Detroit Steam Motors Corporation and spearheaded by the American financier, Oland J. Brooks. In 1923, after demonstrating a prototype car at the Toronto Exhibition that same year, an agreement was reached with Stratford and an old threshing factory was purchased.
Mr. Brooks had big dreams for his factory, including the manufacturing of three different vehicle models; however, only one car type was ever produced. One of the unique characteristics of the Brooks Steamer was its fabric body, which was constructed using Meritas brand cloth (a composite material formed from wire netting, two layers of wadding, canvas and an outer layer of two-ply artificial leather), manufactured in nearby Wakefield, Ontario.
By the 1920s, gasoline cars were building momentum as they started more quickly and were able to move faster. The Brooks Steamer tried to find its market with women. One pamphlet read: “Women motorists, who invariably grasp the wheel as rigidly as the arm of a dentist's chair, now relax and take it easy when they drive a Brooks steamer.” But this campaign was unsuccessful. Despite expectations of employing hundreds, by 1925, the factory had a mere 90 employees.
The company attempted to expand in other directions. In 1924, an English representative was appointed, and plans were made to export the cars to Britain. One model was displayed at the October 1924, Olympia, London automobile show, but at £996 it was priced out of the market.
In late 1926, it was announced that Brooks would open a factory in Buffalo, New York, in order to build steam buses. In the summer of 1927, a prototype bus was constructed by the Buffalo Body Company. At the time, the main bus show in the United States was held at the annual convention of the trolley car association, the American Electric Railway Association. The steam powered bus was displayed at the October 1927 show in Cleveland, Ohio. It was the first time a steam-driven vehicle had been shown there but was seen more as a novelty vehicle than the future of public transportation.
Despite attempts at innovation, by 1929, the shareholders decided that the company was no longer viable, and the Stratford factory was liquidated. By 1931, the company had disbanded, and is now folded into the history of The Bruce Hotel.
On March 13th, 2010 at 6:52 a.m. I summited Mt. Kilimanjaro. It is a cliché to compare a big life experience to climbing a mountain, but clichés are clichés for a reason.
It is true the creation of the hotel has been as physically and emotionally demanding as Kili was. It is true that even thorough preparation can only get you so far on either a mountain or a construction site. Those are pretty obvious comparisons, but there are a few others that are less obvious.
The Summit Isn't The Hardest Part
When you are climbing a mountain, everyone thinks about the summit. When you are building a hotel, everyone thinks about the opening. Those photo ops are quickly forgotten when the reality of the next phase sets in. For me, the most difficult phase of Kili was the initial descent. Already exhausted from the summit push which began at midnight, I faced another ten hours of hiking to reach camp. It was steep. It was treacherous. I got more bumps and bruises in those ten hours then in all the ascent.
I have no illusions that the first few weeks in operation at the hotel will be any different. When the champagne flutes are all put away, we will be facing a steep trek that allows very little room for error.
Other People Can't Make You Succeed
On the mountain, I was surrounded by a great team to support me and I was buoyed by all the friends and family at home who were rooting me on. No one, though, could get me to the top if I wasn’t willing to fight for it. I realized that in a misty rock-strewn valley. I realized that in every agonizing step of the final summit push. When the weight of that sunk in, so did this overwhelming feeling of solitude.
Thousands of miles and a couple of years later, I flashed back to that cold, dark mountaintop. I was standing in a condo in downtown Toronto surrounded by tile samples and paint chips, but the feeling was exactly the same. There are dozens of people working on this project and dozens more rooting for its success. Its creation, though, was only going to happen if I fought for it.
And I did. And I do. Every moment of every day.
Bravery Is Overrated
On occasion, someone will talk about how brave they think I am, and I will smile and bite my tongue. There are a few reasons I don’t like that word. First, it tends to indicate an element of danger. Certainly, there is some level of risk to many of the things I do, but every tiny detail has been thought through before I begin the journey. I don't like to fail, so I never take on a
challenge I don't think I can succeed at. I also don't like the word because it infers that you have to have one unique character trait to live your dreams. It isn't about bravery.
Vision. Determination. Sacrifice.
Those are the three things that got me to the top of a mountain. Those are the three things that are getting a hotel built.