Presentation to focus on Brooks Locomotive Works

SPOTLIGHT: Dunkirk’s proud history

Submitted Photo An 1870 image of the Brooks Locomotive Works in Dunkirk. 2019 marks the 150th Anniversary of Horatio Brooks taking over the locomotive works and a special lecture on the topic will take place Aug. 21 at Point Gratiot Park in Dunkirk, presented by the Chautauqua County Historical Society.

The Chautauqua County Historical Society’s annual picnic will take place in Dunkirk on Aug. 21 at Point Gratiot Park. The event will also feature a lecture by local historians Roy Davis and Roger Schulenberg, focusing on the 150th Anniversary of the opening of Brooks Locomotive Works.

The Brooks Locomotive Works operated out of Dunkirk and manufactured steam railroad locomotives and freight cars from 1869 until its merger into the American Locomotive Company (ALCO) in 1901. As part of lecture, Davis and Schulenberg will share details of the history of the locomotive works and its founder, Horatio Brooks, the former chief engineer of the New York and Erie Railroad (NY&E).

“The story of Horatio Brooks and the Brooks Locomotive Works is the story of how Dunkirk was able to grow and flourish in post-Civil War America,” explained County Historical Society program committee chair Jason Sample. “It was through his efforts that a major industry was able to remain in the city, providing locomotives for railroads across the US for the remainder of the 19th century and on into the 20th century.”

Brooks was born in Portsmouth, New Hampshire in 1828. After becoming an adult and finding work in the burgeoning railroad industry, he made his way to Dunkirk, serving as engineer of the first train to arrive in 1851. He would eventually live and work in Dunkirk and, in 1869, he and investors leased the locomotive shops owned by the NY&E and renamed it the Brooks Locomotive Works. In 1883 he took over as owner of the operation.

In addition to his significant contribution to the local economy of Dunkirk, Brooks also contributed in a civic capacity, serving as mayor for three terms. He died in 1887 but his plant continued to operate for nearly 40 more years.

During the picnic, Davis and Schulenberg will focus on Brooks’ life as well as how he was able to save the Dunkirk locomotive shop and keep it in operation into the 20th century.

“The Brooks name remains embedded in the Dunkirk region. Anyone who’s lived in Dunkirk and wants to learn more about a key figure in the city’s early history will want to hear the presentation by Roy and Roger,” Sample said. “The Chautauqua County Historical Society is very happy to be partnering with these two men to bring this special presentation to the Dunkirk community.”

The presentation will take place immediately following the society’s annual picnic. That picnic begins at 6 p.m. on Wednesday, Aug. 21 at the large pavilion in Dunkirk’s Point Gratiot park.

“We’d like to give special thanks to the city of Dunkirk for providing us with a wonderful venue so we can present the lecture in the hometown of Brooks Locomotive Works,” Sample said.

The event is free and open to the public and attendees are asked to bring a dish to pass. If possible, please RSVP with CCHS by Friday afternoon, Aug. 16 by calling 326-2977 or emailing cchs@mcclurgmuseum.org.

About the Society: The Chautauqua County Historical Society was established in 1883 and is the oldest historical society in Chautauqua County. Since 1951, the organization has been based out of the historic McClurg Mansion (built in 1818) in Westfield. Annual Membership rates start at just $20. All members are given free access to the museum year-round and a subscription to the quarterly “Time Lines” newsletter. For more information, call 326-2977, visit www.McClurgMuseum.org, follow the group on Facebook at www.facebook.com/ChautauquaCountyHistory or contact the Historical Society at cchs@McClurgMuseum.org

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