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The first toy trains were made from lead and had no moving parts. Some had wheels which flipped, but these had to be pulled or pushed. Some of the early 19th-century drive toy trains were made from tinplate, such as the big, durable, stylized locomotive toys from the U.S., that were painted gold and red and decorated with hearts and flowers. ho model trains youtube

Around 1875, technological improvements in materials and manufacturing enabled tin to be scraped, cut, rolled, and lithographed faster than previously.
Toy trains were altered when Märklina German firm which specialized in doll house accessories, sought to make an equal toy for boys in which a continuous revenue stream could be ensured by selling add-on accessories for years after the initial purchase. Along with boxed sets comprising a train and monitor, Märklin offered extra track, rolling stock, and buildings offered separately, creating the predecessor to the modern model train layout featuring scenery and buildings in addition to a working train.

Electric trains followed, with the first appearing in 1897, produced from the U.S. firm Carlisle & Finch. As home use of power became more prevalent from the early 20th century, electric trains gained popularity and as time went on, these electric trains grew in sophistication, gaining lighting, the ability to change management, to emit a whistling sound, to smoke, to remotely couple and uncouple cars and even load and unload freight. Toy trains from the first half of the 20th century were often made of lithographed tin; later trains were frequently made mainly of plastic.
Prior to the 1950s, there was little distinction between toy trains and model railroads–model railroads were toys by definition. Pull toys and wind-up trains were marketed towards children, while electrical trains were marketed towards teens, particularly teenaged boys. It was during the 1950s the modern emphasis on realism in model railroading started to catch on.
Consumer interest in trains as toys waned in the late 1950s, but has undergone resurgence since the late 1990s due in large part to the popularity of Thomas the Tank Engine.

Today, S gauge and O gauge railroads continue to be considered toy trains by their adherents and are often accessorized with semi-scale model buildings by Plasticville or K-Line (who owns the rights to the Plasticville-like buildings created by Marx in the 1950s to the 1970s). However, as a result of their high cost, one is more inclined to locate an HO scale or N scale train set in a toy store than a O scale set.

Many modern electrical toy trains contain sophisticated electronics which emit digitized sound effects and permit the operator to securely and easily run multiple remote controller trains on a single loop of course. In recent years, many toy rail operators may operate a train with a TV camera at the front part of the motor and hooked up to a display, such as computer monitor. This will show a picture, like that of a real (smaller size) railroad)

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