The earliest toy trains were made of lead and had no moving parts. Some had wheels which flipped, but these needed to be pulled or pushed. A few of the early 19th-century push toy rails were made of tinplate, such as the big, durable, stylized locomotive toys from the U.S., which were painted red and gold and decorated with hearts and flowers. model trains bakersfield
Around 1875, technological advancements in materials and manufacturing enabled tin to be scraped, cut, rolled, and lithographed faster than previously.
Toy trains were altered when Märklin, a German firm which specialized in doll house accessories, sought to create an equivalent toy for boys in which a continuous revenue stream could be ensured by purchasing add-on accessories for decades after the first purchase. Along with boxed sets comprising a train and track, Märklin offered extra track, rolling stock, and buildings sold separately, creating the predecessor to the modern model train layout featuring buildings and scenery in addition to a working train.
Electric trains adopted, with the first appearing in 1897, produced by the U.S. company Carlisle & Finch. As residential use of electricity became more prevalent from the early 20th century, electrical trains gained popularity and as time went on, these electrical trains grew in sophistication, gaining light, the ability to change management, to emit a whistling noise, to smoke, to couple and uncouple cars as well as load and unload freight. Toy trains by the first half of the 20th century were frequently made of lithographed tin; afterwards trains were often 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 by children, while electrical trains were marketed towards teenagers, particularly teenaged boys. It was during the 1950s the modern emphasis on realism in model railroading started to catch on.
Today, S gauge and O gauge railroads are still considered toy trains by their own 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 from the 1950s to the 1970s). However, due to their high cost, one is more inclined to find an HO scale or N scale train set at a toy shop than an O scale set.
Many modern electric toy trains comprise sophisticated electronic equipment which exude digitized sound effects and permit the operator to securely and easily run several remote controller trains on a single loop of track. In recent years, many toy rail operators will operate a train with a TV camera at the front part of the engine and hooked up to a screen, such as computer monitor. This will show an image, like that of a genuine (smaller size) railroad.
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