The first toy trains were made from lead and had no moving parts. Some had wheels which turned, but these needed to be pushed or pulled. A few of the early 19th-century push toy trains were made of tinplate, like the large, durable, stylized locomotive toys from the U.S., which were painted red and gold and decorated with hearts and flowers. model trains bellevue wa
Around 1875, technological improvements in materials and manufacturing allowed tin to be stamped, cut, wrapped, and lithographed faster than ever before.
Toy trains were revolutionized when Märklin, a German company which specialized in doll house accessories, sought to make an equivalent toy for boys in which a constant revenue stream could be guaranteed by purchasing add-on accessories for decades after the initial purchase. Along with boxed sets comprising a train and track, Märklin offered additional track, rolling stock, and buildings sold separately, creating the predecessor to the modern model train layout featuring scenery and buildings along with a working train.
Electric trains adopted, with the first appearing in 1897, made by the U.S. company Carlisle & Finch. As home use of power became more prevalent from the early 20th century, electric trains gained popularity and as time moved on, these electrical trains grew in sophistication, gaining lighting, the ability to change management, to emit a whistling noise, 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 frequently made of lithographed tin; later trains were frequently made mainly of plastic.
Pull toys and wind-up trains were marketed by children, while electrical trains were marketed towards teenagers, especially teenaged boys.
Today, S gauge and O gauge railroads are still considered toy trains even by their own adherents and are often accessorized with semi-scale model buildings by Plasticville or even 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 likely to find an HO scale or N scale train set in a toy store than a O scale collection.
Many modern electric toy trains contain sophisticated electronic equipment which emit digitized sound effects and permit the operator to safely and easily run multiple remote controller trains on one loop of track. In recent years, many toy train operators may operate a train with a TV camera at the front of the motor and hooked up to a display, such as pc monitor. This will show an image, similar to that of a genuine (smaller size) railroad.
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