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Some had wheels which flipped, but these had to be pulled or pushed. Some of the early 19th-century drive 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 china

Around 1875, technological advancements in materials and manufacturing allowed tin to be stamped, cut, rolled, and lithographed faster than ever before.
Toy trains were revolutionized when Märklin, a German company that specialized in doll house accessories, sought to create an equal toy for boys where a constant revenue stream could be ensured by purchasing add-on accessories for decades after the first purchase. In addition to boxed sets containing a train and track, Märklin offered additional track, rolling stock, and buildings sold separately, creating the predecessor to the modern model train layout featuring buildings and scenery along with an operating train.

Electric trains adopted, with the first appearing in 1897, produced by the U.S. firm Carlisle & Finch. As home use of electricity became more common in the early 20th century, electric 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 cargo. Toy trains by the first half of the 20th century were frequently made of lithographed tin; later trains were often made mainly of plastic.
Prior to the 1950s, there was little differentiation 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, especially teenaged boys.
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 from the 1950s to the 1970s). However, as a result of their high price, one is more inclined to find an HO scale or N scale train set in a toy store than a O scale collection.

Many modern electric toy trains comprise sophisticated electronic equipment which emit digitized sound effects and allow the operator to securely and easily run multiple remote control trains on one loop of course. In the last few years, many toy rail operators may operate a train using a TV camera in the front part of the motor and hooked up to a display, such as computer monitor. This will show an image, similar to that of a genuine (smaller size) railroad.

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