The earliest toy trains were made from lead and had no moving parts. Some had wheels which flipped, but these needed to be pushed or pulled. A few of the early 19th-century push toy rails were made of tinplate, like the big, durable, stylized locomotive toys in the U.S., which were painted gold and red and decorated with hearts and flowers. model trains connecticut
Around 1875, technological improvements in materials and manufacturing allowed tin to be stamped, cut, wrapped, and lithographed faster than previously.
Toy trains were altered when Märklina German company that specialized in doll house accessories, sought to create an equivalent toy for boys where a continuous revenue stream could be ensured by purchasing add-on accessories for decades after the initial purchase. In addition to boxed sets containing 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 an operating train.
Electric trains adopted, with the first appearing in 1897, made by the U.S. firm Carlisle & Finch. As residential use of electricity became more prevalent from the early 20th century, electric trains gained popularity and as time moved on, these electric trains grew in sophistication, gaining light, the ability to change management, to emit a whistling noise, to smoke, to remotely couple and uncouple cars and even load and unload cargo. Toy trains by 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 teenagers, particularly 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 even by their 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 into the 1970s). However, due to their high cost, one is more likely to locate an HO scale or N scale train set in a toy store than an O scale set.
Many modern electric toy trains comprise sophisticated electronic equipment that exude digitized sound effects and permit the operator to safely and easily run multiple remote controller trains on one loop of track. In the last few decades, many toy rail operators may operate a train using a TV camera in the front part of the engine and hooked up to a screen, such as pc monitor. This will show a picture, like that of a real (smaller size) railroad.
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