The first toy trains were made from lead and had no moving parts. Some had wheels that turned, but these needed to be pulled or pushed. A few of the early 19th-century drive toy rails were made from tinplate, such as the large, durable, stylized locomotive toys in the U.S., which were painted red and gold and decorated with hearts and flowers. model trains dallas texas
Around 1875, technological advancements in materials and manufacturing allowed tin to be stamped, cut, wrapped, and lithographed faster than ever before.
Toy trains were altered when Märklin, a German firm that specialized in doll house accessories, sought to create an equal toy for boys where a continuous revenue stream could be guaranteed by selling 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 offered separately, creating the predecessor to the modern model train layout featuring buildings and scenery in addition to a working train.
Electric trains followed, with the first appearing in 1897, made by the U.S. firm Carlisle & Finch. As home use of power became more prevalent from the early 20th century, electrical trains gained popularity and as time went on, these electrical trains grew in sophistication, gaining lighting, the ability to change direction, to emit a whistling noise, to smoke, to couple and uncouple cars as well as load and unload freight. Toy trains from 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, particularly teenaged boys. It was during the 1950s that the modern emphasis on realism in model railroading began to catch on.
Consumer interest in trains as toys waned in the late 1950s, but has experienced resurgence since the late 1990s due in large part to the popularity of Thomas the Tank Engine.
Now, S gauge and O gauge railroads continue to be considered toy trains 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, due to their high cost, one is more inclined to locate an HO scale or N scale train set in a toy shop than an O scale collection.
Many modern electrical toy trains contain sophisticated electronics that exude digitized sound effects and allow the operator to safely and easily run multiple remote control trains on a single loop of track. In recent decades, many toy train operators may operate a train with a TV camera at the front of the motor and hooked up to a screen, such as pc monitor. This will show a picture, similar to that of a genuine (smaller size) railroad.
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