Some had wheels that flipped, but these had to be pushed or pulled. Some of the early 19th-century drive toy rails were made from tinplate, like the large, durable, stylized locomotive toys from the U.S., that were painted gold and red and decorated with hearts and flowers. model trains dcc system
Around 1875, technological improvements in materials and manufacturing enabled tin to be scraped, cut, wrapped, and lithographed faster than ever before.
Toy trains were altered when Märklin, a German company that specialized in doll house accessories, sought to create an equal toy for boys where a continuous revenue stream could be guaranteed 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 offered separately, creating the predecessor to the modern model train layout featuring buildings and scenery along with a working train.
Electric trains adopted, with the first appearing in 1897, produced from the U.S. company Carlisle & Finch. As home use of electricity became more prevalent from the early 20th century, electrical trains gained popularity and as time moved on, these electric trains grew in sophistication, gaining light, the ability to change direction, to emit a whistling sound, to smoke, to couple and uncouple cars and even 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.
Before 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 kids, while electric trains were marketed towards teenagers, especially teenaged boys.
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.
Today, 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 from the 1950s to the 1970s). However, due to their high price, one is more likely to locate an HO scale or N scale train set in a toy shop than an O scale set.
Many modern electric toy trains contain sophisticated electronics that exude digitized sound effects and permit the operator to securely and easily run several remote control trains on a single loop of course. In the last few years, many toy train operators will operate a train with a TV camera in the front of the engine and hooked up to a display, such as computer monitor. This will show a picture, like that of a genuine (smaller size) railroad)
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