Some had wheels which turned, but these had to be pulled or pushed. Some of the early 19th-century push toy trains were made from tinplate, such as the large, durable, stylized locomotive toys from the U.S., that were painted gold and red and decorated with hearts and flowers. model trains denver area
Around 1875, technological advancements in materials and manufacturing enabled tin to be scraped, cut, rolled, and lithographed faster than previously.
Toy trains were revolutionized when Märklin, a German firm which specialized in doll house accessories, sought to create an equivalent toy for boys in which a constant 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 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, made from the U.S. company Carlisle & Finch. As home use of electricity became more prevalent in 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 direction, 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 frequently made of lithographed tin; later trains were frequently made mostly of plastic.
Before 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 by children, while electrical trains were marketed towards teens, especially teenaged boys. It was during the 1950s the modern emphasis on realism in model railroading started to grab 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 even 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 into the 1970s). However, as a result of 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 collection.
Many modern electrical toy trains comprise sophisticated electronic equipment which emit digitized sound effects and permit the operator to securely and easily run several remote controller trains on one loop of track. In the last few years, many toy train operators will operate a train with a TV camera in the front part of the motor and hooked up to a display, such as computer monitor. This will show a picture, similar to that of a genuine (smaller size) railroad.
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