Some had wheels that turned, but these had to be pushed or pulled. Some of the early 19th-century drive toy trains were made from tinplate, like the large, durable, stylized locomotive toys from the U.S., that were painted red and gold and decorated with hearts and flowers. model trains dublin
Around 1875, technological improvements in materials and manufacturing enabled tin to be scraped, cut, wrapped, and lithographed faster than previously.
Toy trains were revolutionized when Märklin, a German firm which specialized in doll house accessories, sought to make an equal toy for boys in which a continuous revenue stream could be ensured by purchasing add-on accessories for decades after the initial purchase. Along with boxed sets containing a train and track, Märklin offered additional track, rolling stock, and buildings offered separately, creating the predecessor to the modern model train layout featuring scenery and buildings along with an operating train.
Electric trains followed, with the first appearing in 1897, produced from the U.S. firm Carlisle & Finch. As home use of electricity became more common from the early 20th century, electrical trains gained popularity and as time moved on, these electric trains grew in sophistication, gaining lighting, the ability to change management, to emit a whistling sound, to smoke, to couple and uncouple cars as well as 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.
Pull toys and wind-up trains were marketed towards children, while electric trains were marketed towards teenagers, particularly teenaged boys. It was during the 1950s the modern emphasis on realism in model railroading started 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.
Today, S gauge and O gauge railroads are still 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 produced by Marx from 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 shop than a O scale set.
Many modern electrical toy trains comprise sophisticated electronic equipment which emit digitized sound effects and allow the operator to safely and easily run multiple remote control trains on one loop of track. In recent years, many toy rail operators may operate a train with a TV camera at the front of the engine and hooked up to a display, such as computer monitor. This will show a picture, similar to that of a real (smaller size) railroad)
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