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Some had wheels that flipped, but these had to be pulled or pushed. Some of the early 19th-century drive toy rails were made from tinplate, like the big, durable, stylized locomotive toys from the U.S., which were painted red and gold and decorated with hearts and flowers. model trains edgeworth

Around 1875, technological advancements in materials and manufacturing allowed tin to be scraped, cut, wrapped, and lithographed faster than previously.
Toy trains were revolutionized when Märklina German firm that specialized in doll house accessories, sought to create an equal toy for boys where a constant 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 offered 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, produced by the U.S. company Carlisle & Finch. As residential use of electricity became more prevalent from the early 20th century, electrical trains gained popularity and as time moved on, these electrical 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; afterwards trains were frequently 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 children, while electric trains were marketed towards teenagers, particularly 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 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 in the 1950s to the 1970s). However, due to their high cost, one is more likely to locate an HO scale or N scale train set at a toy store than an O scale set.

Many modern electric toy trains comprise sophisticated electronic equipment that emit digitized sound effects and permit the operator to securely and easily run multiple remote controller trains on a single loop of track. In the last few decades, many toy train 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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