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Some had wheels that flipped, but these needed to be pulled or pushed. A few of the early 19th-century push toy rails were made of 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 essex,vt

Around 1875, technological advancements in materials and manufacturing enabled tin to be stamped, cut, rolled, and lithographed faster than previously.
Toy trains were altered when Märklina German firm that specialized in doll house accessories, sought to make an equal toy for boys where a continuous revenue stream could be ensured by selling 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 scenery and buildings in addition to a working train.

Electric trains followed, with the first appearing in 1897, made by the U.S. firm Carlisle & Finch. As residential use of power became more common from the early 20th century, electric trains gained popularity and as time moved on, these electrical trains grew in sophistication, gaining lighting, the ability to change direction, to emit a whistling sound, to smoke, to remotely couple and uncouple cars as well as load and unload cargo. Toy trains from the first half of the 20th century were often made of lithographed tin; afterwards trains were frequently made mainly of plastic.
Pull toys and wind-up trains were marketed by kids, 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 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 are still considered toy trains even by their own adherents and are often accessorized with semi-scale model buildings by Plasticville or K-Line (who owns the rights to the Plasticville-like buildings produced by Marx from the 1950s to the 1970s). However, as a result of their high cost, one is more likely to locate an HO scale or N scale train set at a toy store than a O scale collection.

Many modern electrical toy trains contain sophisticated electronic equipment which exude digitized sound effects and allow the operator to securely and easily run multiple remote control trains on a single loop of course. In recent years, many toy train operators may operate a train using a TV camera at the front part of the motor and hooked up to a display, such as computer monitor. This will show an image, similar to that of a real (smaller size) railroad.

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