Some had wheels which flipped, but these needed to be pushed or pulled. Some of the early 19th-century push toy trains were made of tinplate, like the large, durable, stylized locomotive toys in the U.S., that were painted gold and red and decorated with hearts and flowers. model trains exhibition melbourne
Around 1875, technological advancements in materials and manufacturing enabled tin to be stamped, cut, wrapped, and lithographed faster than ever before.
Toy trains were revolutionized when Märklin, a German firm which specialized in doll house accessories, sought to create an equal toy for boys in which a constant revenue stream could be guaranteed 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 sold separately, creating the predecessor to the modern model train layout featuring scenery and buildings 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 power became more common in the early 20th century, electrical trains gained popularity and as time went on, these electrical trains grew in sophistication, gaining light, the ability to change direction, to emit a whistling noise, 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; later trains were frequently made mostly 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 by kids, while electric trains were marketed towards teens, particularly teenaged boys. It was during the 1950s that the modern emphasis on realism in model railroading began to catch on. Consumer interest in trains as toys waned in the late 1950s, but has undergone 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 in the 1950s into the 1970s). However, due to their high price, one is more likely to find an HO scale or N scale train set in a toy shop than a O scale collection.
Many modern electric toy trains comprise sophisticated electronics which emit digitized sound effects and permit the operator to safely and easily run several remote controller trains on one loop of course. In the last few decades, many toy rail operators will operate a train using a TV camera at the front of the engine and hooked up to a display, such as pc monitor. This will show a picture, like that of a real (smaller size) railroad.
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