Some had wheels that turned, but these had to be pushed or pulled. Some of the early 19th-century push toy rails were made of tinplate, such as the big, durable, stylized locomotive toys from the U.S., that were painted red and gold and decorated with hearts and flowers. model trains hagerstown
Around 1875, technological improvements in materials and manufacturing allowed tin to be scraped, cut, rolled, and lithographed faster than previously.
Toy trains were revolutionized when Märklina German company which specialized in doll house accessories, sought to create an equivalent toy for boys where a continuous revenue stream could be guaranteed by purchasing add-on accessories for decades after the first purchase. In addition to boxed sets comprising 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 adopted, with the first appearing in 1897, produced from the U.S. firm Carlisle & Finch. As residential use of power became more prevalent in the early 20th century, electrical trains gained popularity and as time went 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 as well as load and unload freight. 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 towards kids, while electric trains were marketed towards teenagers, particularly teenaged boys.
Today, S gauge and O gauge railroads are still considered toy trains 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 to the 1970s). However, as a result of their high cost, one is more inclined to find an HO scale or N scale train set at a toy shop than an O scale collection.
Many modern electric toy trains comprise sophisticated electronic equipment that exude digitized sound effects and allow the operator to safely and easily run several remote controller trains on a single loop of course. In the last few years, many toy rail operators may operate a train using a TV camera at the front of the motor and hooked up to a display, such as pc monitor. This will show a picture, similar to that of a genuine (smaller size) railroad.
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