Some had wheels that 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 from the U.S., that were painted red and gold and decorated with hearts and flowers. model trains hobby shops
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 Märklin, a German firm that specialized in doll house accessories, sought to make an equivalent toy for boys where a continuous revenue stream could be ensured by selling add-on accessories for decades after the first purchase. Along with boxed sets comprising a train and track, Märklin offered extra track, rolling stock, and buildings sold 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 by the U.S. firm Carlisle & Finch. As residential use of power became more common in the early 20th century, electric trains gained popularity and as time moved on, these electric trains grew in sophistication, gaining lighting, the ability to change direction, 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 frequently made of lithographed tin; later trains were often made mostly of plastic.
Prior to the 1950s, there was little distinction between toy trains and model railroads–model railroads were toys by definition. Pull toys and wind-up trains were marketed towards children, while electrical 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 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 by their own 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 into the 1970s). However, as a result of their high cost, one is more likely to locate an HO scale or N scale train set in a toy store than an O scale collection.
Many modern electrical toy trains comprise sophisticated electronic equipment that emit digitized sound effects and allow the operator to safely and easily run multiple remote control trains on one loop of course. In the last few decades, many toy rail operators may operate a train with a TV camera at the front part of the motor and hooked up to a screen, such as computer monitor. This will show a picture, similar to that of a genuine (smaller size) railroad)
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