The first toy trains were made from lead and had no moving parts. Some had wheels which flipped, but these needed to be pushed or pulled. A few of the early 19th-century drive toy trains were made of tinplate, such as the large, durable, stylized locomotive toys from the U.S., which 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, wrapped, and lithographed faster than ever before.
Toy trains were revolutionized 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 guaranteed by selling add-on accessories for decades after the initial purchase. In addition to boxed sets containing a train and track, Märklin offered additional track, rolling stock, and buildings offered separately, creating the predecessor to the modern model train layout featuring buildings and scenery along with a working train.
Electric trains adopted, with the first appearing in 1897, produced from the U.S. firm Carlisle & Finch. As home use of electricity became more common from the early 20th century, electrical trains gained popularity and as time moved on, these electrical trains grew in sophistication, gaining lighting, 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 frequently made of lithographed tin; later trains were often made mainly of plastic.
Prior to 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 children, while electrical trains were marketed towards teens, 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 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 produced by Marx in the 1950s into the 1970s). However, as a result of their high price, one is more inclined to locate an HO scale or N scale train set in a toy shop than a O scale set.
Many modern electrical toy trains contain sophisticated electronic equipment which emit digitized sound effects and permit the operator to securely and easily run multiple remote control trains on a single loop of track. In recent years, many toy rail operators may operate a train using a TV camera at the front part of the motor and hooked up to a screen, such as pc monitor. This will show an image, similar to that of a real (smaller size) railroad)
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