The earliest toy trains were made of lead and had no moving parts. Some had wheels which turned, but these needed to be pulled or pushed. Some of the early 19th-century push toy rails were made of tinplate, like the big, durable, stylized locomotive toys in the U.S., which were painted gold and red and decorated with hearts and flowers. model trains hong kong
Around 1875, technological improvements in materials and manufacturing enabled tin to be stamped, cut, wrapped, and lithographed faster than previously.
Toy trains were altered when Märklina German firm that specialized in doll house accessories, sought to make an equivalent toy for boys where a constant revenue stream could be guaranteed by purchasing add-on accessories for decades after the initial purchase. Along with boxed sets comprising 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 followed, with the first appearing in 1897, made from the U.S. firm Carlisle & Finch. As home use of electricity became more common in the early 20th century, electric trains gained popularity and as time moved on, these electrical trains grew in sophistication, gaining light, the ability to change direction, to emit a whistling sound, to smoke, to couple and uncouple cars as well as load and unload cargo. Toy trains by the first half of the 20th century were frequently made of lithographed tin; later trains were frequently made mostly 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 kids, while electric trains were marketed towards teens, particularly teenaged boys. It was during the 1950s the modern emphasis on realism in model railroading started to catch 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.
Today, S gauge and O gauge railroads are still 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 produced by Marx from the 1950s into the 1970s). However, due to 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 contain sophisticated electronics which exude digitized sound effects and allow the operator to safely and easily run multiple remote control trains on one loop of course. In recent 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 pc monitor. This will show an image, like that of a genuine (smaller size) railroad.
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