Some had wheels which turned, 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 gold and red and decorated with hearts and flowers. model trains how to get started
Around 1875, technological improvements in materials and manufacturing enabled tin to be stamped, cut, rolled, and lithographed faster than ever before.
Toy trains were revolutionized when Märklina German company 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 first purchase. In addition to boxed sets containing a train and monitor, Märklin offered additional track, rolling stock, and buildings offered separately, creating the predecessor to the modern model train layout featuring buildings and scenery in addition to a working train.
Electric trains followed, with the first appearing in 1897, made by the U.S. firm Carlisle & Finch. As home use of power became more prevalent 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 management, to emit a whistling sound, 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; later trains were often made mostly of plastic.
Pull toys and wind-up trains were marketed towards children, while electrical trains were marketed towards teens, particularly teenaged boys.
Today, S gauge and O gauge railroads are still 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 to the 1970s). However, as a result of their high price, one is more likely to locate an HO scale or N scale train set at a toy shop than an O scale set.
Many modern electric toy trains comprise sophisticated electronic equipment which emit digitized sound effects and allow the operator to safely and easily run several remote control trains on a single loop of track. In the last few decades, many toy train operators may operate a train with a TV camera at the front of the motor and hooked up to a display, such as computer monitor. This will show an image, similar to that of a real (smaller size) railroad.
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