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The earliest toy trains were made from lead and had no moving parts. Some had wheels that turned, but these needed to be pushed or pulled. Some of the early 19th-century drive toy trains were made of tinplate, like the big, durable, stylized locomotive toys in the U.S., which were painted red and gold and decorated with hearts and flowers. model trains how to

Around 1875, technological advancements in materials and manufacturing allowed tin to be stamped, cut, rolled, and lithographed faster than previously.
Toy trains were altered when Märklin, a 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 selling add-on accessories for years after the first purchase. Along with boxed sets containing 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 along with a working train.

Electric trains followed, with the first appearing in 1897, made by the U.S. company Carlisle & Finch. As residential use of power became more prevalent in the early 20th century, electrical 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 sound, to smoke, to couple and uncouple cars and even load and unload freight. Toy trains from the first half of the 20th century were frequently made of lithographed tin; later trains were frequently made mostly of plastic.
Pull toys and wind-up trains were marketed by children, while electrical trains were marketed towards teenagers, especially teenaged boys. It was during the 1950s that the modern emphasis on realism in model railroading began to grab on.

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 K-Line (who owns the rights to the Plasticville-like buildings produced by Marx from the 1950s to the 1970s). However, due to their high price, one is more likely to locate an HO scale or N scale train set at a toy store than an O scale set.

Many modern electric toy trains contain sophisticated electronic equipment which emit digitized sound effects and allow the operator to securely and easily run several remote controller trains on a single loop of track. In recent decades, many toy train operators may operate a train using a TV camera at the front of the engine and hooked up to a display, such as pc monitor. This will show an image, similar to that of a genuine (smaller size) railroad)

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