The earliest toy trains were made from lead and had no moving parts. Some had wheels which turned, but these needed to be pushed or pulled. A few of the early 19th-century push toy rails were made from tinplate, like the large, durable, stylized locomotive toys in the U.S., that were painted gold and red and decorated with hearts and flowers. model trains in denver
Around 1875, technological advancements in materials and manufacturing enabled tin to be scraped, cut, wrapped, and lithographed faster than ever before.
Toy trains were revolutionized when Märklina German company that specialized in doll house accessories, sought to make an equivalent toy for boys in which a continuous revenue stream could be ensured by selling add-on accessories for years after the initial purchase. Along with boxed sets containing a train and monitor, Märklin offered additional track, rolling stock, and buildings sold separately, creating the predecessor to the modern model train layout featuring buildings and scenery along with an operating train.
Electric trains adopted, with the first appearing in 1897, produced from the U.S. company 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 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 by the first half of the 20th century were often made of lithographed tin; later trains were often made mainly of plastic.
Pull toys and wind-up trains were marketed by children, while electric trains were marketed towards teenagers, particularly teenaged boys. 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 are still considered toy trains even 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 created by Marx in the 1950s to the 1970s). However, as a result of their high cost, one is more likely to find an HO scale or N scale train set in a toy store than a O scale collection.
Many modern electric toy trains contain sophisticated electronic equipment which exude digitized sound effects and allow the operator to securely and easily run several remote controller trains on one loop of track. In recent decades, many toy train operators will operate a train using a TV camera in the front part of the motor and hooked up to a screen, such as pc monitor. This will show a picture, similar to that of a real (smaller size) railroad.
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