Some had wheels that flipped, but these had to be pulled or pushed. 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 in indianapolis
Around 1875, technological improvements in materials and manufacturing enabled tin to be stamped, cut, rolled, and lithographed faster than previously.
Toy trains were revolutionized when Märklina German firm which specialized in doll house accessories, sought to make an equivalent toy for boys in which a constant revenue stream could be guaranteed by selling add-on accessories for years after the first purchase. Along with boxed sets comprising a train and monitor, Märklin offered extra track, rolling stock, and buildings offered separately, creating the predecessor to the modern model train layout featuring buildings and scenery along with an operating train.
Electric trains followed, with the first appearing in 1897, made by the U.S. firm Carlisle & Finch. As home use of electricity became more prevalent 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 direction, to emit a whistling sound, to smoke, to remotely 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; afterwards trains were often made mainly of plastic.
Before 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 towards kids, while electric trains were marketed towards teenagers, especially 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.
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 produced by Marx from the 1950s to the 1970s). However, as a result of their high price, one is more likely to find an HO scale or N scale train set at a toy shop than a O scale set.
Many modern electric toy trains comprise sophisticated electronic equipment that exude digitized sound effects and permit the operator to securely and easily run multiple remote control trains on one loop of course. In recent years, many toy train operators will 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, like that of a genuine (smaller size) railroad.
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