The earliest toy trains were made from lead and had no moving parts. Some had wheels that turned, but these had to be pushed or pulled. A few of the early 19th-century push toy rails were made of tinplate, such as the big, durable, stylized locomotive toys from the U.S., which were painted gold and red and decorated with hearts and flowers. model trains in london
Around 1875, technological improvements in materials and manufacturing enabled tin to be stamped, cut, wrapped, and lithographed faster than previously.
Toy trains were revolutionized when Märklina German company which specialized in doll house accessories, sought to create an equal toy for boys where a constant revenue stream could be guaranteed by selling add-on accessories for years after the first purchase. In addition to 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 an operating train.
Electric trains adopted, with the first appearing in 1897, produced by the U.S. firm Carlisle & Finch. As home use of electricity became more common from 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 noise, to smoke, to remotely couple and uncouple cars and even load and unload cargo. Toy trains by the first half of the 20th century were frequently made of lithographed tin; afterwards trains were frequently made mostly of plastic.
Pull toys and wind-up trains were marketed towards children, while electric trains were marketed towards teens, especially teenaged boys. It was during the 1950s that the modern emphasis on realism in model railroading began to catch on.
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 in the 1950s into the 1970s). However, as a result of their high cost, one is more likely to find an HO scale or N scale train set at a toy store than a O scale collection.
Many modern electric toy trains contain sophisticated electronics which emit digitized sound effects and permit the operator to safely and easily run multiple remote controller trains on one loop of course. In recent years, many toy train operators may operate a train with a TV camera at the front of the engine and hooked up to a screen, such as pc monitor. This will show an image, like that of a real (smaller size) railroad)
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