The first toy trains were made of lead and had no moving parts. Some had wheels which turned, but these had to be pushed or pulled. A few of the early 19th-century push toy rails were made from tinplate, like the big, durable, stylized locomotive toys from the U.S., that were painted gold and red and decorated with hearts and flowers. model trains ireland
Around 1875, technological advancements in materials and manufacturing enabled tin to be stamped, cut, wrapped, and lithographed faster than previously.
Toy trains were revolutionized when Märklin, a German company 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 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 in addition to a working train.
Electric trains followed, with the first appearing in 1897, made by the U.S. firm Carlisle & Finch. As residential use of electricity became more common from the early 20th century, electric trains gained popularity and as time went on, these electric trains grew in sophistication, gaining lighting, the ability to change management, to emit a whistling noise, to smoke, to couple and uncouple cars as well as load and unload freight. Toy trains from 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 kids, while electric trains were marketed towards teenagers, especially 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 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 in a toy shop than an O scale collection.
Many modern electrical toy trains comprise sophisticated electronic equipment which exude digitized sound effects and permit the operator to securely and easily run multiple remote controller trains on a single loop of track. In recent decades, many toy train operators may operate a train with a TV camera in the front of the motor 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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