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Some had wheels which flipped, but these needed to be pulled or pushed. A few of the early 19th-century push toy trains were made from tinplate, such as the big, durable, stylized locomotive toys in the U.S., that were painted red and gold and decorated with hearts and flowers. model trains jacksonville

Around 1875, technological advancements in materials and manufacturing enabled tin to be scraped, cut, rolled, and lithographed faster than ever before.
Toy trains were altered 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 decades after the initial purchase. Along with boxed sets comprising a train and monitor, Märklin offered additional track, rolling stock, and buildings offered separately, creating the predecessor to the modern model train layout featuring buildings and scenery in addition to a working train.

Electric trains adopted, with the first appearing in 1897, produced by the U.S. company Carlisle & Finch. As residential use of power became more prevalent from the early 20th century, electric trains gained popularity and as time moved on, these electric 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 from the first half of the 20th century were often made of lithographed tin; afterwards trains were often made mainly of plastic.
Prior to 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 by children, while electric trains were marketed towards teens, particularly teenaged boys.

Today, 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 created by Marx in the 1950s to the 1970s). However, as a result of their high cost, one is more inclined 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 which emit digitized sound effects and allow the operator to securely and easily run several remote control trains on one loop of track. In recent decades, many toy train operators will operate a train using a TV camera in the front of the motor and hooked up to a display, such as computer monitor. This will show a picture, similar to that of a genuine (smaller size) railroad.

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