The first toy trains were made of lead and had no moving parts. Some had wheels that turned, but these needed to be pulled or pushed. Some of the early 19th-century push toy rails were made of tinplate, such as the big, durable, stylized locomotive toys from the U.S., that were painted red and gold and decorated with hearts and flowers. model trains kaleen
Around 1875, technological improvements in materials and manufacturing enabled tin to be stamped, cut, wrapped, and lithographed faster than previously.
Toy trains were altered when Märklin, a German firm which specialized in doll house accessories, sought to create an equivalent toy for boys in which a continuous revenue stream could be ensured by selling add-on accessories for decades after the first purchase. In addition to boxed sets comprising a train and track, 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 followed, with the first appearing in 1897, made by the U.S. company Carlisle & Finch. As residential use of power became more common from the early 20th century, electric 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 couple and uncouple cars as well as load and unload freight. Toy trains from the first half of the 20th century were often made of lithographed tin; afterwards trains were frequently made mostly 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 kids, while electric trains were marketed towards teens, especially teenaged boys. It was during the 1950s the modern emphasis on realism in model railroading began to grab on. 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 continue to be considered toy trains by their own adherents and are often accessorized with semi-scale model buildings by Plasticville or even K-Line (who owns the rights to the Plasticville-like buildings created by Marx from the 1950s into the 1970s). However, due to their high cost, one is more likely to find an HO scale or N scale train set in a toy store than an O scale set.
Many modern electrical toy trains contain sophisticated electronic equipment which exude digitized sound effects and allow the operator to securely and easily run several remote control trains on a single loop of course. In recent years, many toy train operators will operate a train with a TV camera at the front part of the motor and hooked up to a display, such as computer monitor. This will show a picture, like that of a genuine (smaller size) railroad)
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