The first toy trains were made of lead and had no moving parts. Some had wheels which flipped, but these needed to be pushed or pulled. 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., which were painted red and gold and decorated with hearts and flowers. model trains lansing mi
Around 1875, technological improvements in materials and manufacturing enabled tin to be stamped, cut, rolled, and lithographed faster than previously.
Toy trains were altered when Märklina German company which specialized in doll house accessories, sought to create an equal toy for boys in which a constant revenue stream could be ensured by purchasing 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 buildings and scenery along with a working train.
Electric trains followed, with the first appearing in 1897, made from the U.S. company Carlisle & Finch. As home use of electricity became more common from the early 20th century, electrical trains gained popularity and as time went 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 from the first half of the 20th century were frequently made of lithographed tin; later trains were often made mainly of plastic.
Pull toys and wind-up trains were marketed towards kids, while electric trains were marketed towards teenagers, especially teenaged boys. It was during the 1950s the modern emphasis on realism in model railroading began to grab 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 from the 1950s to the 1970s). However, as a result of their high price, one is more inclined to find an HO scale or N scale train set at a toy shop than an O scale set.
Many modern electric toy trains contain sophisticated electronics that exude digitized sound effects and allow the operator to securely and easily run multiple remote controller trains on one loop of course. In the last few years, many toy train operators will operate a train using a TV camera at the front part of the engine and hooked up to a display, such as computer monitor. This will show a picture, similar to that of a real (smaller size) railroad)
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