The earliest toy trains were made from lead and had no moving parts. Some had wheels that flipped, but these had to be pushed or pulled. Some of the early 19th-century drive toy trains were made from tinplate, such as the big, durable, stylized locomotive toys from the U.S., that were painted gold and red and decorated with hearts and flowers. model trains made in yugoslavia
Around 1875, technological advancements in materials and manufacturing allowed tin to be scraped, cut, rolled, and lithographed faster than previously.
Toy trains were revolutionized when Märklina German firm that specialized in doll house accessories, sought to create an equal toy for boys where a constant revenue stream could be ensured by purchasing add-on accessories for decades after the initial purchase. In addition to boxed sets comprising 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 from the U.S. company Carlisle & Finch. As residential use of electricity became more prevalent in 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 management, to emit a whistling noise, to smoke, to remotely couple and uncouple cars as well as load and unload cargo. Toy trains by the first half of the 20th century were often made of lithographed tin; later trains were frequently made mostly of plastic.
Pull toys and wind-up trains were marketed by children, while electrical trains were marketed towards teenagers, especially teenaged boys.
Now, S gauge and O gauge railroads continue to be considered toy trains even 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 produced by Marx in the 1950s into the 1970s). However, due to their high cost, one is more likely to locate an HO scale or N scale train set in a toy shop than a O scale collection.
Many modern electric 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 course. In the last few decades, many toy train operators will 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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