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Some had wheels that flipped, but these had 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 from the U.S., which were painted gold and red and decorated with hearts and flowers. model trains mesa az

Around 1875, technological advancements in materials and manufacturing enabled tin to be scraped, cut, rolled, and lithographed faster than ever before.
Toy trains were revolutionized 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 purchasing add-on accessories for years after the first purchase. In addition to boxed sets comprising a train and monitor, Märklin offered extra track, rolling stock, and buildings sold separately, creating the predecessor to the modern model train layout featuring buildings and scenery in addition to an operating train.

Electric trains followed, with the first appearing in 1897, produced by the U.S. firm Carlisle & Finch. As residential use of power became more prevalent from the early 20th century, electric trains gained popularity and as time went on, these electrical trains grew in sophistication, gaining light, 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 by the first half of the 20th century were frequently made of lithographed tin; later trains were frequently made mainly of plastic.
Before 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 electrical trains were marketed towards teens, particularly teenaged boys. It was during the 1950s the modern emphasis on realism in model railroading started 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.

Today, S gauge and O gauge railroads continue to be considered toy trains 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 created by Marx in the 1950s into the 1970s). However, as a result of their high cost, one is more likely to locate an HO scale or N scale train set in a toy store than a O scale set.

Many modern electrical toy trains contain sophisticated electronic equipment that emit digitized sound effects and permit the operator to safely and easily run multiple remote controller trains on a single loop of track. In the last few years, many toy train operators may operate a train using a TV camera in the front part of the motor 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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