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Some had wheels which turned, but these had to be pulled or pushed. Some of the early 19th-century push toy rails were made of tinplate, like the big, durable, stylized locomotive toys from the U.S., which were painted red and gold and decorated with hearts and flowers. model trains moncton

Around 1875, technological advancements in materials and manufacturing allowed tin to be stamped, cut, rolled, and lithographed faster than ever before.
Toy trains were altered when Märklin, a German company that specialized in doll house accessories, sought to create an equivalent toy for boys in which a continuous revenue stream could be guaranteed by purchasing add-on accessories for years after the first purchase. Along with 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 along with a working train.

Electric trains followed, with the first appearing in 1897, produced by the U.S. company Carlisle & Finch. As home use of electricity became more common in 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 management, to emit a whistling noise, to smoke, to 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 often made mainly of plastic.
Pull toys and wind-up trains were marketed towards children, while electrical trains were marketed towards teenagers, especially teenaged boys. It was during the 1950s that 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.

Today, S gauge and O gauge railroads continue to be considered toy trains even by their 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 inclined to find an HO scale or N scale train set at a toy shop than a O scale collection.

Many modern electric toy trains contain sophisticated electronic equipment which emit digitized sound effects and allow the operator to safely and easily run several remote controller trains on one loop of track. In the last few years, many toy rail operators will operate a train with a TV camera in the front part of the motor and hooked up to a screen, such as pc monitor. This will show a picture, similar to that of a genuine (smaller size) railroad.

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