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Some had wheels which flipped, but these needed to be pulled or pushed. A few of the early 19th-century drive toy trains were made of tinplate, like the big, durable, stylized locomotive toys in the U.S., that were painted gold and red and decorated with hearts and flowers. model trains newcastle

Around 1875, technological advancements in materials and manufacturing allowed tin to be stamped, cut, rolled, and lithographed faster than previously.
Toy trains were revolutionized when Märklina German firm that specialized in doll house accessories, sought to make an equal toy for boys where a continuous revenue stream could be ensured by selling add-on accessories for decades after the initial purchase. Along with 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 buildings and scenery along with an operating train.

Electric trains adopted, with the first appearing in 1897, made from the U.S. firm Carlisle & Finch. As residential use of power became more common in the early 20th century, electrical trains gained popularity and as time went on, these electric trains grew in sophistication, gaining light, the ability to change direction, to emit a whistling sound, to smoke, to couple and uncouple cars and even load and unload cargo. Toy trains by the first half of the 20th century were often made of lithographed tin; afterwards 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 towards children, while electrical trains were marketed towards teenagers, especially teenaged boys.

Today, S gauge and O gauge railroads are still 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 to 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 a O scale collection.

Many modern electrical toy trains contain sophisticated electronics which exude digitized sound effects and permit the operator to safely and easily run several remote controller trains on one loop of course. In the last few years, many toy rail operators will operate a train with a TV camera in the front of the engine and hooked up to a screen, such as computer monitor. This will show a picture, like that of a genuine (smaller size) railroad)

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