The first toy trains were made of lead and had no moving parts. Some had wheels which flipped, but these had to be pushed or pulled. A few of the early 19th-century drive toy trains were made from tinplate, such as the large, durable, stylized locomotive toys from the U.S., that were painted gold and red and decorated with hearts and flowers. model trains o scale
Around 1875, technological advancements in materials and manufacturing allowed tin to be stamped, cut, rolled, and lithographed faster than ever before.
Toy trains were revolutionized when Märklina German company that specialized in doll house accessories, sought to create an equivalent toy for boys where a continuous revenue stream could be guaranteed by purchasing add-on accessories for years after the initial purchase. Along with boxed sets comprising a train and track, Märklin offered additional 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 from the U.S. company Carlisle & Finch. As residential use of electricity became more prevalent from the early 20th century, electric trains gained popularity and as time went on, these electric trains grew in sophistication, gaining lighting, the ability to change management, to emit a whistling noise, to smoke, to remotely couple and uncouple cars and even load and unload freight. Toy trains from the first half of the 20th century were frequently made of lithographed tin; afterwards trains were frequently made mostly of plastic.
Pull toys and wind-up trains were marketed by children, while electrical trains were marketed towards teens, especially teenaged boys.
Today, S gauge and O gauge railroads continue to be considered toy trains 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 created by Marx from the 1950s to the 1970s). However, as a result of their high price, one is more likely to locate an HO scale or N scale train set in a toy shop than an O scale collection.
Many modern electric toy trains contain sophisticated electronic equipment that exude digitized sound effects and allow the operator to safely and easily run multiple remote control trains on one loop of course. In recent years, many toy train operators will operate a train with a TV camera in the front of the engine and hooked up to a display, such as computer monitor. This will show a picture, like that of a real (smaller size) railroad.
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