Some had wheels which turned, but these had to be pulled or pushed. A few of the early 19th-century push toy trains were made from tinplate, like the large, durable, stylized locomotive toys from the U.S., which were painted red and gold and decorated with hearts and flowers. model trains pittsburgh area
Around 1875, technological advancements in materials and manufacturing enabled tin to be stamped, cut, rolled, and lithographed faster than ever before.
Toy trains were revolutionized when Märklin, a German company which 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 additional 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 followed, with the first appearing in 1897, made by the U.S. company Carlisle & Finch. As residential use of power became more prevalent from the early 20th century, electric trains gained popularity and as time moved 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 frequently made of lithographed tin; later trains were frequently made mainly of plastic.
Prior to 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 children, while electrical trains were marketed towards teens, particularly 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 experienced 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 produced by Marx in the 1950s into the 1970s). However, as a result of their high cost, one is more inclined to find an HO scale or N scale train set in a toy shop than an O scale set.
Many modern electric toy trains contain sophisticated electronics that emit digitized sound effects and permit the operator to safely and easily run several remote controller trains on a single loop of course. In the last few decades, many toy rail operators may operate a train with a TV camera in the front part of the engine and hooked up to a display, such as pc monitor. This will show a picture, like that of a genuine (smaller size) railroad.
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