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The first toy trains were made of lead and had no moving parts. Some had wheels which flipped, but these needed to be pulled or pushed. Some of the early 19th-century drive toy rails were made from tinplate, such as the big, durable, stylized locomotive toys in the U.S., which were painted gold and red and decorated with hearts and flowers. model trains plano tx

Around 1875, technological advancements in materials and manufacturing enabled tin to be stamped, cut, wrapped, and lithographed faster than ever before.
Toy trains were revolutionized when Märklina German firm that specialized in doll house accessories, sought to make an equal toy for boys where a constant 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 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, electric trains gained popularity and as time went on, these electrical trains grew in sophistication, gaining lighting, the ability to change direction, to emit a whistling sound, to smoke, to couple and uncouple cars as well as load and unload cargo. Toy trains from the first half of the 20th century were often made of lithographed tin; later trains were frequently made mostly of plastic.
Pull toys and wind-up trains were marketed towards children, while electrical trains were marketed towards teens, especially teenaged boys. It was during the 1950s the modern emphasis on realism in model railroading started to catch 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 own adherents and are often accessorized with semi-scale model buildings by Plasticville or K-Line (who owns the rights to the Plasticville-like buildings produced by Marx in the 1950s to the 1970s). However, as a result of their high price, 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 electronic equipment which exude digitized sound effects and permit the operator to safely and easily run several remote control trains on a single loop of course. In recent years, many toy train operators may operate a train with a TV camera in the front of the motor and hooked up to a display, such as computer monitor. This will show an image, like that of a real (smaller size) railroad)

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