The first toy trains were made from lead and had no moving parts. Some had wheels which turned, but these had to be pulled or pushed. Some of the early 19th-century push toy trains were made from tinplate, like the large, durable, stylized locomotive toys in the U.S., which were painted gold and red and decorated with hearts and flowers. model trains plans
Around 1875, technological advancements in materials and manufacturing enabled tin to be stamped, cut, wrapped, and lithographed faster than previously.
Toy trains were altered when Märklina German company that specialized in doll house accessories, sought to make an equivalent toy for boys where a constant revenue stream could be ensured by selling add-on accessories for decades after the first purchase. In addition to boxed sets containing a train and track, Märklin offered extra track, rolling stock, and buildings offered 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 from the U.S. company Carlisle & Finch. As residential use of electricity became more common from the early 20th century, electric trains gained popularity and as time went on, these electrical trains grew in sophistication, gaining light, the ability to change direction, to emit a whistling noise, to smoke, to remotely 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.
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 towards children, while electric trains were marketed towards teenagers, especially teenaged boys.
Today, S gauge and O gauge railroads are still considered toy trains 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 from the 1950s to the 1970s). However, as a result of their high price, one is more inclined to locate an HO scale or N scale train set at a toy shop than a O scale collection.
Many modern electrical toy trains comprise sophisticated electronic equipment which emit digitized sound effects and allow the operator to safely and easily run several remote control trains on one loop of track. In the last few years, many toy train operators will operate a train using a TV camera in the front part of the motor 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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