The earliest toy trains were made of lead and had no moving parts. Some had wheels which turned, but these had to be pulled or pushed. A few of the early 19th-century push toy rails were made from tinplate, such as the large, durable, stylized locomotive toys from the U.S., which were painted red and gold and decorated with hearts and flowers. model trains pocatello idaho
Around 1875, technological advancements in materials and manufacturing enabled tin to be stamped, cut, rolled, and lithographed faster than previously.
Toy trains were revolutionized when Märklina German company which specialized in doll house accessories, sought to create an equal toy for boys in which a continuous revenue stream could be guaranteed by purchasing add-on accessories for decades after the initial purchase. In addition to boxed sets comprising a train and monitor, Märklin offered extra track, rolling stock, and buildings offered separately, creating the predecessor to the modern model train layout featuring scenery and buildings in addition to a working train.
Electric trains followed, with the first appearing in 1897, made by 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 moved on, these electrical 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 cargo. Toy trains from the first half of the 20th century were often made of lithographed tin; afterwards trains were frequently made mainly of plastic.
Pull toys and wind-up trains were marketed towards kids, while electrical trains were marketed towards teenagers, particularly teenaged boys. It was during the 1950s that the modern emphasis on realism in model railroading began to grab on.
Now, 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 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 price, one is more inclined to find an HO scale or N scale train set in a toy shop than a O scale collection.
Many modern electric toy trains contain sophisticated electronics that exude digitized sound effects and permit the operator to safely and easily run several remote controller trains on a single loop of track. In recent decades, many toy train operators may operate a train with a TV camera in the front part of the engine 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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