The earliest toy trains were made of lead and had no moving parts. Some had wheels which flipped, but these needed to be pushed or pulled. A few 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 seattle
Around 1875, technological advancements in materials and manufacturing enabled tin to be stamped, cut, wrapped, and lithographed faster than ever before.
Toy trains were altered when Märklin, a German firm which specialized in doll house accessories, sought to create an equal toy for boys where a continuous revenue stream could be guaranteed by purchasing add-on accessories for decades 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, produced from the U.S. firm Carlisle & Finch. As residential use of electricity became more common in the early 20th century, electrical 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 remotely couple and uncouple cars and even load and unload freight. Toy trains from the first half of the 20th century were often made of lithographed tin; later trains were often made mostly of plastic.
Pull toys and wind-up trains were marketed by children, while electrical trains were marketed towards teenagers, especially teenaged boys. It was during the 1950s that the modern emphasis on realism in model railroading started to grab on. Consumer interest in trains as toys waned in the late 1950s, but has undergone resurgence since the late 1990s due in large part to the popularity of Thomas the Tank Engine.
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 even K-Line (who owns the rights to the Plasticville-like buildings created by Marx from the 1950s to the 1970s). However, due to their high cost, one is more inclined to locate an HO scale or N scale train set at a toy store than a O scale collection.
Many modern electrical toy trains comprise sophisticated electronics that exude digitized sound effects and allow the operator to safely and easily run multiple remote controller trains on one loop of course. In the last few years, many toy rail operators may operate a train with a TV camera in the front of the motor and hooked up to a screen, such as computer monitor. This will show a picture, like that of a real (smaller size) railroad)
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