Some had wheels which turned, but these needed to be pushed or pulled. Some of the early 19th-century push toy rails were made of tinplate, like the big, durable, stylized locomotive toys from the U.S., that were painted gold and red and decorated with hearts and flowers. model trains st louis
Around 1875, technological advancements in materials and manufacturing allowed tin to be scraped, cut, rolled, and lithographed faster than previously.
Toy trains were altered when Märklin, a German firm that specialized in doll house accessories, sought to create an equal toy for boys in which a continuous revenue stream could be ensured by selling add-on accessories for decades after the initial purchase. In addition to boxed sets containing 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 in addition to an operating train.
Electric trains followed, with the first appearing in 1897, produced from the U.S. firm Carlisle & Finch. As home use of power became more prevalent from the early 20th century, electrical trains gained popularity and as time went on, these electric trains grew in sophistication, gaining lighting, 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 often made mostly of plastic.
Pull toys and wind-up trains were marketed towards kids, while electric trains were marketed towards teens, particularly teenaged boys. It was during the 1950s the modern emphasis on realism in model railroading began to catch 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.
Now, 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 created by Marx from the 1950s to the 1970s). However, as a result of their high price, one is more likely to locate an HO scale or N scale train set in a toy store than a O scale set.
Many modern electrical toy trains contain sophisticated electronic equipment which emit digitized sound effects and permit the operator to safely and easily run multiple remote control trains on a single loop of track. In recent decades, many toy train operators will operate a train with a TV camera at the front part of the motor and hooked up to a display, such as computer monitor. This will show an image, similar to that of a genuine (smaller size) railroad)
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