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Some had wheels that turned, but these needed to be pushed or pulled. 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 gold and red and decorated with hearts and flowers. model trains tampa fl

Around 1875, technological advancements in materials and manufacturing allowed tin to be scraped, cut, wrapped, and lithographed faster than ever before.
Toy trains were revolutionized when Märklina German company which specialized in doll house accessories, sought to create an equivalent toy for boys in which a constant 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 extra track, rolling stock, and buildings sold 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, produced from the U.S. firm Carlisle & Finch. As residential use of electricity became more prevalent from the early 20th century, electrical trains gained popularity and as time moved on, these electric trains grew in sophistication, gaining light, the ability to change direction, to emit a whistling sound, to smoke, to 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.
Before 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 by kids, while electric trains were marketed towards teenagers, especially teenaged boys. It was during the 1950s that 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.

Now, S gauge and O gauge railroads continue to be considered toy trains even by their 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 in the 1950s into 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 shop than a O scale collection.

Many modern electric toy trains contain sophisticated electronic equipment which exude digitized sound effects and allow the operator to safely and easily run several remote control trains on one loop of track. In recent years, many toy train operators will operate a train with a TV camera at the front part of the motor and hooked up to a screen, such as computer monitor. This will show an image, like that of a genuine (smaller size) railroad.

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