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Some had wheels that turned, but these needed to be pulled or pushed. A few of the early 19th-century drive toy trains were made of tinplate, such as the large, durable, stylized locomotive toys from the U.S., that were painted gold and red and decorated with hearts and flowers. model trains tucson arizona

Around 1875, technological improvements in materials and manufacturing allowed tin to be scraped, cut, rolled, and lithographed faster than previously.
Toy trains were altered when Märklina German company which specialized in doll house accessories, sought to create an equal toy for boys in which a constant revenue stream could be ensured by selling add-on accessories for years after the initial purchase. In addition to boxed sets containing 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 an operating train.

Electric trains followed, with the first appearing in 1897, produced from the U.S. firm Carlisle & Finch. As residential use of power became more prevalent in the early 20th century, electric 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 noise, to smoke, to couple and uncouple cars as well as load and unload freight. 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 distinction 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 teens, particularly teenaged boys. It was during the 1950s the modern emphasis on realism in model railroading began to catch on.

Today, S gauge and O gauge railroads are still considered toy trains even 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 from the 1950s into the 1970s). However, due to their high cost, one is more likely to locate an HO scale or N scale train set at a toy shop than an O scale collection.

Many modern electrical toy trains comprise sophisticated electronics that emit digitized sound effects and allow the operator to securely and easily run several remote controller trains on one loop of track. In the last few years, many toy train operators will operate a train with a TV camera at 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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