The earliest toy trains were made of lead and had no moving parts. Some had wheels that flipped, but these needed to be pulled or pushed. Some of the early 19th-century drive toy rails were made of tinplate, like the big, durable, stylized locomotive toys in the U.S., that were painted gold and red and decorated with hearts and flowers. model trains winnipeg
Around 1875, technological improvements in materials and manufacturing enabled tin to be scraped, cut, wrapped, and lithographed faster than previously.
Toy trains were altered when Märklin, a German company 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 years after the initial purchase. Along with 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 buildings and scenery along with an operating train.
Electric trains followed, with the first appearing in 1897, produced from the U.S. company Carlisle & Finch. As residential use of electricity became more common 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 remotely couple and uncouple cars as well as load and unload freight. Toy trains from the first half of the 20th century were frequently 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, especially teenaged boys. 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 are still 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 produced by Marx in the 1950s into the 1970s). However, as a result of their high cost, one is more inclined to locate an HO scale or N scale train set in a toy shop 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 controller trains on one loop of track. In the last few decades, many toy train operators may operate a train using a TV camera in the front part of the motor and hooked up to a screen, such as pc monitor. This will show an image, similar to that of a genuine (smaller size) railroad)
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