The earliest toy trains were made of lead and had no moving parts. Some had wheels that turned, but these needed to be pulled or pushed. Some of the early 19th-century push toy rails were made from tinplate, like the big, durable, stylized locomotive toys from the U.S., which were painted gold and red and decorated with hearts and flowers. model trains you ride on
Around 1875, technological advancements in materials and manufacturing enabled tin to be scraped, cut, wrapped, and lithographed faster than ever before.
Toy trains were revolutionized when Märklina German firm that specialized in doll house accessories, sought to make an equal toy for boys where a constant revenue stream could be ensured by purchasing add-on accessories for years after the first purchase. In addition to boxed sets comprising a train and track, Märklin offered extra track, rolling stock, and buildings offered separately, creating the predecessor to the modern model train layout featuring buildings and scenery along with a working 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 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 management, 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 frequently made mainly 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 teens, especially teenaged boys.
Today, S gauge and O gauge railroads continue to be 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 produced by Marx from the 1950s to the 1970s). However, as a result of their high cost, one is more inclined to find an HO scale or N scale train set at a toy shop than a O scale collection.
Many modern electric toy trains comprise sophisticated electronic equipment that exude digitized sound effects and allow the operator to securely and easily run several remote controller trains on a single loop of course. In the last few decades, many toy rail operators will operate a train using a TV camera in the front of the motor and hooked up to a screen, such as pc monitor. This will show an image, like that of a real (smaller size) railroad.
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