The first toy trains were made from lead and had no moving parts. Some had wheels which flipped, but these had to be pushed or pulled. A few of the early 19th-century push toy trains were made from 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 yuba city ca
Around 1875, technological improvements in materials and manufacturing enabled tin to be stamped, cut, rolled, and lithographed faster than previously.
Toy trains were altered when Märklin, a German firm that specialized in doll house accessories, sought to make an equivalent toy for boys in which a constant revenue stream could be ensured by selling add-on accessories for years after the first purchase. Along with boxed sets containing a train and track, Märklin offered extra track, rolling stock, and buildings sold separately, creating the predecessor to the modern model train layout featuring scenery and buildings in addition to a working train.
Electric trains followed, with the first appearing in 1897, made by the U.S. company 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 noise, 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 often 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 by children, while electrical trains were marketed towards teenagers, especially teenaged boys. It was during the 1950s that the modern emphasis on realism in model railroading started to grab on.
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 K-Line (who owns the rights to the Plasticville-like buildings produced by Marx in the 1950s to the 1970s). However, due to their high price, one is more inclined to locate an HO scale or N scale train set in a toy shop than a O scale collection.
Many modern electric toy trains contain sophisticated electronics that emit digitized sound effects and permit the operator to safely and easily run multiple remote control trains on one loop of track. In the last few decades, many toy rail operators may operate a train using a TV camera in the front part of the engine and hooked up to a display, such as computer monitor. This will show an image, like that of a genuine (smaller size) railroad)
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