The earliest toy trains were made of lead and had no moving parts. Some had wheels which turned, but these had to be pushed or pulled. Some of the early 19th-century drive toy rails were made of tinplate, like the big, durable, stylized locomotive toys from the U.S., which were painted red and gold and decorated with hearts and flowers. train model in azure ml
Around 1875, technological improvements in materials and manufacturing allowed tin to be stamped, cut, wrapped, and lithographed faster than ever before.
Toy trains were altered when Märklin, a German company that specialized in doll house accessories, sought to create an equivalent toy for boys in which a constant revenue stream could be guaranteed by purchasing add-on accessories for decades after the first purchase. Along with boxed sets comprising 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, made by 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 moved on, these electric trains grew in sophistication, gaining light, the ability to change management, to emit a whistling sound, to smoke, to couple and uncouple cars as well as load and unload cargo. Toy trains from the first half of the 20th century were often made of lithographed tin; afterwards trains were often made mostly of plastic.
Pull toys and wind-up trains were marketed towards children, while electric trains were marketed towards teens, especially teenaged boys. It was during the 1950s that the modern emphasis on realism in model railroading began to grab on. Consumer interest in trains as toys waned in the late 1950s, but has undergone 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 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 produced by Marx in the 1950s into the 1970s). However, due to their high cost, one is more likely to find an HO scale or N scale train set at a toy shop than a O scale set.
Many modern electrical toy trains contain sophisticated electronics that exude digitized sound effects and permit the operator to securely and easily run multiple remote control trains on one loop of track. In recent decades, many toy train operators will operate a train using a TV camera in the front of the motor and hooked up to a screen, such as computer monitor. This will show a picture, similar to that of a genuine (smaller size) railroad)
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