The first toy trains were made of lead and had no moving parts. Some had wheels which flipped, but these needed to be pushed or pulled. Some of the early 19th-century drive toy trains were made from tinplate, like the big, durable, stylized locomotive toys in the U.S., which were painted red and gold and decorated with hearts and flowers. train model on server setup keras
Around 1875, technological advancements in materials and manufacturing allowed tin to be stamped, cut, wrapped, and lithographed faster than ever before.
Toy trains were revolutionized when Märklina German company that specialized in doll house accessories, sought to create an equivalent toy for boys in which a continuous revenue stream could be guaranteed by purchasing add-on accessories for years after the first purchase. Along with 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 an operating train.
Electric trains adopted, with the first appearing in 1897, made from the U.S. firm Carlisle & Finch. As residential use of power became more prevalent from the early 20th century, electrical trains gained popularity and as time moved on, these electrical trains grew in sophistication, gaining lighting, the ability to change direction, to emit a whistling sound, to smoke, to couple and uncouple cars and even load and unload cargo. Toy trains by the first half of the 20th century were frequently made of lithographed tin; later trains were frequently made mostly 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 children, while electrical trains were marketed towards teens, particularly teenaged boys. 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.
Today, S gauge and O gauge railroads continue to be considered toy trains even by their adherents and are often accessorized with semi-scale model buildings by Plasticville or K-Line (who owns the rights to the Plasticville-like buildings created by Marx in the 1950s to the 1970s). However, as a result of their high cost, one is more likely to locate an HO scale or N scale train set in a toy shop than an O scale collection.
Many modern electrical toy trains comprise sophisticated electronics which exude digitized sound effects and permit the operator to safely and easily run several remote control trains on one loop of course. In recent years, many toy train operators may operate a train with a TV camera in the front part 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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