The first 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 drive toy trains were made of tinplate, such as the large, durable, stylized locomotive toys in the U.S., that were painted gold and red and decorated with hearts and flowers. train model scale
Around 1875, technological advancements in materials and manufacturing enabled tin to be scraped, cut, rolled, and lithographed faster than previously.
Toy trains were altered when Märklina German firm which specialized in doll house accessories, sought to create an equivalent toy for boys in which a continuous revenue stream could be ensured by selling add-on accessories for decades after the initial purchase. Along with boxed sets comprising 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 adopted, with the first appearing in 1897, produced from the U.S. company Carlisle & Finch. As residential use of power became more prevalent in 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 management, to emit a whistling noise, 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; afterwards trains were often made mainly 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 started 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 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, due to their high cost, one is more likely to locate an HO scale or N scale train set at a toy shop than a O scale collection.
Many modern electrical toy trains comprise sophisticated electronics which emit 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 years, many toy rail operators will operate a train using a TV camera in the front part of the engine and hooked up to a display, such as pc monitor. This will show an image, like that of a genuine (smaller size) railroad.
Thanks for your interest in train model scale