The first 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 trains were made from tinplate, like the large, durable, stylized locomotive toys from the U.S., which were painted red and gold and decorated with hearts and flowers. train model using keras run using c#
Around 1875, technological advancements in materials and manufacturing allowed tin to be stamped, cut, wrapped, and lithographed faster than ever before.
Toy trains were altered when Märklina German company which specialized in doll house accessories, sought to create an equal toy for boys in which a constant revenue stream could be ensured by purchasing add-on accessories for years after the initial purchase. Along with boxed sets containing a train and track, Märklin offered additional 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 adopted, with the first appearing in 1897, made from the U.S. company Carlisle & Finch. As residential use of electricity became more common 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 remotely couple and uncouple cars and even load and unload cargo. Toy trains by the first half of the 20th century were often made of lithographed tin; afterwards trains were frequently made mainly of plastic.
Pull toys and wind-up trains were marketed by kids, while electric trains were marketed towards teenagers, 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 are still considered toy trains even 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 to the 1970s). However, due to their high price, one is more inclined to locate an HO scale or N scale train set at a toy store than a O scale collection.
Many modern electric toy trains contain sophisticated electronic equipment which emit digitized sound effects and allow the operator to securely and easily run multiple remote controller trains on one loop of track. In recent years, many toy rail operators will operate a train using a TV camera in the front of the motor and hooked up to a display, such as computer monitor. This will show an image, similar to that of a real (smaller size) railroad.
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