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Some had wheels which flipped, but these needed to be pushed or pulled. A few of the early 19th-century push toy trains 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. trains model railway

Around 1875, technological advancements in materials and manufacturing enabled tin to be stamped, cut, rolled, and lithographed faster than previously.
Toy trains were altered when Märklin, a German company which specialized in doll house accessories, sought to make an equal toy for boys where a constant revenue stream could be guaranteed by selling add-on accessories for years after the initial purchase. In addition to 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 buildings and scenery in addition to a working train.

Electric trains adopted, with the first appearing in 1897, made by the U.S. firm Carlisle & Finch. As home use of power became more common from the early 20th century, electric trains gained popularity and as time went 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 as well as load and unload freight. Toy trains from the first half of the 20th century were often made of lithographed tin; afterwards trains were often made mainly 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 towards children, while electric trains were marketed towards teenagers, particularly teenaged boys.
Consumer interest in trains as toys waned in the late 1950s, but has experienced 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 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, as a result of their high price, one is more likely to find an HO scale or N scale train set in a toy shop than an O scale collection.

Many modern electrical toy trains contain sophisticated electronic equipment that emit digitized sound effects and allow the operator to securely and easily run several remote control trains on one loop of course. In the last few years, many toy train operators may operate a train with a TV camera in the front of the motor and hooked up to a display, such as computer monitor. This will show a picture, similar to that of a genuine (smaller size) railroad.

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