The first toy trains were made from lead and had no moving parts. Some had wheels which flipped, but these had to be pushed or pulled. A few of the early 19th-century drive toy rails were made of tinplate, like the large, durable, stylized locomotive toys in the U.S., that were painted red and gold and decorated with hearts and flowers. trains model trains lionel blue comet
Around 1875, technological improvements in materials and manufacturing enabled tin to be scraped, cut, rolled, and lithographed faster than ever before.
Toy trains were altered when Märklin, a German firm that specialized in doll house accessories, sought to create an equivalent toy for boys in which a constant revenue stream could be guaranteed by selling add-on accessories for decades after the first purchase. Along with boxed sets containing a train and track, Märklin offered additional 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 followed, with the first appearing in 1897, made by the U.S. firm 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 electrical trains grew in sophistication, gaining lighting, the ability to change management, to emit a whistling sound, to smoke, to couple and uncouple cars as well as load and unload freight. Toy trains by the first half of the 20th century were often made of lithographed tin; later trains were frequently made mostly of plastic.
Prior to 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 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 continue to be considered toy trains 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 from the 1950s to the 1970s). However, due to their high cost, one is more inclined to locate an HO scale or N scale train set in a toy shop than an O scale set.
Many modern electrical toy trains comprise sophisticated electronic equipment that emit digitized sound effects and allow the operator to safely and easily run several remote controller trains on one loop of track. In recent decades, many toy train operators may operate a train with a TV camera in the front of the motor and hooked up to a screen, such as pc monitor. This will show an image, similar to that of a genuine (smaller size) railroad.
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