Some had wheels that turned, but these had to be pushed or pulled. A few of the early 19th-century push toy rails were made from tinplate, like the large, durable, stylized locomotive toys in the U.S., which were painted gold and red and decorated with hearts and flowers. transmodel campbell
Around 1875, technological advancements in materials and manufacturing allowed tin to be scraped, cut, wrapped, and lithographed faster than previously.
Toy trains were revolutionized when Märklin, a German company which 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 years 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 an operating train.
Electric trains followed, with the first appearing in 1897, made from the U.S. company Carlisle & Finch. As home use of electricity became more prevalent from the early 20th century, electric trains gained popularity and as time moved on, these electric trains grew in sophistication, gaining light, the ability to change direction, to emit a whistling noise, to smoke, to remotely couple and uncouple cars and even load and unload freight. Toy trains by the first half of the 20th century were frequently made of lithographed tin; afterwards trains were frequently made mainly 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 towards kids, while electrical trains were marketed towards teens, especially teenaged boys. It was during the 1950s the modern emphasis on realism in model railroading started to catch on. 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.
Now, 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 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 cost, one is more likely to find an HO scale or N scale train set in a toy store than an O scale set.
Many modern electrical toy trains contain sophisticated electronic equipment which exude digitized sound effects and allow the operator to securely and easily run several remote control 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 pc monitor. This will show a picture, similar to that of a real (smaller size) railroad)
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