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Some had wheels that turned, but these needed to be pushed or pulled. A few of the early 19th-century drive toy rails were made of tinplate, such as the large, durable, stylized locomotive toys from the U.S., that were painted gold and red and decorated with hearts and flowers. youtube model trains

Around 1875, technological advancements in materials and manufacturing enabled tin to be scraped, cut, wrapped, and lithographed faster than ever before.
Toy trains were revolutionized when Märklina German company that specialized in doll house accessories, sought to make an equivalent toy for boys in which a continuous revenue stream could be guaranteed by purchasing add-on accessories for decades after the initial purchase. Along with boxed sets containing a train and track, Märklin offered extra track, rolling stock, and buildings offered separately, creating the predecessor to the modern model train layout featuring buildings and scenery along with a working train.

Electric trains adopted, with the first appearing in 1897, made by the U.S. company Carlisle & Finch. As home use of power became more prevalent in the early 20th century, electrical trains gained popularity and as time moved on, these electrical 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 cargo. Toy trains from the first half of the 20th century were frequently made of lithographed tin; afterwards trains were often 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 towards children, while electrical trains were marketed towards teens, 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.

Now, S gauge and O gauge railroads continue to be considered toy trains 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 into 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 store than a O scale set.

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

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