In declining order of size, current toy train standards include S gauge, HO scale, N scale, and Z scale. The most common model railway standards today are HO and N scale; cheap models sold in toy stores and catalogs are less realistic than those marketed to amateurs. O gauge is the most often used toy train gauge. It has been adopted by many modellers who want to build small-scale replicas of real railways.
There are four main types of toy train: diesel, electric, steam, and mixed. In reality, all railroads use combinations of these three power sources. However, for marketing purposes, most manufacturers label their products with one of these three basic types.
Diesel engines were first used in toy trains in the 1930s. They are still popular with collectors who like the sound they make when running. Electric trains have a battery that powers an electric motor which turns the wheels. These are the only true "self-propelled" trains because the motor produces its own force without any help from gravity or spring loads. They can run indefinitely without fuel, but batteries require recharging every few hours. Steam trains use water and heat to produce steam that drives a piston engine that functions much like a diesel engine's does. These trains usually need some sort of boiler to boil the water before they can be used again.
When you purchase a model train set in a specific gauge, everything in the set—trains, tracks, and accessories—is constructed on the same scale. In general, hobby standards imply that trains of the same scale will function well together. For example, if you build a 1:48-scale train station, all the other elements used to create scenes (roads, buildings, etc.) should be about this size or smaller.
However, some manufacturers produce tracks for use with models made by other companies. These products are called conversion kits and can transform any generic model into a true-to-life scene.
For example, a 1:64-scale model of a town might have fine details such as bridges, buildings, and trees. However, if you do not have access to tracks of similar scale, then these images would be difficult or impossible to display. A conversion kit could solve this problem. The manufacturer might produce sets of pre-scaled pieces that could be easily attached to ensure that even small gaps in detail are filled in. Or they might sell separate items that could be combined in many ways to create different scenes.
In conclusion, model train tracks are usually standardized across brands. But some brands do offer conversion kits for their products, which allow you to customize your models even further.
Model trains have come a long way since their inception. Model trains have evolved from a low-cost play to a valuable collection. They are still among the most popular miniature vehicles ever created.
The first toy train was an Indian pullable wagon with wooden cars attached to a rope that was pulled by a man on a handlebar bike. It is believed to have been invented in the 19th century by Charles Tayloe III. In the United States, John Ericsson developed a working model of a railroad in 1829. However, it was Thomas Howard who is credited with developing the first true toy train in 1866. The term "toy" at this time meant something fun or frivolous, not necessarily something small or child-like.
In Europe, Louis Daguerre and William Henry Fox produced a patent for a motorized toy train in 1879. But it was American Edward Dean Taylor who is credited with inventing the first electric toy train in 1890. In 1902, H. J. Ziegler patented a working model of a radio-controlled toy train. This marks the beginning of today's modern toy train technology.
Over the years, toy trains have become more advanced and sophisticated. Today's trains can run on a track of any length without stopping using computer control.