Timeline of Model Trains

At-a-glance facts about The World's Greatest Hobby.

1860s: Wooden and metal floor toys that resemble trains are first made.
 
1891: Pioneering toy company Marklin of Germany establishes a series of standard track gauges for its clockwork (wind-up) and later electric-powered trains.
 
1896: Carlisle and Finch in the United States develops electric- powered trains that run on metal track.
 
1901: Lionel produces its first electric train, built initially only as a store-window display. Shoppers are more interested in the display itself than the store's products.
 
1920s: Toy electric trains blossom in popularity in what today is known as the "Golden Age." However, most are big, expensive, and associated with rich kids.
 
1930s: Accurate model trains in O scale and later HO scale, more realistic in proportion and detail than "toy" trains, come into existence. They are primarily kits built by adult craftsmen.
 
1934: First issue of Model Railroader magazine.
 
1942-45: World War II halts toy production, including production of electric train sets.
 
Early 1950s: Toy trains are the no. 1 toys for boys, as pervasive in American culture as video games are today. Lionel for a time is the biggest toy maker in the United States. There is not a single boy who doesn't have trains or have a friend with a train set.
 
Mid-1950s: There is a clear split between scale model railroading for adults and toy trains sold to children. Plastic takes over as the primary material used to produce model trains.
 
1965: Ever improving electric motor technology and manufacturing techniques lead to the introduction of N scale trains, about half the size of HO trains.
 
1968: On the opposite end of the spectrum, LGB of Germany introduces large scale or "G" scale trains, which today predominate in the hobby of garden railroading.
 
1970s: Z scale, half again as small as N scale, is introduced by Marklin. Developments in the field of electronics begin to influence how electric trains designed and are controlled on the track.
 
1980s: Digital control systems and realistic sound-producing systems are developed.
Today: Model trains are more popular than ever, especially among Baby Boomers who were children
 
Today: There are about 500,000 model railroaders and toy train hobbyists in the U.S. and Canada. Model trains are especially popular in England, Germany, Australia, and Japan. The World's Greatest Hobby campaign is launched to promote all aspects of model railroading

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Model trains in N, HO, O
Model trains in N, HO, O, G
Magazine, books, videos
Model trains in N, HO
Model trains in N, HO, O
Control systems
Manual switch stands