miniature model trains

In what country were the first miniature toy trains manufactured?

Miniature toy trains have been the delight of children and adults for almost two hundred years now. They make great gifts for birthdays or Christmas celebrations, and miniature trains are also a very popular choice of toys or as a hobby.

In this article I will answer in detail the question of when and were were the first miniature toy train manufactured: 

Photo source: Wikimedia Commons

WHEN were miniature toy trains first manufactured?

Miniature toy trains were first produced at the beginning of the 1800s, and the year 1830 is the most accurate estimation by hobbyist researchers.

This is just 26 years after the Englishman Richard Trevithick invented the steam engine locomotive to haul iron from the Merthyr Tydfil ironworks in Wales. This train had caught the attention of the entire world and quickly became the obsession of boys and girls everywhere. It was only natural railways enthusiasts would shortly reimagine trains and their locomotives as miniature toys for children to play with.

If you are interested in learning a bit more about the inventor of the train, this short biography on Richard Trevithick has all the main details of his career.

WHERE were miniature toy trains first manufactured?

The first appearance of miniature toy trains on the market was shortly after they were created in the 1830s in Germany. The original toys were simple push or pull replicas of the first real steam locomotive trains.

These toy trains were made of tin, lead or more commonly brass. It wasn’t much longer when miniature trains were “reinvented”, with the upgraded functions of being able to move on their own along a track, or just a flat surface.

The first self-propelled toy trains were simple windup clockwork contraptions. All you had to do was twist the key to wind it up and watch them roll off along the floor.

If you came from a very wealthy family, you may have been lucky enough to have an even more realistic toy. Some of the very best and most expensive miniature toy trains worked almost the same as the real thing, just on a smaller scale. Steam would turn their wheels and propel them forward, very slowly though.

Photo source: Wikimedia Commons

The Pioneer Toy Train Manufacturer

Märklin is one of the oldest German toy train companies, but not just of toy trains but of all toy manufacturers in the world. They started mass-producing toy trains as early as 1859 and have had a very interesting history paving the way to the miniature train giants they are today.

The next level

Towards the end of the 1800s, miniature toy trains had become a global sensation and had begun to broaden their horizons. People wanted not just the trains but the carriages, tracks and more.

A French company, E.F. LeFèvre successeurs, revolutionized the model train scene by developing everything else. Literally. They started by producing all the additional parts a set nowadays may contain. Sheds, signs, signals, stations, little houses and more. It was a shame that their actual tracks were pretty poor, being nothing more than just a circular groove for a train to roll in, but without them, miniature model toy trains wouldn’t be what they are today.

As other companies started to catch on to the French-designed expanded sets, more and more companies moved away from merely producing trains and tracks to include everything else that they could.

E.F. LeFèvre may not have survived until modern times, unlike companies such as Marklin had, but they still played their part in turning miniature trains into the global sensation that they are today.

Here’s more cool stuff about toy trains!