Brio introduced its wooden trains in Europe in 1958. Since that time, generations of children have played make-believe with the high-quality beechwood toys. The success of Brio's trains has inspired a number of other companies to create compatible products including rail cars, locomotives, buildings and track. Brio-compatible trains fall into several broad categories.
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Realistic American Trains
While many wooden train manufacturers feature fanciful designs, some such as the Whittle Shortline Railroad provide realistically sculpted rail cars with true-to-life paint jobs. The foremost appeal of realistic trains is that they allow children to role play what they see on real railroads. Whittle, which claims to be "the #1 American wooden toy train maker," creates Brio-compatible products modelled on real American railroads. Whittle also offers a MEGA line of rail cars that are over 5 inches long but work on Brio-compatible tracks.
Manufacturers' wooden train product lines expand beyond traditional trains. PlanToy's PlanCity system features modern-looking trains and an optional road system set in the bustling, make-believe metropolis of Eco City. Vehicles include recycling trucks, taxis and construction vehicles. Building accessories include a washing station, parking garage and an Eco City home. The fanciful offerings of Maple Landmark Woodcraft include rail cars shaped like farm and circus animals, Noah's Ark and ladybirds. Additionally, Maple offers rail cars shaped like letters and wall-mount racks on which to display collections.
Trains with Marble Runs
Marble runs are another popular wooden toy, especially in Europe. Claiming that "Two in One for a whole lot more than twice the fun," Eichhorn's Marbletrax ingeniously combines wooden railways with marble runs. Mechanisms in certain track pieces allow specially designed rail cars to pick up and carry marbles. A small gate in the bottom of the car can be tripped to drop off marbles at various points along the track.
As Brio is located in Sweden, it is little wonder that its trains have always reflected a decidedly European flair. While still offering their classic wooden engine, newer offerings include plastic battery-powered engines that are modelled after European railways. German manufacturer Eichhorn intermixes traditional wood and colourful plastic components in their Brio-compatible train sets. Eichhorn's Euro-styled locomotives include simple wooden styles and battery-powered engines with infrared remote controls. Additional accessories to enhance a child's make-believe world include flexible track, tunnels and traffic signs.
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