The history of model trains goes back more than 100 years, long before his time, he said. The first model trains were created in the 1840s and were actually powered by steam. Unlike today's trains, they didn't run along a track. Instead, they would roll across the floor, giving them the name carpet railways. Electric trains weren't invented until the early 20th century and bore a crude likeness to the real thing. Over time, they have become far more realistic, Liebno said.