O gauge is the size of train that most Americans associate with Lionel. It was actually invented around the turn of the century in Germany, although whether it was invented by Marklin or one of the many johnny-come-latelies is open to debate.
After World War II, O gauge faded very quickly in Europe, although in the United States it experienced a resurgence that helped make Marx and Lionel two of the biggest, most profitable toy companies in the world.
I’ve seen some pictures of European O gauge. You’ve got to see this stuff.The second picture on this Dutch page is extremely impressive. Bayko was an architectural toy made of Bakelite (an early plastic), available both before and after World War II. While the scale didn’t necessarily match O gauge precisely, it was more than close enough to the 1:43 scale used in the United Kingdom and 1:45 in Continental Europe, and it allowed the construction of a wide variety of very colorful and attractive buildings. It makes American Plasticville look downright monotonous.
Between the various construction kits available, buildings made by the train manufacturers themselves, the huge variety of 1:43 vehicles and figures, it was possible to build a miniature world that the American product lines just couldn’t match. And yet it died. I guess it fell victim to the smaller houses in Europe, which were much friendlier to HO and TT scales.
If I ever go to Europe and run across any of this stuff, I’m going to be in trouble.