What is the history of the major players?

USA Trains history (from Wikipedia)

USA Trains started out as part of Charles Ro Supply Company, the biggest train store, as well as America's largest Lionel dealer. USA Trains is a family-run business, started by father and son Charles Ro senior and junior.

Charles Ro Supply Company was established in and it started out as a beauty shop business of 4 salons with sixty hairdressers but moved into the hobby business when Charles Ro, Sr. began selling used Lionel trains at one of the storefronts in Everett, Massachusetts. In 1972 Ro started purchasing directly from Lionel to sell them mail-order. By 1980, Ro had completed Lionel's first million dollar order. Also at this time, the company moved to a new location in Malden, Massachusetts into an old supermarket building.

In 1982, Lionel moved production to Mexico, not producing model trains for 9 months. To make up for this, Ro began selling German-made large-scale model trains that were suitable for outdoor use. Realizing their popularity, Ro began making his own large scale model trains under the name Charles Ro Manufacturing Company. In 1989, business was moved into a new building, its current location, in Malden, Massachusetts with 3 stories and over 50,000 square feet.

Until 1995, when some manufacturing was moved offshore, USA Trains were manufactured at this new location which also served as the store.

USA Trains started the offshore manufacturing with their first loco in 1995 and then all locos and the complete Ultimate series of cars was manufactured offshore, but the American series of cars, even the new "American" paint schemes today are still completely manufactured in the US. That includes the actual plastic molds which are outsourced to a US manufacturer.

Manufacturing in China was done by Sanda Kan, which was later purchased by Kader.

AML - American Main Line history

 Established in 2001, American Mainline (AML) is a wholly owned subsidiary of Accucraft Trains. The purpose was to provide a focused and dedicated approach to the 1:29 scale model train market. AML was the first to introduce live steam locomotives in 1:29 scale. These included the Pennsylvania Railroad K-4 class 4-6-2; the Baltimore & Ohio 0-4-0 slope-back tender and 0-4-0 Dockside switchers; along with the USRA       0-6-0 Switcher.

This is another division of Accucraft. Accucraft is unique in that they have their own manufacturing.

Aristo-Craft history

1984 - 19 June - REA and LGB enter into US distribution contract. 

1985 - Aristo-Craft started making G Gauge buildings by licensing some Delton wood structure designs and converting them to plastic kits. These were successful and later converted to fully built-up and painted items. (from Jan-Feb 2010 Aristo-Craft"Insider")

1985 - October - REA sues SUPER SCALE MODELS, LTD.; and Charles C. Merzbach (they were selling "gray market" LGB) (they eventually lose)

1988 - January 4 - E.P. Lehmann terminated the contract.

1988 - REA teamed with Aristo-Craft to make 1/29th Lionel (Lionel is a trademark of Lionel Inc. and not in any way connected to Aristo-Craft) sized standard gauge trains in 1988. Aristo-Craft had designed and started selling a track line and then merged it into their partner REA. The track had the highest percentage of copper in the market plus screwed together rail joiners. (from Jan-Feb 2010 Aristo-Craft"Insider")

1988 - "Periodically, I get e-mails about discussions on other websites and they want my opinion. The most recent one asked about our Long Steel Caboose, which is the first product we ever made. This was some 24 years ago that we designed it and introduced it in 1988. At that time our direction was to be a toy train company and we were making a scale popularized by Lionel (trade mark of the Lionel corporation) in the first part of the century. Our partner at the time under our REA trademark was Bill Lamping and he wanted to make his favorite Lionel caboose. This was the model for our first product, not a scale model of a real caboose." (Lewis Polk, Aristo-Craft forum 03-05-2010, 11:38 AM)

1988 - "The REA trade name was used during our partnership with Bill Laming and when that was dissolved we continued the line under the Aristo-Craft name." (Lewis Polk, Aristo-Craft forum 03-05-2010, 04:12 PM),  NOTE: it seems that the REA name was a partnership, and that partnership was dissolved. The 1990 REA catalog stated: "A joint venture of Polk's Model Craft Hobbies, INC, and Railway Express Agency, Inc.", the address on the catalog was 346 Bergen Avenue NJ.

1990 - Aristo-Craft and REA parted company as REA was spending its time and fortune in litigation against another company. Aristo-Craft also moves its production from Korea to China. (from Jan-Feb 2010 Aristo-Craft"Insider")

1992 - Aristo-Craft enters Chapter 11 due to withdrawal of credit line by bank due to $17,000,000 lawsuit when the bank was not clear about the outcome and thus fearful. (from Jan-Feb 2010 Aristo-Craft"Insider")

1993 - Aristo-Craft purchases most of Delton molds including C-16 Steam Loco. Nat Polk retires to Florida and Lewis and Maryann Polk take over full responsibility of the company. (from Jan-Feb 2010 Aristo-Craft"Insider")

1997 - Aristo-Craft wins lawsuit and is entitled to keep making its track, the source of a "Trade Dress" lawsuit. The judge says we had a duty to provide competition on a non-patented item. (from Jan-Feb 2010 Aristo-Craft"Insider")

1998 - Aristo-Craft exits Chapter 11 and pays all creditors back 100%. (from Jan-Feb 2010 Aristo-Craft"Insider")

1999 - Lewis Polk begins East Coast Large Scale Train Show. (from Jan-Feb 2010 Aristo-Craft"Insider")

2000 - Aristo-Craft implements ERP commercial software from Infor. (from Jan-Feb 2010 Aristo-Craft"Insider")

2003 - Scott Polk joins company to provide 3rd generation continuity. (from Jan-Feb 2010 Aristo-Craft"Insider")

2008 - Sanda Kan O.E.M. contractor for Aristo-Craft goes bankrupt under J.P. Morgan’s ownership and supplies are affected. (from Jan-Feb 2010 Aristo-Craft "Insider")

2009 - Kader purchases Sanda-Kan and begins o rebuild the company. (from Jan-Feb 2010 Aristo-Craft"Insider")

2012 - January 2 - Scott Polk appointed President of Polk's Hobby, Aristo-Craft Trains, and RMT.

2013 - October - Aristo announces it is closing it's doors at the end of the year.