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G & R Wrenn Limited

History

Wrenn Railways 'OO' gauge Tri-ang Wrenn #2224 BR 2-8-0 late crest 48073 G & R Wrenn Limited was founded by brothers George Raymond and Cyril Richard Wrenn in 1950. A third brother, Cedric, joined the company in the late 1950's. The family business continued until 1992 with the exception of a few years in the late 1960's when G & R Wrenn lost its independence and became part of the Lines Brothers Group. In late November 1992 ‘G & R Wrenn Limited’ ceased trading and the name and assets of the company were later bought by David Boyle of Dapol Model Railways.

Wrenn Railways 'OO' gauge Class 4MT Tank locomotive, finished in BR Black lined livery The first products manufactured were high quality 2 and 3 rail track-work, diamond crossings, insulated crossovers and points for ‘OO’ gauge model railways. Later, Wrenn brought out two rail track for TT gauge model railways. The company was located at No. 123 Lee Road, Lee Green, Blackheath, London S.E.3. Track was produced for both 2 and 3 rail operation compatible for use with Farish, Hornby, Tri-ang, Trix, Märklin, Rivarossi and Universal pattern trains. By 1952 extra staff was hired as the business grew quickly. In March 1955, the company moved across London to Unit 9, Bowlers Croft which was located in Honeywood Road, Basildon as a result of an increase in business and to expand the work-space. Continued expansion led to the addition of Bowlers Croft Units Nos. 7 and 11.

Wrenn Railways 'OO' gauge W2233 0-6-0 LMS black Diesel Shunter #7124 In October 1957 the ‘Partnership’ became a Limited Company, G. & R. Wrenn Limited. In 1960 the ‘152’ Series (1:52 scale) Triple Electric Model Motor Racing Car system was released. The word ‘triple’ was in reference to the fact that you could race 3 cars on each track and also change lanes. 152 series was somewhat smaller in scale but still the major competitor to the 1:32 scale ‘Scalextric’ system owned and at that time being developed by the Lines Bros. Group, via their Tri-ang brand. The Wrenn 152 system started life as an ‘AC’ control system, but by 1965 sets and accessories were available for either ‘AC’ or ‘DC’ control systems. G. & R. Wrenn Limited, also made model boats, including the Master Mariner Set, the Wrenn Wonder Boat, battery operated motor boats, and Mighty Midget 3-6 volt motors, a baby alarm, Doodle Discs and the Pull Back ‘n’ Go Mini.

Wrenn Railways 'OO' Gauge Model No.W4305X Passenger Fruit Van On June 1st, 1964, an agreement was announced between Trix Railways and G. & R. Wrenn Limited. British Trix Ltd. would market and sell Wrenn products in England. On January 1st, 1966 Lines Bros. Ltd. purchased a 66% controlling interest in G. & R. Wrenn Ltd. Two years prior, in 1964 Meccano Ltd. of Binns Road, Liverpool announced bankruptcy. Meccano Ltd. had been the producers of Meccano, Dinky Toys, Hornby ‘O’ gauge trains and Hornby Dublo die-cast model railways. The Meccano Company was subsequently taken over by the Lines Bros. Group on February 14th, 1964.

Original plans were to quickly sell leftover inventory of Hornby Dublo 3 Rail items through various retail outlets. During the winter of 1964/65 strategies were developed on how the products of the two companies would be amalgamated. Dinky Toys and Meccano would be useful additions to the product lines, but maintaining two competing railway product lines - Tri-ang & Hornby - was not viable. On May 1st, 1965 it was announced that the two systems would merge under the brand name Tri-ang Hornby. However, the Tri-ang Railways system became the dominant product line, and Hornby Dublo production was closed down.

Wrenn Railways 'OO' gauge W2211 4-6-2 BR green A4 Class #60022 Mallard At some point, George Wrenn approached the Board of Lines Bros. and asked whether his company, working within the Group, could use the Hornby Dublo tools and assemble the models and sell them under his own name (Wrenn). The request was granted and most of the original molds and tools were transferred to the site at Basildon. The first Wrenn produced locomotive, the Cardiff Castle was advertised for sale in December 1966, less than 12 months after Wrenn was taken into the Lines Bros. Group. The Castle locomotive was one of the original Hornby Dublo products. Molds were altered and updated to imprint the name G & R Wrenn Ltd. onto the under body of the locomotive and the first of the many G & R Wrenn Locomotives was born. G. & R. Wrenn Ltd. was also used by Lines Bros. as a way to market and sell the still remaining inventory of Hornby Dublo stock, which included complete locomotives, wagons and coaches, and Hornby Dublo parts and spares. The range of new Wrenn versions of ex-Hornby Dublo locomotives was expanded in 1967 to include the Stanier 8F Freight 2-8-0 and the 2-6-4 Tank locomotive. Around this same time the Wrenn 152 Racing system, which directly competed with Lines Bros. owned Scalextric, disappeared.

Wrenn Railways 'OO' gauge #W5022 Banana Van Fyffes In 1969 the Lines Bros. Group decided to brand and market the new Wrenn products under the joint name of Tri-ang Wrenn. An advertisement for Tri-ang Wrenn items appeared in the October 1969 Railway Modeller magazine. By 1968 the remaining stocks of Tri-ang ‘TT’ (Table Top) 3 mm scale model railways were being sold under the name of Wrenn Table Top products. Tri-ang tension-lock Mark 4 couplings were now also being fitted to all Wrenn products, rather than the original Hornby Dublo type couplings. The Tri-ang Wrenn locomotives and wagons were sold in newly designed boxes to mark the change in brand name.

Wrenn Railways 'OO' gauge W2218 2-6-4 BR black Standard Class Tank Loco #80033 In 1972 G. & R. Wrenn separated from the Lines Bros. Group and Tri-ang, after they collapsed into receivership, and once again became an independent family owned company. Tri-ang Hornby continued to advertise Wrenn products in their catalogue that year. Once again the company became G. & R. Wrenn Limited, selling mostly die-cast products from the former 'Hornby Dublo' line. They obtained some of the manufacturing tools, including those for the grain wagon, mineral wagon and steel sided wagon, but, other tooling had been lost. Wrenn retooled to compensate for these missing components.

Wrenn Railways 'OO' gauge Pullman car #73 Although they obtained rights to many of the Horby Dublo models, Wrenn did not acquire the Hornby brandname. Lines Bros had obtained this name as a result of buying up Hornby Dublo and used it as part of the name 'Tri-ang Hornby'. The Hornby name was subsequently sold to Rovex Ltd. The Wrenn brand image was updated with the introduction of the now famous "guard with the Union Jack" in 1973. Between 1980 and 1992 70 new wagons were introduced. Locos and coaches were released in new paint schemes, numbers and liveries. G & R Wrenn also had a sideline reselling Lima N scale models in the United Kingdom under the name 'Wrenn Micro-models'.

Wrenn Railways 'OO' gauge W2224 4-6-0 BR blue Castle Class Loco #4082 Windsor Castle In October 1992 the company fell on hard times, ceased manufacting and began liquidating inventory. In August 1993 Dapol took control. All molds, presses, parts, spares and remaining completed items were transported to the Dapol factory in Winsford, along with the paper records of the company. David Boyle and his staff began the initial process of sorting out what they had.

Wrenn Railways 'OO' gauge #W4657 United Dairies Tank Wagon Between August 1993 and April 1994, Dapol attempted to dump original Wrenn wagons in Wrenn boxes at very cheap prices. These 58 wagons are now catalogued as 'The Winsford Wagons' and are highly sought after by collectors as a complete and different set. Dapol concentrated efforts on moving the company from Winsford in Cheshire, to its new home at The Lower Dee Mill in Llangollen, Denbighshire. Manufacturing of Wrenn railways locomotive and coach products ceased completely during this time.

Wrenn Railways 'OO' gauge Railways W2240 2-8-0 LNER 8F 06 Class Loco #3144 Manufacturing at the new location resumed in late 1994, However, Dapol made little use of the Wrenn material, selling a few wagons and reusing some of the designs in N gauge. In January 1995, a massive fire occurred at the Winsford site, where a large amount of inventory remained. Fortunately, the majority of the Wrenn items had already been moved to the new site, but the fire destroyed a large part of the G. & R. Wrenn history of art-work and records.

In November 1997 Dapol announced that they were to start the sale of two new catalogues of previous Wrenn wagons, which they introduced as their 'WR1' and 'WR2' ranges. The WR1 Range consisted of original Wrenn wagon bodies mounted on original Wrenn wagon die-cast chassis, but fitted with Dapol couplings and Dapol pin-point axle wheels. These wagons were sold in Dapol boxes. The WR2 range consisted of original Wrenn wagon bodies mounted on Dapol chassis, with Dapol wheels and couplings and were also sold in Dapol boxes. They also introduced a new WR3 range which consisted of entirely new Dapol-made wagon bodies on Dapol chassis and Dapol boxes, but made using the original Wrenn wagon body molds, now refurbished and taken into the Dapol production system.

In November 2001, three avid Wrenn collectors came together and bought the G. & R. Wrenn Company from Dapol Ltd. They acquired the company name, the registered trade marks, most of the original tools and presses (with the exception of the wagon tools that had been absorbed into the Dapol production lines) and all of the remaining parts and spares. There was never any intention of re-opening a fully functional production line factory for Wrenn products, but it was an attempt to preserve the identity of the original company and to prevent any other prospective purchaser from acquiring and moving it, and production, abroad.

Under new ownership the company has produced new wagons, Pullman coaches, 6 and 4 wheel tankers, a Lowmac Wagon with Racing Car Load, a Guards Van, mineral wagons, coal wagons, ventilated vans, passenger fruit vans, a horse wagon, a hopper, and a Golden Jubilee wagon to celebrate 50 years of production in HO/OO gauge. They also produce R1 Loco bodies, finished 0-8 Shunter Bodies, and finished Class 20 Bo-Bo bodies in HO/OO gauge.

Link to the G & R Wrenn website.

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