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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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'.
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.
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
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
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.