G & R Wrenn

G&R Wrenn was a toy company specialising in the manufacture of model railways. It was founded in 1950 by George & Richard Wrenn.[1]


G&R Wrenn's first product line was trackwork for 00 gauge model railway equipment, producing a variety of points and crossings for both 2- and 3-rail formats.

Initially located at Lee Green in southeast London, the company moved in 1955 to new larger premises in Basildon in Essex, where it remained until its final dissolution in 1992. In October 1957 the family partnership was formed into a limited liability company, G&R Wrenn Ltd.

Slot-car racingEdit

In 1960, Wrenn finally launched an entirely new range of products that they had been developing and testing for the previous two years. The company now branched out into electric car racing similar to Scalextric but whereas Scalextric adopted the popular 1/32 scale, Wrenn produced their "Formula 152 model racing system" to 1/52. Wrenn obtained a number of patents to protect their new system. The track was designed with a twin conductor rail on each side of the 'slot' and so the system was capable of running three cars independently on each lane. Wrenn also introduced a unique piece of track called a Deflector Straight which enabled cars to change lanes during a race. The smaller scale meant that quite comprehensive layouts could be fitted on to an 8' x 4' baseboard, but generally, electrical conductivity was quite fragile, so many users adopted a practice of a second conductor track piece on the far side of the circuit.

Some accessories were marketed, such as a lap counter, chicane, pit buildings, a grandstand, track personnel and spectator figures etc., but as the only proponents of the 1/52 scale, the system was never as popular as the 1/32 market.

The original cars were a Ferrari and a Cooper and since there wasn't an existing rotary DC motor small enough to fit inside the cars, Wrenn designed their own vibrator motor. This used an electromagnetic ratchet and pawl system and a contact breaker, rather than the more traditional wound electric motors. This first motor could be run on 16v AC or 12v DC current, with AC current providing slightly more power. Power was either 'on' or 'off' and cars would freewheel around corners, needing a totally different driving technique to variable speed motors. Cars could only run for a short time as they were rather prone to overheating, and performances varied wildly, according to contact and brush settings. Wrenn then introduced two more cars into the range a Vanwall and a Maserati during 1963. In 1964 Wrenn introduced a new motor which was a rotary DC version with a variable speed control and cars were available with either motor. Finally a BRM and a Porsche were added to the DC powered cars and these completed the rather limited range of different cars. The vibrator motored cars were gradually phased out leaving the DC rotary motored cars available into 1967. Finally Wrenn introduced a cheaper version of their slot racing system, called 'Grand Prix' motor racing, at the latter end of the year. This was battery powered and featured another unique motor, which actually needed the cars to be push-started.

Wrenn set up a '152 Drivers club' with members eligible to have a metal badge and the short lived newsletter.[2][page needed]

Other products included battery-operated boats.

Tri-ang WrennEdit

The mid-1960s were a bad time for the model trade and several companies collapsed. Lines Bros Ltd (operating as Tri-ang) bought up the Hornby Dublo line in 1964 after the collapse of the Meccano Ltd empire[3] and a year and a half later bought a controlling share in G&R Wrenn. Wrenn acquired the old Hornby Dublo moulds and from 1967 continued to produce these models under the Wrenn name as well as acting as the distributor for the remaining unsold Dublo stocks. Around the same time the Wrenn car racing system – which had competed with Lines' Scalextric – disappeared. There was speculation as to whether a deal was cut involving the Dublo moulds and the disappearance of the Wrenn racing system; but no details of any such arrangement have ever emerged in surviving records from the time. In 1968 Wrenn took on the same role with Tri-ang's TT scale range as it had with Dublo, and the 'Wrenn Table Top' name was used to sell off the remaining stocks of the abandoned Tri-ang TT 3 mm scale models. From late 1969 the company adopted the styling "Tri-ang Wrenn" for its products; but this lasted for less than three years.

Post Tri-angEdit

In 1971, the Lines Bros group collapsed into receivership.[4] Wrenn bought itself free from the Official Receiver and continued to trade as G&R Wrenn Ltd, primarily selling mostly die-cast products from the former 'Hornby Dublo' line. Although they obtained rights and the tooling for most of the Hornby Dublo models, they 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.

Wrenn also had a sideline reselling Lima N gauge models into the United Kingdom under the name 'Wrenn Micro-models'.[5]

In 1992, G&R Wrenn Ltd at Basildon finally closed down. In addition to the models made from the original Hornby Dublo tooling, during the 1980s the company had introduced brand new models in the form of the air smoothed (so called 'Spam Can') Bulleid Pacifics, the LMS Royal Scot and the Brighton Belle sets. 1992 was not to be the end however. Even as the closedown took place, Dapol was busy purchasing the remaining materials.

Dapol made little use of the inherited Wrenn material, selling a few wagons and reusing some of the designs in N gauge. In 2001 Dapol sold the Wrenn company to new owners - three avid Wrenn collectors, have kept the Company alive and launched a Collectors Club run by themselves and launched a web-site at www.gandr-wrenn.co.uk where brand new models and parts and spares could be bought. Some of the original wagon body moulds did not form part of the sale and they have now been absorbed into the Dapol production line.

In 2009 the Company ran a new 'hot metal' production run of the most popular Wrenn loco body - the Bulleid 'Spam Can' and this and the Rebuilt Bulleid loco bodies formed part of brand new Loco body models available to collectors through the Company web-site. The company ceased trading in October 2015[6]


  2. ^ Gunter 2004.
  3. ^ "A HISTORY OF 00 GAUGE - Part 3".
  4. ^ The Economic History Review. August 1993. Missing or empty |title= (help)[full citation needed]
  5. ^ "British N Gauge Resource Lima/Wrenn". Archived from the original on 23 June 2007.
  6. ^ "G&R Wrenn Ltd to cease trading". The LNER Encyclopedia. Retrieved 5 May 2016. CS1 maint: discouraged parameter (link)
  • Gunter, Maurice (2004). The Story of Wrenn: From Binns Road to Basildon. Irwell Press. ISBN 1-903266-42-4.

External linksEdit