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What happened to Wrenn?

Discussion in 'Model Railways' started by 34007, Jan 31, 2009.

  1. 34007

    34007 Part of the furniture

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    As the subject sugests I am interested as in what happened to them?
     
  2. kieranhardy

    kieranhardy Well-Known Member

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  3. 34007

    34007 Part of the furniture

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    Okay I have 2 Issues here:

    1) I reckon Wrenn could have been the front-runners of Hornby if they had got ownership?!
    2) And what is it with Dapol NOT making use of what Wrenn were famous for? Style, Design and all of a high quality and worth money......
     
  4. sleepermonster

    sleepermonster Member

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    I was told that the masters, from which the working moulds were made, had become too worn to use further. Too high a proportion of the diecast bodies produced were not good enough to use or required too much work to clean up. Some masters, in particular the one for the lowmac wagon were destroyed in the fire referred to above. Anyone know for definite?

    Tim
     
  5. 34007

    34007 Part of the furniture

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    Fire could have been a likely cause because of the fact that the moulds to make the locos weren't available?

    If so this is a sad tale...
     
  6. ADB968008

    ADB968008 Guest

    In the early 1990's I was at Staffordshire University and did a dissertation on the economics of making model railway products and direct selling to the public instead of via retailers. (This was just pre-internet). My thesis saw me visit Riko, Hornby and Dapol, plus I met with a few people from Bachmann.
    David Boyle from Dapol made me very welcome and an offer I couldnt refuse. In return for some summer work, he would help me with my thesis, at which I saw myself repeatedly visit his "warehouse".
    Part way into this this literally during a matter of days, a wagon had moved the stock, and moulds of Wrenn to his place, which literally covered the entire building ground floor for the entire time I was there.
    The Wrenn moulds were metal and plastic (But dapol could only use Plastic injection moulds). David held dreams of re-introducing Metal models, but in reality many of the hundreds of moulds were broken or missing. Many boxes contained part finished models, others were complete. Initially some wrenn models (mostly Blue Southern Parcels vans) could be assembled, boxed and sold, later just sold unboxed, later just bodies only ! Many of the wrenn moulds were incomplete, some cracked and knackered. I was given a knackered mould for use at my dissertation presentation, it weighed about 20kg and was a foot long, I may still have it somewhere.
    Hattons of liverpool bought all the completed / finished and boxed Wrenn stock in it's entirety and subsequently cornered the market and tripled the price.

    Dapols operation was an unusual one, upstairs lay box after box of old Mainline and Airfix models (new), stacked floor to ceiling. When a customer order was placed, the model was taken from it's mainline box and placed into a Dapol box. The mainline box was shredded for packaging. (Mostly Airfix Mark 2 D Coaches, Mainline Scots and N2s, Airfix 31's).
    Downstairs was a few plastic injection moulding machines, a printing machine and a spray paint area. These machines made the odd plastic wagon, lots of leaky airfix kits and dog feeding bowls !
    I got to use the airfix kit machine, and cut off the excess plastic leaks, and the blobs of grey plastic. These were recycled into the machine which they loaded round grey plastic pellets to create the inital model. The kit was placed into a plastic bag and stapled together with a dapol instruction leaflet.

    I got to try printing numbers onto DMUs (transpenines, 150.2 and 155) and using the 4 wheel chassis (which I think about 500 were purchased) to power them and also the class 81, where a large number of bodies were produced, but there was some issue with the chassis. The machine was shaped like a £, laying the body onto a flat vice, with set positioning blocks to get the exact position. With your hand you operated this handle in an "n" shape, which first dipped into a paint bath, then lifted and lowered exactly onto the body to print the number. After you lifted the body and placed it into a bakers tray to dry. I must have done every one of the hundred or so green DMUs (I think Trans penines).
    I believe the 8F and Bulleid could have gone into production as enough moulds existed, but the price was going to be £500+ each, but there was also plans to see if the metal moulds could be adapted for plastic use. I remember unpacking some Wrenn boxes and finding about 1000+ Golden Arrows! for the bulleid pacifics and another v shaped lids for Salt wagons. I have a number of photographs from the old workshop (which looked like it was 200 years old).

    I remember being told a wagon used 7p of plastic, cost 71p in total to manufacturer and the box cost 20p ! (as it was oursourced). David helped me with the economics of modelling. David had big dreams of re-introducing wrenn models and my 300 page dissertation included the economics of an upgraded Wrenn A4 on a kitmaster ? A4 chassis, and also an A2 (as he had both bits) to be made in China, would cost around £100000 and require a minimum 30000 units ! (I later think Bachmann bought these moulds).
    Others included completing Wrenn moulds that were never produced (i think a plastic 8F or Black 5 was one). I recall david telling me he owned both class 81 moulds (as well).
    Finally the Wrenn wagons were produced around a year later using wheels (I think bought from Hornby) and moulded, painted and printed in his shropshire factory in limited amounts, but this took some time just to find the required moulds and check their compatibilty with his machinery (which was plastic only).

    After I finished my dissertation (I concluded it was a good idea, but I wasnt going to do it), I left for computer science, I think the factory burnt down and operation moved to Llangollen and grew way beyond what it was back then, but in my experience Wrenn was dead before it went north.

    I was asked to keep the content a secret, but I think much time has passed, maybe I could publish some of it here, but it did contain about a dozen proposals of existing and new dapol / wrenn / kitmaster /liliput / mainline models toegther with their economics (including one for a D172 Ixion which Bachmann later produced) - so I claim credit for that ;-), obviously these ideas were my disseration, but their basis was from "the authoritive source" that helped me those summers and there was a good probability of a more permanent job there if i'd wanted it.

    To me the basic problem was cost. The Shropshire operation was tiny (like a blacksmiths yard) and could assemble but not produce locomotives. Chinese production required 10k's of units which cost too much, and new models was simply too expensive to consider. The alternative of large machinery investment in the UK would mean mass production, which again would cost too much. The motor bogie for the sprinter to me summed it up.. one 4 wheeled bogie could power 4 models and so was mass produced on the cheap, but it was then cobbled together in the backyard for each model in small quantities, which ultimately wasnt very good (the 150/2, the lack of a chassis for the 81 etc).

    Obviously dapols gone on leaps and bounds since those days when I was there, which to me felt just plain underfunded ! - today its a major player but I am still grateful for the experience it gave me... and my degree, with honours.
     

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