Wrenn 3 rail

The interest in Hornby Dublo and the building of the layout started in 1997/8 and by 2003 most of the HD that I was prepared to afford had been obtained. I then started looking around for 3 rail conversions and the first on the list were Wrenn. Wrenn were owned by Triang when they bought Meccano and Hornby Dublo in 1964. The Hornby Dublo tools were sold to Tri-ang subsidiary, G&R Wrenn, and formed the basis of the Wrenn Railways model range which started to appear in the late 1960s. My first foray into Wrenn was with a Wrenn bodied 2-6-4T in LMS Crimson Lake livery numbered as 2679. This was seemingly normal Wrenn marketing policy whereby they would put fictitious liveries on locos presumably to make them more appealing to their target children buyers rather than the modeling fraternity.

It was the same with the Class 8 diesel shunter. Genuine 3 rail versions of this loco go for fairly big money but this Wrenn bodied one was a bit of a snip and it does have a genuine 3 rail HD chassis and is in excellent condition.

Then came the big purchase, my most expensive buy ever. This was a Wrenn Merchant Navy Pacific, Lamport and Holt line in original “air smoothed” condition and painted in BR Express Blue. This was not a fictitious livery as this engine did actually carry this livery before the decision was made to go to Brunswick Green for all express locomotives.

This is still one of my most attractive and liked locos. It is a genuine 3 rail conversion with non insulated wheels and is an excellent runner

When it comes to fictitious liveries then this version of Lyme Regis probably takes the biscuit. A rebuilt Bulleid pacific (rebuilt in January 1961) but in Southern livery and numbered as 21C109 as if it still had its air smoothed casing although the green is unlike any southern green ever worn by a prototype engine. Easy to find and amongst the cheapest Wrenn locos available so it must have sold pretty well when it was first introduced.

HD revamped their tools for the Dutchess of Montrose and produced a new version of this engine introduced as City of London in 2 rail and City of Liverpool in 3 rail. This was a much better model and the Liverpool 3 rail version is very rare and very expensive. Wrenn used the same tools to produce a City of London and in there normal way some in different liveries. Here we have City of Glasgow in BR Express Blue, although a completely different shade to the Bulleid pacific above. Then we have the Wrenn version of City of London. These are preferable in my opinion as they have metal pony and bogie wheels making for much better running

Collecting mint and boxed Wrenn locos must be one of the most expensive parts of OO collecting but unboxed and converted, therefore not original, it is cheaper than going for the rare HD versions of these locos.

So by now the layout was awash with Express Passenger engines and there was a move to those locos that were the backbone of the steam railways which were small tanks and tender engines used for both passenger and freight services. The only Wrenn contribution to this change was one of their versions of the HD 0-6-0T liveried as Southern 1127. This is also a fictitious livery as far as I know all of these R1 tanks were painted black even in Southern days.

13 thoughts on “Wrenn 3 rail”

  1. Hello, I have been browsing your site with great interest, I have a small ammount of 3 rail HD, and hope to start a layout shortly, is there a place where i could find articles on converting 2 rail locos to 3 rail as I would like too try this on some 2 rail locos I have.
    Great site and very inspirational

  2. Hi from Australia

    We are smothered with old Triang stuff over here. HD bits and pieces are not too common – maybe HD was not into marketing their stuff over here , in a big way . Thanks for your excellent web site .. well done . As a kid in the 1960’s , I never actually laid eyes on any HD at all, but Triang was everywhere , with a local dealership , the newsagents, selling it . I do have some HD locos , the common ones, in both 2 and 3 rail.. I convert old Triang grey plastic track into 3 rail . Regards , Mike

  3. i would like to convert my wrenn locos to run on Hornby dublo 3 rail. will i have replace the insulated drivers or is there another way around this?,
    many thanks, Lee

    1. Lee. No need to change the drivers. The 2rail pick ups that wipe the back of the wheels will have a wire that goes to the motor via a suppressor or whatever. Remove the wire before the suppressors and reroute this wire to earth. Attach the wire from the 3 rail HD pickup to the wire with the suppressor on and attach to the motor. This modification will earth the insulated wheels and allow good running through points etc. Alternative method is to scrape the paint off the insulated wheel centres, apply some silver conducting paint, available from Maplins, and when dry paint black over it. This will also earth these insulated wheels.
      Good luck, let me know how you got on

      1. Hi, many thanks for that i will let you know how it get on, and thanks for the inspiration to go to 3 rail!

        1. Hi, I just thought i would let you know how i got on. the A4, city, 2-64T were easy to do myself. I have also fitted neo magnets to them all. The castle, 8F and R1 were a bit beyond my skills so I had them sent away to be converted. The only let down has been the royal scot. I had to get the flanged driver removed as she would not go through even a large radus curve, I am thinking of getting it re-wheeled with 22mm wheels from a 2-6-4T, as it is a bit light on its feet. it also bends the coupling rods quite a lot, they seem to be thinner than what is on my other wrenn locos but I suppose the royal scot was a pure wrenn design, any suggestions welcome!

  4. Hello Lee, with some of my conversions I have made a permanent earth by drilling a small hole in the insulating bush then forcing a brass pin to short between the wheel and axle. This was done if I needed to remove the 2-rail pick-up to put in a 3-rail collector. Other times I have drilled and tapped the chassis block to fasten a bronze pick-up on touching the wheels. Recently I needed to use a 2-8-0 chassis without a tender for a WR heavy freight tank loco so had some new pick-ups etched as per the following link. I have also done this for the Castle chassis and R1’s.


  5. How interesting that so many people, including me, are into converting 2 rail loco’s to 3 rail running. I am old enough to remember when 2 rail became commonplace and 3 rail was looked at as old-fashioned and not quite the thing old boy! Now, we have come full circle. Although I run 3 rail H-D, I’m greatly influenced by the North Midland Railway of Theo Pearson (died 1959). He began in 00 upon the building of a large garage in 1930 with a purpose-built railway room above, 37′ X 21′. I saw this in 1966. A small history was privately printed in 1945 and the layout was very well described in Railway Modeller Oct & Nov 1957 and photocopies are still available for £5. Theo made his track from 1/8″ X 1/16″ brass strip, soldered to brass sleepers at 3″ centres and filling in with card sleepers at 1/2″ centres. The centre rail was soldered to nails and pushed into place. Loco pick up was on round pickup, set concentrically, rather like just one of the Bo-Bo. I found the Wrenn 3 rail track 26 years ago, used at Marcway, Sheffield and was immediately struck by the very close resemblance to Theo’s track.

  6. My Wrenn Royal Scot lost a nickel tyre off one of the front pony truck wheels.
    I have managed to obtain a replacement wheel from “Cooper trains”.
    How do I remove the rimless wheel and replace it with the new wheel, please?
    Best wishes, Don.

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