In the early 1980s BR was severely cash-strapped and economy and withdrawal of anything that was either not paying its way, or was in need of expenditure, was very much the order of the day. Witness the 'dequadrification' of Filton Bank in 1984 due to the condition of Stapleton Road viaduct! In 1982 BR stated they had no plans to close the Melksham line but, towards the end of that year new signals for the forthcoming Westbury MAS scheme were installed at Bradford Junction giving no provision to access the line. It later transpired that the line would remain open from Thingley Jctn to Melksham (4 miles) where some sidings remained for oil and fertiliser traffic with the remaining 4 miles to Bradford Jctn being taken out of use. A public outcry resulted and eventually BR relented and decided to retain the line as a through route although it was maintained for several years on a shoestring budget with permanent speed restrictions of 30/40 mph from Melksham to Bradford Jctn. Resignalling did not take place until March 1990, some 4 years after the rest of Westbury panel's area of control was complete and the 4 miles of old worn-out jointed track was not replaced until around 2001.
My records show the 'Wizard' calling at Swindon and Chippenham only in 1981, 1982 1983 and 1984 although an unadvertised crewing stop was often made at Westbury. Operational stops were sometimes necessary at Castle Cary, Yeovil Pen Mill and Maiden Newton for token purposes or to await the arrival of another train from the next section of single track. In 1985 the reopened Melksham station was served, 0936 out and 1937 return. The service was discontinued from 1986 due to the reintroduction of passenger services between Westbury and Swindon with certain trains (DMU's) extended to/from Weymouth.
Pictures 1 and 2. Handbill from 1983 for Weymouth Wizard. Picture 3. 47114 accelerating away from Melksham on the evening return working on 19th July 1983. Picture 4. The signalman collecting the single line token from the driver of loco 47490 on 25th August 1982 when I used the train from Chippenham.