April 26, 2015
New car park at Melksham Station - ideal for commuters from Seend, Hilperton, Yarnbrook and Holt
Train travel is great - but for many people those final few miles from home to station make it less than ideal - especially in rural areas ... and Wiltshire has been characterised (but perhaps not correctly) as a "rural area".
With the aid of a "Local Sustainable Transport Fund" grant, Wiltshire's rail service, which used to be disjoint across the county has now been joined up. Eight trains each way per day run from Swindon to Westbury via Chippenham, Melksham and Trowbridge - some starting back at Gloucester, Stroud and Kemble and carrying on to Warminster, Salisbury and Southampton - and there's a through service to Frome too from 17th May this year. All of those trains offer connections further afield into places such as Bath and Bristol, Reading, London, the South West and South Wales. But it's also about how you get to the station to start your journey.
Under LSTF ... major works have been done at many stations; this includes car park work, cycle shelters, electric car charging points and ticket vending machines at various stations including Westbury, Trowbridge and Bradford--on Avon.
At Melksham station, a brand new car park opened in just the last few days provides around 4 times the number of spaces we used to have there - and that's excellent news because it's been getting rather tight. Melksham Station's located just off the A350 / A365 junction - so (unlike in other nearby towns) you can drive to the station without having to go into the worn centre - and that makes it the ideal railhead for travelling into Swindon from Sells Green, Semington, West Ashton, Steeple Ashton, Keevil, Yarnbrook and Hilperton ... Holt, Shaw, Atworth and Broughton Gifford too, as well as from Melksham itself.
If you live to the north / west of Melksham, you're within easy walking or cycling distance of the station (and foot / cycle access from Foundry Close is planned but awaits the linking up of the council land to the station). From the south and east side, the Melksham Rail Link bus from Bowerhill at 06:50 and 07:20 each morning, via the outer relief road, Melksham Forest and the Town Centre provides the link ... and it returns from the station in the evening shortley after the 17:36 and 18:52 train from Swindon, and the 18:32 train from Westbury, arrive.
During the day, bus routes 14, 234, x34, 272, x72 and Zigzag all pass near the station - though it has to admitted that connections aren't always good. And in the evening and on Sundays the 271 goes past as well.
P.S. Trains from Melksham Station ...
• Departures at 06:38s, 07:20n, 07:49n, 09:15s, 10:04n, 11:13s, 12:03n, 13:13s, 14:30n, 15:53s, 16:31n, 18:03s, 18:48n, 19:19s, 19:47n and 20:38s (Monday to Friday until December 2015)
• Departures at 07:48n, 08:37n, 09:02s, 09:46n, 11:02s, 11:48n, 13:02s, 13:48n, 15:02s, 15:21n, 15:48s, 16:49n, 18:02s, 18:48n, 20:02s and 21:34s (Saturdays until October 2015)
s - Southbound service for Trowbridge and Westbury. Change at Trowbridge for Bath Spa and Bristol Temple Meads.
n - Northbound service for Chippenham and Swindon. Change at Chippenham for Bath Spa and Bristol Temple Meads.
Up to 13 departures on Sundays too - please check with National Rail for times as they vary depending on engineering works.
Effect on external factors on traffic to our web sites - an update
A post on the "Four in a Bed" Facebook fan club page says that the reader loves the show - but says there are too many repeats for her liking. Well, sure, it's expensive to make new shows ... and I wonder just what is "too many" repeats. I know some of our Facebook friends who took part in the show - "Contribs" are quite often saying "we were on again", yet we've not appeared (in the UK) since - I think - 19th July last year. We have had emails from the Netherlands and Australia, where our show has come up on TV channels which I suspect are not the mainstream ones.
As contributors, we're not notified of when we're going to be repeated - I've no problem with that (though I might have if we were one of the places that brings negative viewer feedback, as happens to some of our friends. But we can (I think) track UK showings based on our web site visitors via Google Analytics which show the following peaks:
9th January 2013 - 1144 (and repeated at the weekend following)
1st September 2013 - 497
20th October 2013 - 638
26th January 2014 - 643
29th June 2014 - 392
19th July 2014 - 272
And here's the graph for Well House Manor:
We're an IT training centre too - with lots of technical resource and to contrast to that graph I have taken a look at our Google Analytics results for the main Well House Consultants site:
It's very intersting to see the saw-tooth shape of that curve - a business site, so very much quieter at weekends than during the week. And note the effect in increased traffic of a site upgrade along the way.
A further comparision to the First Great Western Passenger Forum that we run:
Where there is still a weekly cycle, but it's much less intense - only Saturday being quieter, and then only a little quieter. The remarkable thing about this graph is how stable it is - no matter what happens, ou faithful members just keep on going, with turnover in terms of dropping members being almost exactly replaced by newcomers. Only in Spring last year, where weather and tides destroyd the Dawlish sea wall, flooded the Somerset levels, and precollated up through the cutting at Maidenhead, do you see much change in the pattern.
April 25, 2015
Fishguard to Melksham - third part of Dublin journey
Fishguard - and its railway - is something I've taken quite an interest in for a number of years. Like the TransWilts, there were just two trains each way per day for a number of years and like (but actually ahead) of the TransWilts, the service was increased for a trial period ... and that increase remains in place now, after the end of the trial period.
Here's Fishguard station as we awaited the train ...
... and here's the train arriving ...
Somewhere around 15 to 20 people got off, and around 40 joined for the return journey. I noticed that all the passgengers were to / from the ferry - but of course that's no comment on the local traffic as the train in question is "the boat train" in the middle of the day - the lull between the peaks on the TransWilts, and no doubt the same thing may apply in midWales.
The local bus came in just before the train and was waiting to leave as the train left - truely linking road, rail and water transport. Bus passengers, though, were conspicuois by their absence. But, again, offseason and midweek.
We picked up half a dozen passengers at Fishguard and Goodwick - the local station for the township. And then on to Clarbeston Road, where we stopped at the signal box to drop off the single line token, but then skipped the station as we wre the express. Just Whitland, Carmarthen, and then fast via the Swansea District Line to Bridgend and Cardiff. Hardly any passengers on or off all the way; pretty close to 40 people still on at Cardiff Central. Some scenery and rare line pictures from the many I took.
And so to quick changes at Cardiff and at Bristol, and a little longer at Chippenham. Able to sit down in comfort to Bristol, with most seats taken to Chippenham, and standing room only to Melksham ... and the Rail Link Bus home.
April 24, 2015
Rosslare to Fishguard - foot passenger on the ferry
Continuing my travel story - Dublin home to Wiltshire via Rosslare
The railway no longer runs into the ferry terminal at Rosslare - it finishes a few hundred yards short, and it's a walk through to the station car park between forbidding fences and over a level crossing
A quiet - a desolate - spot as the only one off the train, and indeed as I walked into the station forecourt / car park, there was but one car there. The window wound down and I was greeted - "Graham - Graham Ellis?" ... and it was the owner of the B&B I had booked into - online - who had come down to the station to save me the walk up the hill; I had added a note of my 21:28 arrival so that he knew when to expect me, and was delighted he had come down with a lift. Yes, I'll certainly give him a name check - St. Martin's B&B - where I enjoyed a pleasant and quiet night's sleep, and a full Iriish breakfast cooked by his morning help, Kelly.
You will appreciate I'm not as good at photographing food as I am at trains:
And so down the hill, past the station entrance and along to the ferry port in the morning.
And I so much prefer to be able to walk up to the ferry rather than bing bussed on and off the car deck as happens at so many places these days!
A quiet crossing on a beautiful day - though the windows were so filthy that pictures of the sea had to be taken from the upper deck, and bits of the ferry looked a bit like a rust bucket.
And so into Fishguard where some 40 foot passengers disembarked.
And lunch in the Fishguard Cafe in the terminal building whie we awaited our onward train - which I'll tell you about in the next episode.
April 23, 2015
Leopardstown to Rosslare by train
I was in Dublin in the early part of last week and decided to come back on the ferry via Rosslare and Fishguard ... a boat I've used before with a car, but this was to be my first time by train. A few pictures along the way ...
Starting out from Leopeardstown in the south suburbs of Dublin ... I should have caught the No. 75 bus out to the coast to pick up the grain there, but the bus is infrequent so I doubled back via the centre of Dublin - hence my start on the Green Line Luas from Central Park.
The tram makes its way into Dublin - most of the way on its own way (an ex railway, perhaps?) but then as it crosses the canal it runs roadside past Harcourt Street and up to St Steven's Green where it ... terminates on the outside of the city centre. Just like London's original railways teminated at the edge of the expensive centre, so has this Luas line leaing it a walk away across the city from the other (red) line.
I walked through Dublin - to Tara Street, the smaller intermediate station betwen the north-facing Conely and the south-facing Pearse main stations, and boarded the DART - Dublin Area Rapid Transit - service running from Howth to Bray. A well used service - trains every 15 minutes; busy, electric and somewhat mature and basic.
From a full train in the City Centre, the load thinned out as we dropped off passengers along the coast - with stations all showing signs of the harsh elements of running right along the sea front:
But what a way to see the scenery of Dublin Bay (easier to see than to photograph from the train!):
And so on to the terminus of my train at Bray, where the station is a real treat - an active opertional spot in a cared for station.
There are only 4 trains a day that head south all the way to Rosslare - and I was on the final one of these from Bray ... a very modern diesel unit of Iarnrod Éireann ... which came in bang on time.
A really comfortable 4 car train - plenty of seats, plenty of tables, power, WiFi that worked well - and a cheerful buffet trolly attendant withe what seemed to be the freshest railway sandwich I have ever had!
Both seaward and landward the views were breathtaking (and I'm only giving you a sample here) and there's still some interesting old infrastructure around too.
At Eniscorthy, we crossed / passed the train that had gone town as far as Wexford an hour ahead of us, and carried on down the single line to Wexford - by now in the dark. Again, the station's on the waterfront and having dropped off eight passenger we carried on - unfenced street running and a bridge across a leg of the old harbour
A single passenger dropped off at Rosslare Strand (where I could just make out the old line running in from Waterford - now an engineer's siding) and on to our final stop at Rosslare Harbour / Europort. I commented to the the conductor that it was a bit quiet, and he told me the late train always is. As we arrived into Rosslare, I could see the Fishguard ferry leaving (no problem as I had a B&B booked) and it turned out I was the only passenger on the whole train. Here's the train in Rosslare Europort new station ... and a good point at which to take a break from the story.
April 21, 2015
Testing in Python 3 - unittest, doctest and __name__ == __main__ too.
Python's doctest modules takes an interactive session pasted into your documentations string, analyses it and reruns the Python code you used in your session ... telling you whether you're still getting the same results or not.
Firstly, it's a great way of copying tests you've done and recording the for re-use later, so that you can check whether you've damaged anything / changed behaviours when you've enhanced / updated / debugged your code later
Secondly, it's a great way of describing what your results SHOULD be and then being able to run code to make sure that you've actually acheieved your requirement ("met the specification") - that's test driven development.
There's a working examples that passes tests [here] and one that fails [here]. The class I tested may be found [here]. The doctest example should work in Python 2 and Python 3. The test class has been implemented / tested in Python 3.4.
• As well as using doctest, you can include a test harness within your individually imported modules using
if __name__ == "__main__":
and such a test is included in the class we're using in this module ([here])
• A much heavier test suite - unittest - is also available in Python. There's an example of that in use to test out train class / module - see [here].
On our public public Python courses, we cover testing, introduce test driven development, and stress the importance of testing. On private courses, we can tailor what we present but we strongly encourage you to include coverage of this important subject.
April 20, 2015
Sorting in Python 3 - and how it differs from Python 2 sorting
Sorting has changed between Python 2 and Python 3 ... and it's easy and logical to sort lists in Python 3. Problem is that the Python 3 documentation shows you really complicated examples ...
There are two ways of sorting a list in Python 3:
a) You can use the sorted function, into which you pass a list; it returns an ordered list.
b) You can use the sort method on a list, in which case the list is modified in situ.
By default, both sort and sorted re-order elements in their "natural" order, running the cmp function on the elements of the list being compared. So if you're sorting your own objects, you can redefine __cmp__ to change that sort order.
In Python 3, just as in Python 2, you can't sort a dict / dictionary. It uses a hashing technique for quick access to elements in a large collection, and such a technique is simply incompatible with sorting (come on Python Course and I'll explain why!). But you can sort a list of keys.
Here's an example of sorting a list of keys (by the key):
towns = sorted(list(counties.keys()))
for town in towns:
and an alternative sorting by values - passing in a key function to tell it how to sort:
towns = sorted(list(counties.keys()),key=lambda x:counties[x])
for town in towns:
Complete example code [here]
If you prefer to sort a list in situ, by key:
towns = list(counties.keys())
for town in towns:
and by value:
towns = list(counties.keys())
for town in towns:
Complete example code [here]
If you're using Python 2, you'll find an equivalent piece of code [here]. It's descibed as being "Python 2.7" because it makes use of the str.format method's enhancements that were added at that release.