I used to have a lot of problems doing the math needed to design my grades. to start with I'm dislexic, and when you start figuring rise and run with english measurements, soon you are doing math with fractions, where many things can happen, and most of them are bad. It seemed likle every time I made an error with a grade, the grade ended up steeper than I had planned. well i had a fasinaination with geared locomotives, and I just took that as a challenge, the new steeper grade became my ruling grade, and the next time I extended my railroad that was the new standard, till I made another mistake. I am rebuilding my railroad, and I am hoping to make the ruling grade on my valley division the ruling grade on my entire main line. as it is I have 8.5% grades on my mountain division, and 3.3% grades on my valley division. My rod locomotives are useless on my mountian division, and my mountian division is much larger than my valley division. twenty six years ago when I started my current railroad most of my best running locomotives were geared locomotives. since then i have aquired some good running rod locomotives, and re built a bunch of my old ones to improve thier performnance; so I'm wnating to give them some room to run. the first indespensable tool is a metirc tape measure . You can measure the run, and the math needed to get the appropriate rise alsmost does itself, fractions are avoided, and life is good. While shopping for some stuff for my home railroad rebuild at Lowes, I stumbled across a second indispensable tool ; this little level. it has an adjustable level on one side. here I have it on the upgrade at Tom's bend, between Murray (a undershelf passing siding) and Crooked Creek, my Milltown. this grade is nominally 3.3%, and is to be equal to the ruling grade on the mainline of my rebuild should all go as planned. I can set this level on the grade, adjust the adjustable level to center the bubble, and I can use this level on roadbed elsewhere to check to insure I don't exceed this grade elsewhere. I started my other railroad trying to match Bumpass's 6% grade, and math errors and carpentry errors eventually pushed the ruling grade up to 8.5%. between figuring my grades in metric units to simplify the math, and using this level I should be able to be much more consistent with my grades. with the use of these two tools , I'm hoping the rebuild of my current railroad will allow my rod locomotives to run the lenght of my mainline, allow longer trains, and not cause as much pannic with visiting enginerers as they face an 8.5% grade for the first time in thier life. a link to my main thread follows http://www.zealot.com/forum/showthread.php?t=164383 I'm hoping the spelling in this post isn't too bad somehow my browser switched my spell check to another language, and almost everything is flagged as misspelled . the sugested replacement words seem to be germanic. isn't technology wonderful!