Your Big Bear DCC Model Rail Controller

Your Big Bear Rail controller turns your Windows PC or Laptop into a DCC controller for routes and locomotives. Control your fleet of trains with the easy to use throttle, manage your track layout as if you were manning a signal-box and run pre-recorded sequences to create unlimited operating scenarios for your layout.

Configuration

Connecting your Big Bear Route Controller to your PC

NOTE THAT YOUR DCC SYSTEM MAY REQUIRE THE PURCHASE OF A SPECIAL COMPUTER INTERFACE, PLEASE REFER TO THE DOCUMENTATION THAT CAME WITH YOUR SYSTEM.

You will need to connect your DCC system to your computer by means of a Serial (RS232) or USB cable that can supplied by your model rail supplier. If you are not familiar with RS232 we recommend that you obtain an approved cable from your DCC supplier however any standard 9-pin data cable will suffice (example from Maplin in the UK, Radio Shack in the US etc). More modern DCC systems connect via USB connectors that plug into a spare USB socket on your computer.

IMPORTANT: USB adapters (and the USB connectors that come with some DCC systems) will be assigned a COM port (e.g. COM4) and it is important to ensure that you know the name of the COM port when configuring your Big Bear (note that the USB adapters can sometimes change port if you change the USB socket they are plugged into). Your USB adapter manual should explain how you determine the COM port number but if you are unsure see the Advanced Tinkering section below.

Configuring your Big Bear DCC Controller Software

You have connected your DCC controller to your computer and now you must now provide some details to the Big Bear program to enable it to communicate with your layout.

In the configuration tab then under general settings enter a layout name, this will appear at the top of the Control tab and can be anything you wish. Now select your controller type (NCE, Lenz etc); if your controller is not in the list choose a compatible protocol such as XPressNet v3 (XNet). Please see website www.bigbearrail.com for upcoming news on supported systems and upcoming additions.

You will need to specify a Serial Port, this refers to the RS232 socket on which your DCC controller has been attached and for a standard serial connector will usually be COM1, COM2 or COM3 but please check with your computer manual.

NOTE: If you are using a USB connector (either an adapter or a DCC computer interface), be careful with USB as the Port number can change from one session to the next depending on the DCC system you are using. So if you set it to COM12 say during one operating session, it is possible that it may be COM13 or something else the next time. If the layout isn't responding after switching everything on make this a first thing to check.

Finally set the BAUD rate (RS232 speed). Please see the manual for your controller as the default speed can vary between systems. If you are not sure just try all three options and find out which one works. If it works for several speed options, choose the fastest that works.

IMPORTANT FOR LENZ USERS Lenz software including the Lenz Server is disabled otherwise access to its serial port will be blocked and Big Bear will be unable to send it commands.

Configuring your Big Bear ~ Extras

Big Bear allows you to remember a number of Active Locomotives, these are locos that you have recently controlled and they will be highlighted in the Loco List within the loco throttle on the Control tab. You can specify the maximum number of locos that it will highlight for you. In addition you can choose how the recently used active locos are highlighted; tick/check the 'Group Active Locomotives' box to have them shown together above the main list of all locos and leave it unticked/unchecked to simply highlight the active locos within the main loco list.

HANDY HINT: For best results set a maximum active loco value that corresponds to the number of locos that you will most likely have under control at once. Use Grouping if you have a large number of locos to avoid having to repeatedly scroll down the Loco List box, otherwise leave the box unticked.

Creating your Track Diagram

If you are controlling points, signals or other accessories you will want to display a clickable track diagram. Choose the Design tab then choose the grid size. Don't worry about getting the grid size exactly right as you can change it later.

The Show Addresses tickbox will display the DCC address or address-pair beside each accessory, useful when setting up as track items will not respond until given a proper DCC address.

For normal use leave the Flip 180 unticked, use the Flip 180 to turn the track layout upsize down if running the layout from the opposite side of a layout. This will ensure that the screen is the right way round when viewing it against the layout for real. (Be aware that in Flip 180 mode, some aspects that span multiple grid blocks such as text annotations may not be aligned perfectly)

Laying your Diagram

You are now ready to 'lay the track'. On the right you will see a pallete:

Create your layout by dragging track items onto a grid block on the design area. Once in place they can be moved about as required and if you don't like one, simpy drag it to the skip where if you have sound on, you will hear it make a kadunk!

The top half of the pallete contains Passive Track Items, these are your regular track pieces that you have no control over such as straights and corners etc. The botton half are the Active Track Items, these will generally have a DCC address if they are computer controlled. To assign an address once its in place, click the item with the Right Mouse Button (left for left handed users) to display an editor as illustrated.

The editor will vary slightly for different items but in general enter one or two DCC addresses where shown, a name then press OK. If when you come to test the point it happens to be reversed on the track compared with its on screen image you can edit the value again and set the Reverse tick box. (sometimes a little trial and errors may be involved)

HINT:  A track item will not respond to mouse clicks until you have assigned a DCC address. Use the Show Addresses tickbox onthe Design tab to highlight unassigned addresses (shown as address zero).

HINT:  You can assign the DCC address to multiple items, for example if two ajoined turnouts are linked with the same address, clicking one will change both at the same time.

Adding Labels

Add a label to the diagram, drag the Icon icon to the location you want the text to appear then Right Click to display the properties box (below) to set the text, size and colour:

Adding Signal Box Levers

Signal box levers can be positioned on the layout and used to control turnouts, signals and other accessories.

Simply drag a coloured lever to the required position on the layout, right click and set the DCC address of the item of track item you wish to control. Track items such as double slips that have two controllable states will need two levers. In operation, click the lever with your mouse pointer to switch the turnout etc.

Displaying DCC Addresses

To assist setting up you can tick the Show Addresses box in the Design Tab to show all DCC addresses against the track items. Look out for any that are still zero and in need of assigning. The address also shows the current status 1 or 2 for two state accessories.

Adding your Locomotives

You may wish to use your Big Bear solely for the purpose of controlling points while you drive your trains using conventional means. If you do have DCC controlled locomotives you will need to tell Big Bear what they are and assign the addresses. Select the Loco and Train Fleet tab within Configuration.

Use the + Add a New Locomotive button to create new box for your locomotive. Enter a name, a short code and the DCC address. Note that for LONG DCC ADDRESSES prefix the address with a zero.

You may specify a loco type from the list provided (diesel, steam etc) and upload an optional image. To to do this you will need to photograph the loco using a digital camera and use your camera software to format the image as JPEG, GIF or PNG file with size 132 pixels wide and 33 pixels high.

Big Bear supports function buttons to control loco specific operations such as lighting and sound effects. By default the functions are labeled F1, F2 etc however you can assign your own labels of up to 5 letters or digits. If you remove a label completely the button will not appear on the console so avoiding unecessary clutter (you can of course reintroduce a label at a later date)

To remove a locomotive from Big Bear use the Delete button.

Operating your Big Bear DCC Model Rail Controller

Your Big Bear Rail controller turns your Windows PC or Laptop into a DCC controller for routes and locomotives. Control your fleet of trains with the easy to use throttle, manage your track layout as if you were manning a signal-box and run pre-recorded sequences to create unlimited operating scenarios for your layout.

Using the Throttle

The throttle controls the trains and locomotives. Select a loco to operate by clicking a loco in the list or double clicking a loco image in the picture list below. The speed is controlled from the buttons and slider while functions can be toggled on and off by means of the buttons provided. see diagram below:

To control multiple locomotives just select from the list as above, the speed settings and functions will be remembered as you swap between locomotives.

HANDY HINT: If your computer has a larger screen you can launch additional slave Throttles from the Start Menu. This way you can have two or more locomotives under control at the same time without the need to keep swapping.

HANDY HINT: If you have selected Grouping in the Config Tab the most recently controlled locomotives will be highlighted Orange and grouped at the top of the Locomotive List. Double Click a locomotive to remove it from the list.

Track Layout

After you first start up the software, press RESET to ensure that the screen and your layout are properly synchronised.

To toggle track items simply hover over the item with your pointer and use the left and right mouse buttons. Ordinarily the left mouse button will be used for those track items with a single DCC Address while the right button will work to control second addresses in such items as Double Slips etc.

HANDY HINT: If your mouse is set up for Left Handed use, the above buttons will be reversed.

The Clock

A clock is provided which by default will show real time.

Click the round blue cog icon to launch the clock properties box where you can set the current time, type of clock (analogue or digital) and scale speed.

Sequences, Fast Keys and Magic Routing

The Big Bear DCC Controller is capable of storing preset Routing sequences allowing you to rapidly configure your layout to a host of possible operating scenarios. Each sequence is assigned a short easy to remember code that you enter on the Operate Tab to set the route. Five FastKeys are provided for even quicker access to the most commonly used routes.

Configuring Routes

Under the Configuration Tab navigate to the Routes and Sequences sub section. Enter a short easy to remember name (for example D5) and a routing sequence in a format described at the end of this page then press + Add or Update Route

Your new sequence will appear in the list. To edit an existing route click the Name with your mouse or select from the Name dropdown list to load it into the edit box. Press + Add or Update Route after you have finished making your changes.

Running Routes

To initiate a route enter the Name in the route box shown below then strike the Enter key or press the arrow button with your mouse pointer.

IMPORTANT: While running a sequence or FastKey you will be unable to perform other operations. Most route sequences will take no longer than a few seconds so will unlikely cause an issue. If you intend creating longer sequences it may be better to create a Recording instead.

FastKeys

Sequences can be assigned to the FastKeys that grace the bottom left of the Operate Tab. This is useful for the most frequently deployed sequences. Navigate to the Fastkey Setup tab, give each fast key a label and assign a sequence name from the dropdown list. The button label can be more descriptive than the original Route Sequence name but check that the chosen text fits on the button in the Operate Tab.

HANDY HINT: You can assign raw Route Sequences to a FastKeys instead of a pre existing Sequence Name. The format for route sequences is described at the end of this page.

Magic Routing

Magic Routing works like an automatic route finder and for complex layouts offers a fast way of creating routes on the fly.

(a) To define the start point of the route you need to drag a locomotive from the Picture list to the track in the required place.

(b) With the right mouse button (left button for left handed mice) click over the locomotive marker you placed on the track and while keeping the mouse button depressed, move the mouse over the to the end point. You will notice the computer drawing a yellow route marker wherever you go. To select the route let go of the mouse button to set the points ready for a locomotive or train to follow the selected route. To abort simply move your mouse over a blank area of the layout and let go.

HANDY HINT: To get rid of a locomotive marker simply drag it to an empty area on your layout. The selected route will honour any one-way track sections (tracks with arrows).

 

The format of a Route Sequence

A Route Sequence is a series of commands comprising letters and numbers and separated by hyphens. For example 12/1-#-13/2 will set accessory with address 12 to position 1, wait half a second (denoted by the #) then set accessory 13 to position 2. The positions representing 1 and 2 will depend on how you have wired your DCC decoder. The delay is useful in situations where your power supply may have insufficient power to activate multiple points at the same time.

A full list of commands is described below:

Simple accessory control Activated and Deactivated

<address>/<value> where address is the accessory address and value 1 (activate) and 2 (deactivate)

For example 12/1 will deactivate accessory 12. As a rule this is used to switch points. The actual response to the values 1 and 2 will depend on how you have programmed your layout.

Multi aspect signals (NCE)

<address>/<value> where address is the DCC signal address and the value is 1,2,3 or 4 depending on the number of aspects supported by the signal.

Note that this operation is currently supported for NCE controllers only.

Adding a delay

# or #<seconds> for example # = .5 second delay, ## is a one second delay and #10 is a 10 second delay

 

Loco Functions ON and OFF

<address>F<function>/<YES|NO> where address is the DCC locomotive address, function is the function number (1..13 [or higher where supported]) and the last element is YES for NO to enable and disable the function.

For example 0205F2/YES will enable function 2 for loco 205 (long address)

IMPORTANT: When controlling locomotives directly by using commands in this manner note that the changes will not be reflected in the loco's state when viewed on the throttle controller.

 

Loco Speed Control

<address>LS<speed>/<F|R>/<A|B> where address is the DCC loco address, speed is the speed value between 0 and 27 or 0 and 127, F & R denote Forward and Reverse and A & B denoted 28 and 128 speed mode respectively

Example, 0223LS100/F/B will accelerate loco 223 (long address) to speed 100, forward and using 128 speed step mode.

IMPORTANT: When controlling locomotives directly by using commands in this manner note that the changes will not be reflected in the loco's state when viewed on the throttle controller.

Sound a loco Horn

<address>H where address is the DCC loco address. For example 0123H will sound the horn on loco address 123.

Set Momentum (NCE)

<address>M<value> where address is the DCC loco address and value is the momentum value between 0 and 9

Example, 01020M3 sets the momentum on loco 1020 to value 3

IMPORTANT: This command is supported on NCE PowerPro and PowerCab only. XpressNet users should program the momentum into the locos using the handheld controller supplied with the controller or by means of third party programming software

Sending RAW Hex

If you understand the low level codes that drive your DCC controller you can do pretty much anything by sending raw HEX including commands that are not otherwise supported by Big Bear. Hex codes can be entered in sequences or run on the fly from the route box on the Control pane.

HANDY HINT: Remember that routes and sequences can incorporate other named sequences therefore any special HEX commands you create can be added to any route, for example 12/2-10/1-MYCOMMAND-13/1

HEX/<hex1>:<hex2>:<hex3>:.... where hex1,2 etc are one or two digit (8 BIT) hex codes.

For example HEX/A1:FF:0E:03 will send A1 FF 0E 03

IMPORTANT: When sending HEX to XpressNet devices note that the hex will get preceded with FF FE and automatically terminated with the required X-OR Byte.

Recording

Your Big Bear lets you record your track and layout operations then play them back whenever you wish. To INITIATE a recording press the red Record button on the record bar (below). Record will not start until you click a point or start controlling a locomotive; in this time you can if you wish drag locomotives from the picture list to the track as a means to marking the starting points for the locos used in the scenario.

While waiting the record bar will flash grey and if you have sound, will make a slow beep.

Performing any track or throttle operation will start the recording, the record bar will flash red and the beep will change tone to let you know that a recording is in progress.

While recording every track and loco change is recording with precise timing so that when you replay later, so long as the locos are started in the same place and subject to the mechanics of the rolling stock, the trains and routes will follow the exact same sequence.

To END the recording press the Record Button again. The Name box will highlight yellow prompting you to enter a name for the recording. Having done so press the Save icon (picture of a floppy disk) to the right of the save box and recording is complete.

Playback - Re-run your recording

re-run your recordings at any time, select the recording from the dropdown list of saved recordings then press the blue Play button.

HANDY HINT: The Trains and Track selectors also work when making a recording, should you wish to record just the Track or Locomotive activity.

If you have added loco markers at the start of the recording the Playback WILL NOT start straight away. In this scenario, the playback will enter a PAUSED state to allow you to place your locomotives in their correct starting positions, if you dragged locos onto the track during the initial phase of recording they will be shown at this point for your reference.

To end the pause and start playback proper press the PAUSE button once. Everything you did during the recording will be replayed in exact time sequence, its a little like watching a ghost run your layout!

HANDY HINT: You can still operate the layout while a recording playback is in operation, but be aware that it may seem a little slower. It is best not to try controlling any of the locomotives that are subject to the recording!

HANDY HINT: To delete a recording, simply select it from the list then press the red cross delete button. You will be asked to confirm deletion, press OK to then remove it from the list.

Pausing and Stopping During Playback

Left alone your recording will carry on until its natural end; a progress bar and percentage readout show how much of the recording there remains to run.

To stop a playback at any time press Play and to pause playback press Pause. Pressing Pause again will restart the playback.

IMPORTANT: Stopping or pausing a recording will NOT STOP any locomotives under its control. Any locomotives still in motion will have to be stopped manually if necessary, possibly by means of the Emergency Stop on the throttle or from your DCC handheld controller.

Selecting just Locomotives or Track Operations

Let's say you want to be 'Signalman', why not playback just the locomotive operations of a recording. This way the computer will control the locomotive movements but will ignore any track changes leaving you to do that yourself. OR the alternative, where the computer controls the track and lets you drive the trains.

Either scenario is possible, simply tick or un-tick the Trains or Track tick boxes before running a playback.

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