Big Bear was born by chance n 2005 in the small village of Carrbridge in the Scottish Highlands. Peter was setting up a side-line on his software consultancy, offering his local PC repair business. He needed an advert in a local directory, and so enters Dom, the Yellow Pages sales manager.
Talk of adverts took a turn when Dom spotted a loco lying around in the living room. Turns out Dom was an enthusiastic railway modeller, with a supurb layout he had created called Moore Street TMD. Dom, however had a little problem which Peter, as a programmer and rail enthusiast also, could fix.
Moore Street was DCC, controlled with an NCE controller, but the layout had a problem when changing multiple points at once. There wasn't enough power. Several ways to solve this issue and software was one of them. So was born a simple program to change multiple points with a delay between point switching to allow time for the capacitors to charge.
From here, the enthusiasm for Big Bear grew and we added a throttle that emulated the NCE PowerCab handheld controller. The next logical step was to add a track diagram and to extend the software to support more controller types, where the interface was in the public domain.
Big Bear went from strength to strength, we packaged it up as a Windows Installer and created a website providing a free version plus three further paid options to help cover our costs. We gained a lot of interest at the Glasgow show, where we shared table space with Dom's dad, who also ran a rail modelling shop in Moray. We even spoke with a major model rail manufacturer with the view to them branding it as their own. In the end, this didn't go through, and a few months later they came out with their own version which, by coincidence, had some similar characteristics to our very own Big Bear.
Big Bear has slowly developed over the years with new features such as record and playback, and the magic routing that will find a route between any two points and then set the points to allow a train through. As far as we know, Big Bear is the only DCC software to implement such a feature.
In 2020 Peter had a sudden desire to recreate Big Bear using the latest software techniques and to use web browser technologies to take the best of the original classic Big Bear and improve on them. The new Big Bear will be Cross Platform to mean it has the potential to run on computers other than PCs. The graphics would be much improved; let users change the track colour and to customise the track with homemade background images. Users will be able to access the software on a tablet or phone, so maybe control track from the tablet and set up one or more throttles from some phones. Great for shows.
And now Big Bear is free. All licensing has been removed from the classic Big Bear and the new version alike. Big Bear is now created by enthusiasts for enthusiasts. We can't guarantee Big Bear will work for everyone, but it costs nothing to give it a go.
Big Bear DCC Model Rail Controller Software
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