John Bromley, public affairs director for Union Pacific Railroad, touched off a vigorous flame war this week on the Trainorders.com railroad enthusiasts site by posting a warning against fans distributing any content for the game that uses Union Pacific's name or logo. Bromley said the company would "pursue all our options" to prevent such trademark infringement.
Bromley also noted that Microsoft approached him earlier for help in developing the PC game, set for release June 8, which lets players control a simulated locomotive. He denied Microsoft's request to videotape scenes inside Union Pacific locomotives, partly out of safety concerns.
"I told them I had some concern about putting something out to the public with details of how to operate a locomotive, and that's still true," Bromley said in an interview. "We've had problems with vandals getting on our locomotive and trying them out.
"I know there are a lot of plane simulators out there, but the Navy doesn't leave F-16s sitting out there in remote areas."
Bromley's posted comments sparked a string of harsh reactions on Trainorders and other railroad sites, with numerous posters vowing to skirt the company's objections by creating cars with an "Onion Pacific" logo.
"Does this mean that the UP Gestapo will break into houses and destroy some guy's model layout of Donner Pass?" wrote one Trainorders poster.
Bromley said he was just trying to do his job. "I never had a reaction like this to anything before," he said. "I think I know rail fans pretty well, but video game people are new to me. They're something else."