TikTok trainspotter Francis Bourgeois on identity, internet hate and commuting playlists

But the fame of this visceral, niche relationship has also given Bourgeois darker times.

When pictures and videos emerged online showing his life outside trains, be it as a teen wearing different style clothes, working out at the gym, or, more recently, enjoying himself at a music festival, some on social media were quick to dismiss his TikTok identity as an inauthentic hoax.

The backlash hurt.

“In coming out of my shell with my railway enthusiasm, it felt like I was being pushed back in,” Bourgeois says.

“Some people believe it’s just a facade or a character, but what I feel when I see the trains is raw emotion, and that’s what I let through on the camera, uninhibited.

“Before, at school, I had these social inhibitions. When I’m out on the railway, everything is stripped back to the raw essence of how I’m feeling.”

He says trainspotting appeals because it offers both certainty and unpredictability, and goosebumps appear on his arms.

In a video addressing the controversy, he openly explained his past struggles to fit in at school and how he now feels confident being his true self. He says people appreciated his honesty, as they related to his experience of finding their identity in school.

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