Meet trainspotting enthusiast and TikTok star, Francis Bourgeois



Time to read

6 minutes

Arianne Davey spoke to TikTok star Francis Bourgeois, for The Railway Magazine, at the launch of his debut book, The Trainspotter’s Notebook, and uncovers a more traditional side to his rail enthusiasm.

Credit: Isaac Marley Morgan

Francis Bourgeois’ debut book, The Trainspotter’s Notebook is available to purchase here.

With more than 2.7 million followers on social media site TikTok, and another 1.6 million on Instagram, 22-year-old Francis Bourgeois has gained a global audience for his light-hearted and often humorous videos that record his passion for all things railway.

That huge social media presence has allowed Francis (whose real name is Luke Magnus Nicolson) to turn his hobby into a career, which has included becoming a brand ambassador for GBRf, starring in a five-part Channel 4 digital series, and now writing a book about his trainspotting exploits.

How did you first become interested in railways?

“I think my parents and my grandparents were definitely aware I was really into my trains by the time I was about three. Aged four I went to Pecorama in Devon, where they have the Peco factory, and they had a layout exhibition there and I was just in love with all these miniature trains running around. My granny very kindly bought me my first train set, which was a Pannier tank and some old freight wagons, and she kept it at her house. I used to go on Monday afternoons after school and would look forward to it all week, and then every Christmas and birthday there would be a little addition.”

When you started posting TikTok videos in 2020, did you ever think it would lead to where you are now?

“Honestly, I just started out because I wanted a creative outlet during lockdown, and my first videos were just having fun. I was trainspotting most days and that kind of crept into my videos – then one thing led to another. I think the main moment was realising I could quit my job and be a full-time trainspotter, which is a bit bizarre and I’m still trying to comprehend that at the moment.”

Have you noticed more younger people trainspotting?

“I think there’s a really keen up-and-coming generation – I wouldn’t say I’m a cause of that at all, I think it’s just been a natural growth that’s been compounded with social media. People are able to share their photos or their videos. I was at the Severn Valley Railway Diesel Gala recently, and there was such a range of different ages there, from real early teens right into the older ages, and everyone was just having a good time together. I think social media is going to help keep it going and keep it alive.”

What do you say to anyone that feels they have to suppress their interest in trains?

“I tell everyone, if you have a unique interest or a unique passion, you’re cool. You’re individual in your own way and that’s what I hope can be conveyed in the book.

What do you like most about trainspotting?

“For me, I love the sounds of the railways, specifically big old diesel engines, especially the English Electric Class 37s, 50s, 31s. But also I love trainspotting in itself, I like collecting the videos and having a record of everything that I’ve seen. I also love just chasing the trains even. The Class 97 railtours that go on the Cambrian Line, I’ve chased them twice now and it’s like a real adventure, four hours driving there and back, and I love the thrill of checking to see where it is and having to beat it.”

Where is your favourite location?

“It would probably have to be Pot Lane overbridge, just outside of Frome, it’s where my passion was revived. And my other one would be Willesden Junction, because that’s where it started.

“I moved to Somerset [from London] and there was less railway action in comparison to Willesden Junction. Through school, social conformity pushed the passion slightly more below the surface, then lockdown let it all fly open again and Pot Lane overbridge was the spot I found that was just perfect – a good view in both directions, quarry trains blasting by every 20 minutes or so, so yeah I’d say Pot Lane or Willesden Junction for me.”

Do you like to see trains more than travel on them?

“I use the trains probably about 60/40 for my journeys in general, the ‘40’ being me driving to chase or see a train. I also just love riding on trains – such as the Class 455s that go from London Waterloo, I love riding on them and I go specifically in the motor coach and I’ll find the back corner where the traction motors are just beneath. I’ll pull open the windows and then I’ll just listen to them screaming up and down the line, particularly the tunnel just after Leatherhead where the ‘455s’ go about 65/70 [mph] and it sounds amazing, and I’d just happily do that up and down for an afternoon for the fun of it.”

If you could go into a railway time machine, what era would you go back to?

I’d say probably around 1989/90 because it’s a really nice sweet spot of still holding on to the romance of British Railways and also with the cool diesel locomotives, electric multiple units and DMUs still running around. And the trains had slamming doors, windows you can pull down, Mk.1 carriages with compartments and stuff like that.”

What’s next on your railway bucket list?

“I’d love to travel the world and experience new trains, I’m planning a trip to Portugal to see the CP Class 1400s, because they sound like Class 20s and apparently the journey is beautiful. And I’ve also dreamt of going to Japan and seeing the Bullet Trains, because that’s also what grabs me. Seeing the photos in the train books I buy, and seeing these extremely sleek trains that can’t really be compared to at all, I’d just love to see it in person.

“I’d also love to get involved with preservation groups, specifically with the 125 group, I’d love to help them get a Paxman Valenta engine back in a Class 43. I remember when we moved to Somerset, the Class 43 HSTs that used to rattle along were screaming and they’re not the same any more since they got the MTU engines.”

Francis at the launch of his role as a brand ambassador for freight operator GBRf in January 2022. GBRf

Francis Bourgeois’ debut book, The Trainspotter’s Notebook is available to purchase here.

If you like this content and want to see more from The Railway Magazine, take a look at our latest offers here.

Win a signed copy of The Trainspotter’s Notebook

Francis’ book is a first-person recollection of his adventures, providing the reader with a delightful insight into his comedic charm and displaying his enthusiasm and passion for trainspotting, which makes a great read for both enthusiasts and non-enthusiasts alike.

The book retails at £20, but we have five signed copies to give away. To be in with a chance of winning, and for more details, simply visit or fill out the form below.

The closing date is December 31, 2022 – good luck!


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