Familiar with Francis Bourgeois? No? You probably aren't on Tiktok. There, the pseudonymous Bourgeois became a minor internet celeb over the past year due to the popularity of his overly-enthusiastic trainspotting clips.
It's not hard to get the appeal of the 21-year-old: he's charming, a little gawky, and unbelievable passionate about the trains that steam all across Britain.
Bourgeois' Tiktoks — usually filmed from both his phone and a hilariously unflattering fisheye-like lens that's angled down towards his face — gained millions of views this year, earning University of Nottingham student nearly 2m Tiktok followers and over 1m Instagram followers.
In fact, Bourgeois has been so in-demand that he recently quit his part-time job to live the dream and focus on trainspotting.
He even started a Cameo account to sell personalized messages (requests are currently closed as Bourgeois is working through a backlog).
Bourgeois' real name, Luke Nicolson, was revealed in November when he filed to create Francis Bourgeouis Limited, presumably to properly monetize his passion. Get the bag!
It, admittedly, feels weird to call him anything except Francis Bourgeouis, even though it's a name borrowed from a 19th-century painter.
That feeling holds especially true for a handful of critics who believe Bourgeouis to be a character created by Nicolson, questioning whether his enthusiasm for trains was sincere or a mere ploy for views.
Really, the authenticity question always seemed like an odd nitpick to me — as long as the content is entertaining, who cares? Plus, either way, dude knows his stuff.
After a couple photos of Bourgeois as a young roadman and model for Brother Models surfaced, though, the Tiktoker finally addressed the subject.
In a video posted to both Tiktok and Instagram, Bourgeois explained that he experimented with roadman style and modeling to fit in.
Trainspotting wasn't making him any friends and he was lonely, so Bourgeois hid his train adoration for the sake of social graces.
"I sold my model train set to fund my gym membership," he admits, which sounds ludicrous when you read it but is actually kinda stirring in the context of his speech.
This all matches up with what he's already said in the past when these detractors make a stink.
"I've been trainspotting all my life," Bourgeois said in a November interview with This Morning. "I sort of suppressed my interest [in secondary school] because it's not the coolest thing in the world."
Well, as the interviewer said, it is now.
Not that Bourgeois doesn't have other hobbies: he's been spotted at Warehouse Project raves in Manchester (his own rumored stab at rave music has been dug up, too).
But it's the trainspotting videos that've made him famous and with good reason. The kid just loves trains, man.
Honestly, it takes a lot for me to care about any old Tiktok video — I'm not on the app and barely use social media as is. Too much irony, too much posturing.
But it's obvious from watching any of Bourgeois' Tiktoks that he's perhaps the least poised person on the app. Twinning that earnesty with his niche hobby makes for a winning combo.
Bourgeois' exuberant adoration of trains and the folks who drive 'em is more than infectious — it's downright aspirational.
Folks, let him live — preferably next door to the rail yard.