The Gloucester trainspotter going viral on TikTok

Ryan Windridge
Ryan Windridge has loved trains since his childhood. Credit: Ryan Windridge

A train-lover from Gloucester has had millions of interactions on social media platform TikTok thanks to his enthusiastic rail videos.

Ryan Windridge, 30, says he has loved trains ever since his mum wheeled him up to see some at a crossing when he was just a child in a pushchair.

He call trains a 'natural medication', and a way to cope with the trials and tribulations of life.

But last year, when the world was locked down, he decided to pursue his love of trains and share his hobby of trainspotting with the world.

Ryan said: "I've always liked travelling on trains but when lockdown rolled around my mental health got really bad.

"I started going out into the countryside on my bike to watch the trains because it helped me relax and made me happy.

"My goal was to cheer drivers up as well, and make their days better if they were having a bad one.

"I used to do all the stupid trends on TikTok before I did trainspotting videos. I've had a few videos get past three million views."

Ryan got to sit in the cab of this train thanks to a friend who works for Cross Country. Credit: Ryan Windridge

Now, Ryan has collected a staggering 6.8 million likes (as of 27 December), and just shy of 200,000 followers on the video app since he began sharing his hobby with the world during the first lockdown.

The 30-year-old, who works at Morrisons, said: "Trainspotting is my number one hobby but I do like my trucks as well.

"When I was a kid, I used to go Eddie Stobart spotting and my mum used to take me to the train crossing in the pushchair, so I’ve always loved trains.

"It fascinates me how they stay on the line - it’s just crazy.

"I used to be worried what people think about me but now I don’t care - I just be myself.

"The person who made me more confident is my friend Francis. He’s going places."

One of Ryan's rail enthusiast friends is Francis Bourgeois, a fellow TikTok trainspotter who has recently left his job to pursue trainspotting full-time, due to his success, and has even appeared on ITV's This Morning.

Francis, who is around ten years younger than Ryan and uses a stage name on TikTok, recently came under fire after photographs of him from his teenage years surfaced of him trying to fit in with his peers, making fans question whether he was really into trains, or was just putting on an act.

Ryan (centre) with friends and fellow rail enthusiasts Kyle (left) and Francis (right) Credit: Ryan Windridge

Ryan admits he also tried hard to fit in with his peers when he was younger, but Francis has helped him come out of his shell and embrace his true self.

In a video posted to his TikTok account addressing the hate comments some followers had been leaving, Ryan said: "People don’t understand I suffer with bad mental health - I suffer with autism, Asperger’s….Trains saved my mental health because I’ve been at the bottom, I know what it’s like to have bad mental health.

"I was at one point where I couldn’t even leave the house without feeling worn out and having no energy, but I’m glad my videos make a lot of you happy and I’m glad a load of you support me.”

As a result of having Asperger's, Ryan gets 'stims' from the sounds of train horns and thrashing.

He said: "I like to go to near Over Farm, Barnwood, the field by TenPin. I like to go to a spot by Ribston School, I do like to go to Gloucester station as well. They’re really nice to me.

"I used to cycle to Haresfield but it’s too cold for me now, I get cold hands.

"I do go out in extreme weather though if there’s something special.

"They call it rail enthusiasts now - it’s still trainspotting but people like to call us rail enthusiasts because of me and Francis.

"I always go out to see my favourite freight train, the Tescoliner. That’s a cool freight train with Tesco wagons. It comes through Gloucester everyday."

Ryan next to his favourite train - 37510 - at Lydney Credit: Ryan Windridge

Ryan says that Gloucester Railway Station can become quite busy with railway enthusiasts.

Although, at the moment, he says trainspotting can be a bit 'sad' as a lot of trains are being cancelled.

He said: "A lot of rail enthusiasts are a lot older than me, I’m quite young compared to the older generation.

"I was shocked there’s actually some youngish women who are rail enthusiasts, I’m quite proud of it though because it’s really nice.

"My mum’s not bothered with it, she’s fine with me doing it because it keeps me out of trouble and it keeps me sane.

"The trains are like a natural medication for me, I just love them.

"Just be yourself, don’t be afraid to do what you want. I get hate, but for every person who hates me I get ten people saying they love me.

"Sometimes you get a hate comment and it pushes you back but you just have to ignore it. You’ve got to take the hate with all the love.

"I used to be worried what people think about me but now I don’t care - I just be myself."