The Trainrider appears to be someone in the Frankfurt region of Germany, using suction devices to ride a train going over 330 kmh / 205 mph. Pretty extreme indeed.
Of course, as is typical of me, when i see something interesting, my initial response is to try to find out more. So, I searched the meme back to its origins, in the hope of discovering more about this extreme version of what the Germans call S-bahnsurfen, or trainsurfing.
As Wikipedia says on trainsurfing:
The 'sport' was made popular in the 1980s in Germany and accross parts of Europe by a crew called the TrainRiders. It's anonymous leader decided to travel around Europe and Train Surf when he was diagnosed with Leukemia, and a year after riding the famous 'Bullet Train' from Hanau HBF in Germany he died of Leukemia. (The video shows him having died in 2006.)
Tracing the video back led to this video from a German television news program, pieced together from a larger amount of footage. It contains some fairly gratuitous images of Trainrider-labeled clothing and no real explanation of the Trainrider's death or identity.
After a bit more searching, I found this video over on Google, called "Trainrider DVD Trailer", which makes it pretty clear that there was a significant amount of footage released on DVD, and that someone was trying to make a bit of money off the videos.
I searched German sites in order to determine more about the background of the video, which led me to an article from May 14, 2005, from a train-enthusiast's website. (translated via Babelfish.) It documents a person suspending himself from the rear end of the ICE 822 train from Munich, apparently by hooking themselves to the train with a chain or belt. The article also mentions that the person doing this had an assistant, who filmed the event with a camcorder. The people responsible fled the scene before authorities could nab them.
But who was the Trainrider, and what do we know about them? The answer ultimately seemed linked back to the people posting the videos. Misanthropie, the person who posted the German television clip, mentions www.trainrider.net in their profile, and links to numerous other trainsurfing videos, apparently from the DVD in question. The videos hint at another side of German trainsurfing culture, with people evading the authorities, performing acts of tagging/grafitti, and working in an organized, ganglike fashion.
Visiting trainrider.net shows a 24-minute Divx video file that can be purchased via PayPal. The payment goes to the person with the email address: firstname.lastname@example.org . A Google search of "ra922048" returns one link, to a site called www.fassadenkunst.de/kontakt.htm. The word "fassadenkunst" specifically is used in Germany to refer to graffiti and other underground public artists. The fassadenkunst.de site appears to have been taken down, but Google's cache of the site links to a graphic called polizeiwagon.jpg -- perhaps this group of guerilla artists / trainriders were getting a bit too much attention from the German authorities?
Trainrider.net also links to a supposedly trademarked selection of clothing, made available through an online business called shirtcity.com, a company similar to cafepress that allows people to create and market clothes with their own custom designs. At the very bottom of this page is some text which says:
Solely responsible for the contents and design of this shop is the partner himself.
Clicking on this link shows that the person responsible for the store is a person in Germany called Alexander Richter. This is the same person listed as owning the domain name for fassadenkunst.de.
Additional searching led me to an enigmatic German blog post from September, '05, which mentioned they were looking for Alex R., who goes by the name of Trainrider, who they had apparently lost contact with.
All this begs the question... is Alexander Richter, the person profiting from the Trainrider videos, the Trainrider? Did the Trainrider fake his own death in order to evade the authorities yet again?
The person responsible for posting the Google video promoting the DVD is listed as http://www.c0re.eak.it/ . Visiting the site shows that c0re's real name is Alexander Müller, whose hobbies are photography, video, and the web. Indeed, c0re uses his site to promote several of his independent video projects. Could c0re have been one of the Trainrider's accomplices, helping record and produce the videos in question?
Regardless of whether the Trainrider's death is a true story or a hoax, both the story and the stunts he got away with are still pretty interesting...
***UPDATE*** An anonymous reader with an IP address that traces back to Denmark left a comment recently:
"Uh oh. Alexander won't like this, but since you are already on the track I can evidence the fact that Alex is still alive as I have been having an email conversation with him about one month ago. I am a loyal fan of his and in fact own my own Trainrider hoody in both white and black. I met him through YouTube but it only took me two messages to suggest we would exchange emails, and so I have been having a longer private chat conversation with him regarding his current life and future events. Here's what he wrote regarding his 'death':
"And it is all faked. I am not dead. But please dont tell it ;)
This is only an experiment. I wonder that one year ago the media figure "trainrider" (me) was hated by lots of people in Germany. But now, when people think trainrider is dead, most have sympathy with him... Even the German locomotive drivers who hated me most of all now write their mercy in different rail-forums and video comments around the web.
May be after all people think I am dead, I make a new DVD next summer, titeled 'trainrider resurrection' ;)"