Hundreds view eclipse at RailPark in Bowling Green

Bill Dow, of Bowling Green, takes photographs of the phases of the solar eclipse during an eclipse watching event at the Historic Rail Park and Museum in Bowling Green Monday.

In the early afternoon, darkness washed over hundreds of people at the Historic RailPark and Train Museum in Bowling Green.

The RailPark hosted roughly 400 guests Monday, who, when the moment came, emerged from under the tents and trees they shaded themselves with to gaze skyward with eclipse viewers as the moon covered the sun.

According to Jamie Johnson, executive director of the RailPark, the museum's staff had been feverishly preparing for the event for two months.

"It's like preparing for the apocalypse," she said.

Guests had to register to watch the eclipse at the RailPark beforehand, Johnson said, adding that the number of people was initially limited to 400, though 425 tickets were ultimately sold.

Though numerous cars, many of them bearing plates from Ohio, Illinois, Pennsylvania and even New York and Colorado, were lined up near two of the edges of the meadow, most of the field was left open for people to roam.

"We were trying to go for a safe event for kids and families and didn't want anyone to feel overwhelmed," Johnson said.

With the earliest attendees arriving at the park around 7 a.m., the event was more calm than Johnson expected, she said.

"We were prepared to be bombarded with lines down the street but it wasn't like that," she said.

Many people who chose to view the eclipse at the RailPark did so because of the limits the museum put on the number of attendees.

The Schwartz family from Romeo, Mich., were among the people who traveled to be at the RailPark when the eclipse occurred.

Melissa Schwartz said the family decided to build a family vacation around the eclipse, having had already seen Mammoth Cave National Park and the National Corvette Museum while in the area.

"We've been talking about it for months so we decided to make a mini vacation out of it," she said.

Matthew Schwartz, 14, who has an interest in astronomy, said the trip was well worth it.

"It didn't feel real but at the same time, it was," he said.

The scene had a surreal quality as the sky darkened and the streetlights in the area came on, Matthew said.

"Everything was kind of hazy. Everything was kind of eerie," he said.

Matthew felt fortunate to have seen the eclipse and said he would never forget it.

"For the next solar eclipse, I would just advise people to see it because it's spectacular," he said.

Chicago residents Bret Angelos and Cheryl Cabiness also decided to travel south to get a better look at the eclipse.

"Carbondale, in Illinois, was going to be so crowded so we said, 'Let's go a little farther,' ” Angelos said.

Before the eclipse, Angelos went to the Adler Planetarium in Chicago to see an astronomer speak about total solar eclipses and got a sense of how rarely people see them.

“She did a poll of the room to see who had seen a full solar eclipse and almost nobody raised their hand," he said.

For Cabiness, one of the more interesting aspects of the eclipse was the effect it had on the nearby animals.

"Before the totality, you could hear the cicadas and the birds singing and when the totality hit, the birds just stopped and the cicadas did too," she said, adding that when the sky started to brighten back up, the birds and cicadas were at it again.

Angelos brought multiple cameras with him but was unable to get them working well enough to take a clear picture of the eclipse.

"That was the only disappointment but it didn't matter because we got to see it," he said.

"Even for the brief instant we could see the eclipse, it was amazing," he said. "Totally worth it."

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