Sippin’ at Tim’s: Good intentions gone bad

Posted by Fred Frailey
on Thursday, May 6, 2010

I’m sure all of you (okay, a few of you) wish there were a place you could go after work and order a beer or wine or other drink while right beside you, one train after another rushes by. I found such a place: Tim’s Riverside Restaurant & Crab House. You sit at open-air tables or the outside bar. On one side of you is the broad Potomac River south of Washington, D.C., the Maryland shore barely visible a mile away. On the other, no more than 100 feet distant, is the double-track CSX main line between Washington and Richmond, Va., awash with dozens of trains a day. What’s not to like about this? Let me share my experience.
Even the most ardent CSX fan in Virginia would be hard put to find Cherry Hill without doing heavy homework. You just can’t get there from here. I discovered it by accident years ago — a charming marina and crab house pinched by the river and railroad. Tim, the proprietor of the only business in Cherry Hill, recently erected a series of signs beginning miles away to guide customers to his place. Let me give you these hints: It’s south of Woodbridge, Va., east of U.S. 1, and reachable through a partially completed subdivision of houses, which connects to a winding road that after several miles brings you to railroad and river (and Tim’s).
I decide it would be enjoyable to show up in mid afternoon to watch the Silver Star go by in both directions, plus the southbound Auto Train, and then the fleet of Virginia Railway Express trains bound from D.C. to Fredericksburg, Va. Interspersed would be some interesting CSX freight trains.
I get there too early, I admit, at 1:45 p.m.; too soon after lunch, too long before cocktail hour. I seat myself in the shade of the bar, place a scanner on the counter, and order a beer. Right off the bat, a VRE train from D.C. swishes by. Ten minutes later, New Jersey-Jacksonville intermodal train L173 follows the commuter train. And five minutes after that, the northbound Silver Star makes its appearance. So far, so good.
But now I’m getting bad vibes. Instead of relaxing at an almost-deserted bar rather early on a spring afternoon, I find myself part of a growing crowd. Hey, this place is a secret! I also notice I’m about the only person here by myself. And I set myself apart with the radio receiver. I’m feeling very geeky, in other words.
Shortly before 3, New Jersey-Virginia garbage train Q703 comes by with 200 green containers of slop, but no, I detect no odor. Next is the VRE train returning north from Fredericksburg, and then a southbound CSX freight from Cumberland, Md.
People keep arriving, volume on the music over the PA system is turned up, and the sun has invaded my former shade at the bar. I am getting uncomfortable, in other words. You can barely hear the trains going by for the noise. I order a basket of fried fish and a Virgin Mary, just to have something to do.
After a trio of southbound trains go by (the Auto Train, Silver Star, and another VRE commuter run), I pay my tab and take leave. I really didn’t have much fun.
What should I have done differently? Fred the Geek has figured it out. First, bring a friend. Second, leave the radio receiver in the car or make it inconspicuous (mine can fit in a shirt pocket); then, people won’t stare at you. Third, arrive expecting at most a two-hour adventure, not a five-hour marathon. Overstay, and you’ll eat or drink too much.
I pull out 90 minutes earlier than I intended. I’m going to apply my lessons and return sometime soon. Maybe I’ll let you know how it turned out. In the meantime, let me know if you ever find Tim’s at Cherry Hill. — Fred W. Frailey

To leave a comment you must be a member of our community.
Login to your account now, or register for an account to start participating.
No one has commented yet.

Join our Community!

Our community is FREE to join. To participate you must either login or register for an account.

Search the Community

Newsletter Sign-Up

By signing up you may also receive occasional reader surveys and special offers from Trains magazine.Please view our privacy policy