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The owner of a Waianakarua lodge said he did not see anything this morning, but heard when an overnight freight service bound for Invercargill lost three wagons and derailed next to his accommodation The Mill House off State Highway 1.
Malcolm Fagerlund said lights were flashing at the nearby railway crossing for an hour after the derailment, and his guests were relieved to hear in the morning the driver was uninjured in the crash.
The train left Christchurch on an overnight freight service and lost the wagons immediately after crossing a short bridge over the Waianakarua River.
This morning a spokeswoman for KiwiRail confirmed three wagons left the track, but said the locomotive did not, and the driver was "fine".
The wagons "the first three of the last six" on the 17-carriage train were not carrying any dangerous cargo, she said.
One was empty, one was carrying two empty containers, and one was carrying cement.
There was minor damage to the track.
One of the carriages that spilled off the tracks came to a rest touching the fence along one of Graeme Purvis's paddocks, but there was no damage to his property.
He said he did not know anything had happened overnight until he was collecting his mail about 6am today and he saw a KiwiRail employee walking down the railway tracks that run between his front gate and his letterbox next to State Highway 1.
"It's a good job the train didn't go any further, it would have ended up in the front lawn," Mr Purvis said.
A KiwiRail employee at the site yesterday said the carriages blocking the railway tracks would be moved to either side of the tracks to allow service to return to normal tonight, but he said the carriages could remain at the site for a few days before they were removed.
Oamaru Police were called to the scene after a number of vehicles stopped to have a look at the derailment.
A KiwiRail investigation into the crash is under way.