The Australian Transport Safety Bureau is investigating the cause of a freight train derailment in north-eastern South Australia on Thursday.

The derailment at Yunta, about 200 kilometres south-west of Broken Hill, has forced the closure of the track and trains travelling between Sydney and Adelaide are being diverted through Melbourne until early next week.

The train was en route from Perth to Sydney when ten wagons came off the track.

The derailment sparked a small fire which was contained by the Country Fire Service.

The Australian Rail Track Corporation says about 300 metres of track have been damaged.

The bureau's general manager of surface safety investigations, Peter Foley, says it will take about a month to work out what caused the accident.

"We look at the site. We download the data recorders from the locomotive and that tells us what speed the train's been doing, what the power settings were on the locomotive, what the brake settings were, et cetera," he said.

"We talk to the witnesses that are involved. In this case it'll be the train driver obviously.

"We ascertain which was the first wagon to derail, we look at potential mechanisms for that derailment, whether it might have been something on the wagon, or it might have been something in relation to the track and we go through a process whereby we eliminate the possibilities."

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