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Police say two young girls were playing unsupervised on a Christchurch rail bridge before one of them, aged just 4, was hit by a locomotive and seriously injured.
The locomotive was travelling north towards Belfast when it hit the little girl about 3.50pm on the rail bridge near Radcliffe Road.
She was taken to Christchurch Hospital with with serious injuries.
The second girl suffered minor injuries avoiding the train. She reportedly fell from the rail bridge.
"It appears the unsupervised children were playing in the area,'' police said in a statement.
Police southern communications spokesman Inspector Rick Jury said the rail bridge ran over water but it was not known whether the girl who fell off the bridge fell onto land or water.