Fitted at the ends of the vehicle frames, one at each corner, the buffers are projecting, shock-absorbing pads which, when vehicles are coupled, are brought into contact with those on the next vehicle. The draw chain used between each pair of vehicles includes a screw which is tightened after coupling to shorten the chain and keep the buffers pressed together.
Although the buffers in the very earliest days of railways were rigid (dumb buffers), they soon came to be spring-loaded, while those fitted to modern locomotives and rolling stock incorporate oleo-pneumatic shock absorbers.
Deadend sidings are often fitted with buffer stops to prevent vehicles running off the end of the track. These may consist of a simple transverse beam fixed at buffer height but the buffer stops at passenger stations can be elaborate hydraulic installations capable of absorbing a considerable amount of energy.