Glue and Sticky Goo

Glue and Sticky Goo

By Roger Heid


During the assembly and construction of a model railroad layout, you will sooner or later be confronted with glue issues. There are so many types of glue on the market; it can make your head spin. The question is just what kind of glue is best to use for a given situation.

Here I am going to try to give you a general overview of glues suitable for all aspects of model railroading. Therefore I will not cover wall paper paste, Elmer’s Glue All and such. These concoctions do not work for us. I know, because way, way back when, I was dumb enough to try. At one time, I also tried Acetone. That cost me a car. I buried it in an unmarked grave.


For a starter, there is the famous or rather infamous Super Glue. Right off the bat, I want to warn you about that one. Wherever you apply super glue, it will turn into a frosty white color. This can make things look very ugly, especially when you use too much. It can also attack certain polymers, completely altering their molecular composition to the point of no return and beyond recognition. Yecch!

Granted, it does a good job in many applications, but for model railroading I use it only when I have to, and then only in places where you cannot see the glued spot afterwards. This I have learned the hard way. Over time, I wound up discarding three items after I screwed them up by generous use of super glue. It always seems to find its way into places where it is not supposed to be.

If I ever use it, I usually put a small amount on some surface and, with the help of a needle or a tooth pick, I apply only the amount needed. You should never apply the glue directly out of this little plastic container it typically comes in. It is almost impossible to dispense just the needed amount of glue. Often you spill out too much of it which is not a good thing, at all. Once it adheres to a surface, you can never get rid of it. It is outright noxious. The only advantage I can see is the relatively short time it takes to set up and become rigid.


Then there is the family of silicone adhesives. There is a myriad of different types from different makers out there.  One advantage is the fact it does not attack plastics and metals and it does not discolor anything. On the downside, this type of glue takes forever to set up. It can also prove to be quite messy if too much is applied. Clean up is a chore. However, I have found some good uses for it. I always use the clear version in small tubes.


In almost every Hobby Shop you can find the type of glue recommended for the assembly of plastic models. The product made by Testor I do not like, period.  Seemingly, it is intended to be used in conjunction with polystyrene, a polymer type most plastic models are made of. It does not work worth a hoot for anything else.

Sometimes, I want to glue plastic to metal, for instance. That’s when I prefer to carefully apply a kind of silicone adhesive. If used and applied properly, it will definitely do the job. For general purposes, I prefer UHU Allplast. It does an excellent job, but it takes some time before it sets up and hardens. Here patience is of virtue. A good clamping system will come in very handy. Reynaulds has their Rite Way Clamping System. Check this out.


Now, sooner or later, you will run into a situation where you want to affix some object someplace, but you don’t want to glue it permanently. You want to be able to remove it easily, maybe even put it in some other location, for whatever reason.

For example, on my layout there is a farm with some cattle and horses. These little figurines will not stand easily. They want to fall to their side; the same with passengers and pedestrians at the station platform and surrounding area.

I obtained a product from Woodland Scenics called ‘Scenic Accents Glue’. It comes in a small plastic bottle and it features a small brush mounted into the screw on lid. The content is a white in color gunk. Once it sets up, it will turn clear. It remains tacky or sticky; it never gets hard. A tiny dab on the bottom of legs and hooves will keep the figures in place, but they can easily be removed and relocated. This works very well.

I also got what is called Hob-E-Tac, another Woodland Scenics product. It is very similar to the glue mentioned above. The bottle is larger; the content, at first glance, appears to look the same. This one is water soluble. I used it to lay a road foil leading to the RR Station. It seems to stay a little softer, making it easy to remove or relocate the road. I swear by both products. Each has its own niche and finesse.

Here again, a small amount goes a long way, something that is definitely true for all glue applications. Using too much glue is actually counterproductive, so I found out.


I know that I did not cover every type of glue available. There are simply too many to mention them all. Most likely, some of you made experiences with other good products. I also refrained from pictures for the reason stated above.

You are welcome to leave comments with more information. If you have questions, please, do not post them in the Blog System. Instead go to the Forum and post your questions under the appropriate topic. Thank you.



In the meantime, I was informed that Reynaulds has a non-permanent glue availble. You will find it under the MBZ brand (#72112). This one seems to be the best of them all. Check out the offerings in the MBZ section of the REI website. You may be surprised what you can find there.



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