A main thrust of industrial policy in communist Poland was the exploitation of the large coal reserves in Upper Silesia. To achieve this much old plant, some dating back to the 1880s, was retained or modified, and not until the arrival of the market economy in 1989 did rationalisation begin. A rich industrial archaeological legacy was thus in place. A survey of the surface installations of the mines working in 1939 was undertaken in 1996/7 by the Upper Silesian Cultural Heritage Centre in Katowice; this paper is based on that initiative. An insight is presented into German coal mine engineering and architecture between 1880 and 1939, thereby facilitating international comparisons.