When Rachel Hines first received a phone call about displaying a full collection of Dickensian Christmas village figurines at The Carnegie Heritage Center, her immediate reaction was “Absolutely” followed by “What is that?”

“I’ve actually never read A Christmas Carol,” Ms. Hines, the Vineyard Preservation Trust’s program director, admitted.

The miniature townscape is owned by Debbie Brown. — Ray Ewing

The miniature townscape is a decades-long passion project for Vineyard resident Debbie Brown, entirely based on the world of A Christmas Carol by Charles Dickens. For six years the display found a home at The Point Way Inn (now The Richard) where Ms. Brown worked, drawing crowds during Christmas in Edgartown.

“There was one day where we had 400 people come in just to see it,” Ms. Brown said.

After a decade-long break, the village, which includes a working train, a farmland extension and a harbor complete with lighthouse, returns this year, now at The Carnegie, open Thursdays through Sundays until Dec. 17.

The collection is made up of hundreds of individual pieces that Ms. Brown has meticulously amassed since 1998, all sold by collectible figurine purveyor Department 56. Many of the figures were gifts from friends and family, she said, but the early days of her collecting began at Fligor’s department store, formerly located on North Water street in Edgartown, just down the street from the current exhibit.

“They used to have their own display and I’d ask to come in the back just to look at it,” Ms. Brown said. “When they finally closed, they put the pieces up for sale and I’ve just kept on going from there.”

The full exhibit took nearly a month to set up, with Ms. Brown’s husband Dave building a custom table to fit the Carnegie’s exhibit room and performing the electrical work himself for the lighting and motorized features.

“I wouldn’t be able to do any of this without my husband,” Ms. Brown said. “He pretends he doesn’t enjoy it, but I think he enjoys it quite a bit more than he lets on.”

The original characters penned by Charles Dickens inhabit the figurine display.

There is, of course, Scrooge and Tiny Tim, the main characters of A Christmas Carol, but the universe extends far beyond them and the ghosts of Christmas past, present and future. A miniature bakery sells hot cross buns the size of a baby’s fingernails, schoolchildren skate figure-eights across a turquoise frozen pond, a replica of the Santa’s workshop-bound Polar Express careens through pint-sized pine trees.

“I love seeing the look on kids’ faces when they see the train start moving,” Ms. Brown said.

The harbor is also built by her husband, an homage to the Vineyard. Some buildings show entire domestic scenes through the window, whether it’s Tiny Tim setting the table for Christmas supper or an entire ballroom in perpetual waltz.

Ms. Brown credits her childhood dollhouse for her eye for detail, as well as her time managing the Point Way Inn. Although the exhibit opened last week, she’s still tinkering with the presentation. Sometimes the snow isn’t blanketed quite right, or a figurine goes askew. Boxes of spare light bulbs sit off to the side in case of emergency.

“My daughter reminded me recently that one of their early memories when my kids and my grandkids were young was marching down the stairs with a box in each of their arms, and it spanned from the first floor to the attic,” Ms. Brown said. “Like, okay, maybe I did go a bit overboard.”

Despite the affectionate ribbing, her family has always been supportive, she said, and sees the collection as an integral part of the holiday that means so much to Ms. Brown.

“My dad was always very sick when I was growing up,” she said. “He got sick when I was very young, but Christmas was always his favorite time of year and we always made it special.”

Her children and grandchildren, now all adults, share her love for the Christmas season.

“I made sure of that,” Ms. Brown said with a chuckle.

She can’t name a favorite piece, she said, but she especially likes the lighthouse, perched on an island in the middle of her homemade harbor, and her newest acquisition, an enticing chocolate shop.

When the exhibit is over, each piece will go back inside its individual box after Ms. Brown carefully brushes off the artificial snow. (It get sticky in storage.)

“I don’t know how much longer I’ll be able to do this,” she said. “It’s so much work and I’m getting tired.”

Still, it’s hard not to get a little starstruck seeing the full collection in person, an entire community frozen at its giddiest moment.

“It needs to be seen,” Ms. Brown said. “I’m happy to share it.”

More Dickensian Village Photos