Firstly, thank you very much for your very quick reply.
I had read and tried all available documentation already. I am from the old school that reads the manual first.
I did manage to resolve the issue and in so doing I noticed the following.
There are at least three ways to set the router in fail-safe mode. The behavior is different based on what method is used. I did assume that fail-safe was fail-safe and only tried one method (wait till the power light flash green and then you have two seconds to hot the reset button and that gets you in fail-safe). That method did not work and gave me the issues mentioned in my earlier post. The same happened with hitting and keeping reset pushed in from prior to the power on till it got in fail-safe. That gave me the same problems. The way out, in my circumstances whatever they were, I don't know exactly what state the router firmware was in, was to hit the reset as soon as the power light first came on after powering on and that finally gave me success with no more timeouts when using tftp.
I hope this note is useful to someone.
Thanks again hnyman as it is your reply that urged me on trying these alternatives.